After two long years and many set backs, Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership (TVCRP) and Wallsend Local History Society (WLHS) have premiered their film, “It Started With a Train Ride”, at St. Luke’s Church Hall, Wallsend and the Comrades’ Club, Haltwhistle.
The film tells the story of the evacuees from Wallsend who, in 1940, were sent to stay with families in the Haltwhistle area – a very different environment from their bustling industrial hometown.
The project came about in 2019 when Colin Moore, Director of TVCRP, connected with George Laws, Vice Chair and Secretary of WLHS, about the idea of contacting evacuees and recording their memories of the time. July 2020 marked the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of children from Wallsend to Haltwhistle, and the partnership recognised that this could be the last time it would be possible to gather memories of those evacuated by rail in 1940. WLHS were very supportive of the idea and placed notices in care homes.
With the arrival of Covid-19 the project had to be put on hold. The idea was too important to be abandoned completely, so George decided to put the reminiscences into book form, which he produced himself. Costs were kept to a minimum, with each book on sale for £5 – over 400 were sold in Wallsend alone.
As the impact of Covid continued, plans of physically bringing former evacuees and children together to commemorate war time events had to change! The idea to commission a film was born and, with crowd funding through Spacehive, support from the North of Tyne Combined Authority, Cross Country, donations from individuals and support from Northern, the Haltwhistle Film Project (HFP) was commissioned, and “It Started with a Train Ride” was produced.
Film Able, a film production company run by and for adults with learning difficulties, interviewed contributors and provided the animations. 72 fascinating stories were extracted from the interviews, and the film was developed. The film also brought together local Scouts, Brownies, Rainbows and young people from Haltwhistle’s Young and Sweet Youth Club to play the role of evacuated children at Haltwhistle Station.
Most recently, ‘It Started With a Train Ride’ was shortlisted for a Community Rail Award in the category of ‘Involving Diverse Groups’.
You can view the full film via TVCRP’s YouTube channel below.