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Eye On The Past

Eye on the Past is a new educational resource by Tyne and Wear Archives Service and identity on tyne (an organisation for new writing and live literature in the North East).

In 2005, identity writers Sheree Mack, Farah Khan and Katy Massey visited the archives to uncover real stories about people, representing black presence in Tyne and Wear during the 19th and 20th centuries. 

They discovered Charles Johnstone, a night watchman, Africanus Maxwell a seaman and Ed Whaley, a celebrity entertainer.

A workshop with writers Sheree Mack and Farah Khan

Some paths of research left questions unanswered, others led to fascinating and surprising revelations but each case affirmed historical information about Johnson, Maxwell and Whaley was buried or untraceable. Working with only fragments of knowledge, each writer used their creative talents and own personal experiences to recreate these voices from the past.

To launch Black History Month 05 , Sheree Mack, Farah Khan and Katy Massey performed their work in front of a live audience, who represented a wide range of communities and cultural organisations in the region. It was the first Black History Month event hosted by the Tyne and Wear Archives Service.

An event like this is absolutely essential, not only to help people come together but also to foster goodwill and harmony in the community.

A member of African Community Advice North East (ACANE)


Eye On The Past in Schools

Throughout October, writer Sheree Mack delivered 10 creative sessions in 7 schools throughout Tyne and Wear: Kelvin Grove Community Primary School,  and Roman Road Primary School in Gateshead, Monkhouse Primary School in North Tyneside, Thorney Close Primary School and Bexhill Primary School in Sunderland, Boldon School and Temple Park Juniors School in South Tyneside.

Mack's monologue Voice from the Yard was used as a tool for students to take an imaginative journey into the past and create a voice. Through poetry, role-play and the exploration of archives, this proved a unique opportunity for participants to openly discuss migration and think about the cultural identity of Tyne and Wear in a new way.

Eye on the Past is a vehicle to get kids to talk and think about issues that are usually seen as untouchable, the unmentionables.

Sheree Mack


This creatve partnership was publicised nationally on the Archives Awareness Campaign and Moving Here websites and Heritage, an annual UK listings magazine for Black History Month.

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The voice of Charles Johnstone
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The voice of Ed Whaley
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Africanus Maxwell
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Eye on the Past: Key Stage 2 Literacy
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Eye on the Past: Key Stage 3 History