A fifteen-month programme of events celebrating the
millionth finisher in the Great North Run has been confirmed as a resounding
success after studies showed that it made visitors proud to be from the
North-East. The Great North Run Million programme was a partnership
project organised and led by Great North Run Culture with Tyne & Wear
Archives and Museums to mark 2014 as the year of the millionth finish of the
The programme comprised: the Great North Million Opening
Ceremony on Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside, a celebration of the millionth finish
and launch for the programme; the ‘Great North Greats’ exhibition and
associated events and activities; a comprehensive learning programme for
primary schools; and an artist’s residency and community engagement programme. The Great North Million project cost over £2.2million to deliver,
with £1.1million funding in almost equivalent amounts from Heritage Lottery
Fund, Arts Council England and Sport England.
Research conducted after the project’s conclusion in
December demonstrated the sense of pride and belonging in relation to people
and the North East that it has engendered.
A total of 73% of visitor and participant responses from
across the programme said that their engagement had made them "feel proud of
David Hart, of Nova International said: "We’re delighted
that the wide ranging programme has been a success and generated such positive
"The programme of events delivered has served as a big thank
you to the people of the North-East for their support and passion over the
"It has been a great achievement by all those who have been
involved and I would like to thank the volunteers, sponsors, venues and the
public who came and supported the events in big numbers.”
The centrepiece of the Great Run Million programme was the opening
ceremony, attended by a capacity 17,000 crowd three days before the Great North
Ant and Dec welcomed the crowds and hosted the event, while a
number of international athletics royalty lined up to pay homage to the world's
favourite half-marathon, including Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie, Baroness Tanni
Grey-Thompson, Mike McLeod, and Paula Radcliffe.
The audience witnessed the spectacular telling of the epic tale
of the history of the North East on the banks of the river with fantastic
support from Newcastle and Gateshead Councils.
Devised by Bradley Hemmings and written by David Almond, the
Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony was narrated by Jill Halfpenny and Tim
Healy and featured live music from live music from Sting, Mark Knopfler, The
Unthanks and Chase & Status.
Large scale projections by Tal Rosner onto The Sage
Gateshead provided an impressive backdrop for fireworks, pyrotechnics, aerial
performances, boats on the Tyne, performances from Lords of Lightning, a cast
of hundreds, and a giant running woman, aflame as she heads towards the
The ceremony on Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside formed part of
the Great North Run BBC broadcast which attracted a peak audience of 2.4million,
with highlights broadcast to an international audience.
Narrator Tim Healy said of the evening: "It was wonderful -
really one to remember.
"It was the history of the Tyne, bringing it all to life
with music, dancing, Viking ships, coal barges and narration from the lovely
Jill Halfpenny - and me.
"It’s a celebration of the millionth finisher, it’s a
celebration of the fact that since 1981 runners have raised over £250m for
charity, and its a celebration of the North East.
"It was a real special occasion and I don’t think it would
have happened anywhere else.”
The subsequent Great North Greats exhibition engaged with 140,000
people over the 15-month period. The exhibition moved around venues along the Great North Run
course before concluding at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum in October last year. Celebrating the North East region’s sporting and industrial
heritage, the exhibition featured stories of individuals and communities, past
and present, highlighting everyday triumphs and ground-breaking achievements
from past and present celebrated ‘greats’. The exhibition focused on five of the North East’s
celebrated ‘greats’ within industry and invention: (William Armstrong, Joseph
Swan and Rachel Parsons; and sport (Harry Clasper and Tanni Grey-Thompson).
Furthermore, The ‘Great North Greats’ Events Programme
included a broad spectrum of activity, from family days to talks and lectures,
conferences and participatory workshops. The aim was to offer opportunities for
the widest possible engagement with the ‘Great North Greats’ theme from a broad
audience across all the age ranges.
Other initiatives within the programme included ‘And Let Us
Run’ – a formal learning programme in schools which brought together museum and
education specialists with pupils and teachers within a philosophical
enquiry-led exploration of the question ‘What is a Great North Great?’; and
‘Objects to See Further’, a residency with artist Matt Stokes culminating in a
film shown as part of the exhibition at the Discovery Museum.
About the Great North Run Million project
Great North Run Million was a partnership project organised
and led by Great North Run Culture (GNRC) and Tyne & Wear Archives &
Museums (TWAM) to mark 2014 as the year of the millionth finish of the Great
North Run. The 15 month long programme of inter-linking projects was designed
to engage North East communities and visitors to the area with the
interconnection between the region’s industrial and sporting heritage. The
programme comprised: the Great North Million Opening Ceremony on
Newcastle/Gateshead Quayside, a celebration of the millionth finish and launch
for the programme; the ‘Great North Greats’ exhibition and associated events
and activities; a comprehensive learning programme for primary schools; and an
artist’s residency and community engagement programme. The project was funded
and supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Port of Tyne.
About the research
A total of 1448 feedback forms were completed by visitors,
audiences and participants in Great North Run Million: 1094 online forms
through Survey Monkey following the Opening Ceremony; and 354 paper
questionnaires across the ‘Great North Greats’ exhibition and associated