A CULTURAL extravaganza charting the history of the North-East is to be staged in the region this September to mark the one millionth finisher of the Great North Run.

The Quaysides, on both sides of the Tyne, will be transformed into a huge outdoor arena for a special opening ceremony ahead of the world famous half marathon.

The celebrations get underway on Thursday, September 4, before the world-famous 13.1 mile race from Newcastle to South Shields begins that Sunday.

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It is the first event of its kind in the world to reach its one millionth finisher - beating other runs in London, New York and Berlin.

Former Olympic 10,000m bronze medallist, Brendan Foster, who founded the run in 1981, said: “When we started the run all those years ago we could only dream of the millionth finish across the line.

“The Bupa Great North Run has since gone on to become the world’s greatest half marathon and this September, we’re proud to be the first event in the world to be officially recognised by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) to celebrate this significant moment in the history of running.”

The Olympic-style opening will include mass choreography, live music, a giant floating sculpture, video mapping onto the Sage Gateshead, pyrotechnics and a specially commissioned film.

Dubbed the Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony, it will tell the region’s story of industrial innovation, sport and technology, and the people of the North-East.

Award-winning author David Almond will write the story and a creative team, led by artistic director Bradley Hemmings, who worked on the London 2012 Paralympic opening ceremony, and other members of the London 2012 opening ceremonies team, will co-ordinate it.

Mr Hemmings said: “In this, the first ever One Millionth Ceremony, the River Tyne, surely one of the world’s most iconic settings, will become the arena for an epic and inclusive story.

“Fittingly a mass cast of 1,500 volunteer performers will appear throughout, coming together to celebrate a vision of how, by acting together, we can achieve the most extraordinary and transformational things.”

BAFTA-winning artist and filmmaker Tal Rosner is creating a specially commissioned film and animation celebrating past, present and future ingenuity using styles from orchestral music and contemporary dance to television graphics.

As well as designing the spectacular arena for the event, Jon Bausor will create a huge floating sculptural installation on the River Tyne.

Beth Bate, director of Great North Run Culture, said: “The opening ceremony is the most incredibly exciting way to celebrate the millionth finish of the Bupa Great North Run and the rich, dynamic heritage of the North-East.”