• 24 May 2022
  • People, Communities, News,

Students at St Michael’s Primary School have revealed how a photo of a young girl playing on a wrecked car over forty years ago motivated them to name a nearby housing development after an acclaimed local photographer.

As the winners of a competition to name a new sheltered housing scheme in Elswick received prizes from the Lord Mayor the youngsters explained why the photos by Tish Murtha are as relevant today as when they were taken.

Patricia Anne Murtha, or Tish as she was more commonly known, was born in South Shields and grew up in Elswick. After leaving school at 16 she took a photography course at Bath Lane College in Newcastle, before receiving a grant from the council that allowed her to study Documentary Photography in Newport. 

On returning to Newcastle Tish decided to use her talents to for the benefit of those living in the area where she grew up.  The time she spent building trust allowed her to take photos that would highlight and challenge the social disadvantage people living in marginalised communities faced while also showing their resilience, tenacity and resourcefulness.

And it was the spirit that shone through in the photographs that attracted Year 5 pupils when they were set the task of coming up with a name for the housing scheme that is being built next to their school. 

In their winning submission, Joshua and Hashim wrote “Tish Murtha took photos of places in Elswick where people were in need. They were designed to make local councillors think and make changes in the community.  She was a brilliant inspiration and caught the eye of many.  Tish changed Elswick, she cared for everyone and that is why we want to honour her.”

Speaking at the prize giving event Isla, one of the girls involved in the project, said ‘If people Google Elswick it comes up with words like rough and crime, but Tish’s photos show a community.  If you Google Elswick it should say a place where people care about each other.’  

Another pupil interpreted the photo of the girl on the car as a message about how children, then and now, need toys and things to do or they could end up in danger.

Once complete Tish Murtha House will offer 38 one and two-bed apartments for older people.  The development will include a range of communal facilities to help reduce social isolation something that Ella Murtha, curator of the Tish Murtha website and Tish’s daughter believes her Mam would have approved of.

Thanking the school for choosing to honour her mother Ella said “My Mam wanted people to feel like their lives mattered, that they were as important as anyone else. I’m so proud that her work is inspiring a new generation here in Elswick and I’m sure she would be honoured to have her name on a building that will make a positive difference to so many people’s lives.”

Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Councillor Habib Rahman, said “When I heard about the competition to find a name for a new housing development that would reflect the community and people of Elswick I was excited to see what the children at the school would come up with.

“I am delighted to present the winners with their prizes because I can see just how much work has gone into choosing the right name. Tish Murtha didn’t just live in Elswick, she embodied the spirit of the community and used her talent and creativity to influence change in the area.  I look forward to visiting Tish Murtha House once it is complete.”

Chris Price, Tolent Divisional Managing Director, said “Tolent takes immense pride to be associated with such a special project that contributes in solving housing crisis by providing high-quality affordable homes for an age group that have very specific needs.

“I am pleased to be here and see it in person that how much our projects can positively impact a community. Seeing the local school and the council coming together for Tish Murtha House only reinforces our commitment to build and help communities to flourish”

Tina Drury, Managing Director at Your Homes Newcastle said “We are very excited about the new Tish Murtha House development and looking forward to welcoming people when they start moving into their new homes later this year. 

“We are passionate about helping to create communities that people are proud to live in and call home, so it is fantastic to see the local school involved right from the start.  We will continue to find opportunities to help this community spirit grow and develop as Tish Murtha House comes to life.”

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