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When a detractor called.

Byline: Barbara Hodgson Reporter barbara.hodgson@ncjmedia.co.uk

kind of poverty AS modern-day poverty and food banks hit the news, it's timely to look back at the kind of poverty that laid the region low in the thirties and was wit-nessed first-hand by a horri-fied JP Priestley when he visited its blighted industrial landscape and dirty streets of run-down housing.

Toon's Toon's with Page74 It's the 80-year anniversary of his book English Journey in which the writer was famously scathing about the region, criticising everything including the "barbarous, monotonous and irritating accent".

report Feeding Britain seeks to NOSTALGIA delayed date delayed date Barcelona Page74 While the recent all-party parliamentary report Feeding Britain seeks to address the "urgent issue" of food poverty today and to abolish national hunger, what Priestley saw was on an altogether different scale and his resulting book - which came out in 1934 following his visit the previous year - is seen as previous year - is seen as an important social docuan important social document of the Depression ment of the Depression era. This was the time of the Great Slump when our heavy industries, the backbone of the region, were crumbling like the streets of shabby housing around them, sending unemployed figures rocketing.

This was the time of the Great Slump when our heavy industries, the back-back bone of the region, were crumbling like the streets of shabby housing around them, sending unemployed figures rocketing. It was also the year that saw the closure of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company - the main source of employment in Jarrow - following a collapse in demand and orders due to the depression, which prompted The Jarrow March three years of hardship later.

It was also the year that saw the closure of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company - the main source of employment in Jarrow - following a collapse in demand and orders due to the depression, which prompted The Jarrow March three years of hardship later.

The 1936 "crusade", which saw more than 200 unemployed The 1936 "crusade", which saw more than 200 unemployed workers walk 300 miles to London in protest at the lack of jobs and extreme poverty suffered in North East, may have done little to effect immediate change.

But the marchers' near month-long walk to lobby Parliament with a petition bearing 1,000 names was such an extraordinary feat it grabbed national attention.

In his warts-and-all look at the region, Priestley had helped do the same, raising awareness of the plight of poverty-stricken families.

Between 1929 and 1932 ship production is said to have already declined in the region by 90% and the knock-on effect on supply industries such as steel and coal meant that in some areas up to 70% of people were out of work.

So when the author, who later wrote popular mystery play An Inspector Calls, was commissioned by socialist publisher Victor Gollancz to travel up the country and describe what he saw, it was never going to be complimentary.

From a base in a dingy Newcastle hotel he spend two miserable days look-look ing around the place, noting the "hideous muddle" of North Shields, "monuments of mean ugliness" in Durham, and likening Hebburn to Doomsday.

Gateshead, which he described as "a workshop with no work", particularly offended him and he wrote: "The whole town appeared to have been carefully planned by an enemy of the human race. Insects can do better than this."

One of the few things that did impress him were the local newspapers.

His travelogue might have offended many and reinforced many people's impression of the area and the north-south divide but, says local pop and music historian Chris Phipps who recently gave a talk to mark the book's anniversary, it also created a political storm, drawing the region's problems to the rest of the nation and sparking interest for the first time from documentary-makers who ventured tary-north to film just how grim it actually was.

He might have been critical but Priestley was also moved by the social injustice of what he saw, saying: "If middle class women in London say they need a change, try being a miner's wife in Durham."

The Celtic Star, Fresno Star and Trojan Star at Smith's Dock, 1933, North Shields. During his visit that year, JB |Priestley called the town a "hideous muddle".

Women filleting fish on North Shields Fish Quay in the 1930s. JB Priestley wrote about his visit to the town | The Great Slump saw the closure of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company - the main |source of employment in Jarrow - following a collapse in demand and orders due to the depression, which prompted The Jarrow March three years of hardship later The book by Priestley, below |

CAPTION(S):

Women filleting fish on North Shields Fish Quay in the 1930s. JB Priestley wrote about his visit to the town |in his 1934 book English Journey

Pictures of workers at Bede Burn Quarry 1933 from the website of amateur photographer Mike Ellison. In his |visit that year JB Priestley likened Hebburn to Doomsday
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 11, 2014
Words:840
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