In 1959 an advert declared Whitley Bay “A Mecca of Pleasure and Gaiety… ”. This rich Kodachrome cinematography captures a bygone era for the fashionable seaside town in ice cream colours. The bracing beach, with carousel, swing boats and Punch and Judy for the children, is just steps away from the popular carnival attractions of the Spanish City amusement park, where John Hoadley’s Dive Bomber and the Figure 8 Roller Coaster rides shake up thrill-seeking holiday makers.
This is amateur film-making at its best, capturing the growth of Whitley Bay as a seaside town in stunning colour. The 1904 electrification of the North Tyneside rail network (with a grand new station built 6 years later) stoked Whitley Bay’s seaside tourism. The streets of red-brick and mock-Tudor suburban homes pictured (scorned by 30s literati including W.H. Auden) allude to the great inter-war commuter boom in the town. Whitley Bay’s fame as the “Blackpool of the North East” grew after the opening on 14 May 1910 of the Spanish City Empress Theatre and Pleasure Gardens, still a magnet for fun-seekers in the 50s, when the town lured Fairs Week crowds all the way from industrial western Scotland.