What’s the best country in the world? England. What’s the best bit of England? The north. What’s the best bit of the north? Newcastle. Ok, Newcastle and Gateshead (controversial, I know). What kind of evidence do we have for these slightly boastful claims? The Great Exhibition of The North, of course.
Yes, for the whole of the summer (well, 22nd June to 9th September), both Newcastle and Gateshead will be the joint hosts of the Great Exhibition of the North – a huge collection of events, live performances, public artworks and so, so many museums and galleries.
This cultural extravaganza is all in a salute to ‘the North of England’s pioneering spirit’, and the great achievements in art, design, technology, music, writing, and engineering that have originated anywhere roughly between Berwick and Sheffield.
It’s due to be a national spectacular, comparable to the Great Exhibition of 1851 or the 1929 North East Coast Exhibition (and hopefully better than the Millennium Dome). Rather than building a new Crystal Palace or Exhibition Park, the events are spread over a wide variety of locations in the two cities, including outdoor spaces.
It all kicks off with a spectacular ‘Get North!’ opening night on Friday 22nd June – crowds on the Quayside will be treated to the inaugural gushes of the UK’s largest water sculpture (80m tall, higher than the Tyne Bridge), the first listen to three specially composed compositions including a new Anthem of The North, and also the world premiere of a film all about…you guessed it, the North. You’ll need to pre-book to attend, but tickets will be free from the website.
“This cultural extravaganza is all in a salute to the North of England’s pioneering spirit”
There are dozens of events and installations already announced so to help navigate there are three main trails: the Art Trail (starting at the Baltic), The Design trail and the Innovation trail (both starting at the Great North Museum). Pick whichever one inspires you most, and follow the path through the city. Stops include cultural hotspots like the Sage, Laing Art Gallery and Seven Stories, but even your more everyday locations like Eldon Square, the City Library and both Universities will be hosting events and artworks.
With over 80 items on the program announced so far, it’s not possible to list everything in these few paragraphs – but we’ll try selecting a few highlights: Stevenson’s Rocket at the Great North Museum, Lauren Laverne curating gigs at the Sage, Robots at the Life Centre, dancing in the streets, singing in the streets, Helen Sharman’s spacesuit, a free BBC Introducing night, a future homes exhibition, a complimentary book of northern writing, Lego, music workshops, virtual reality, LED sculptures, folk music, hi-tech fashion, documentary photography, animated adventures, crafts, film location tours, and a play with the excellent title ‘Where There’s Muck There’s Bras’ – and that’s just to start.
If you’re really keen, the Exhibition is still looking for volunteers to help welcome visitors to the area – schools and businesses are also encouraged to get in touch.
Even if you’re not passing through Newcastle or Gateshead at all this summer – though you’d need a very good excuse not to – there’s a wider network of ‘Inspired By’ events being held everywhere from Liverpool to Longframlington.
This is one of those rare but exciting moments where the spotlight is shining on Newcastle and Gateshead, as well as the wider north.
With such a huge choice of events, everyone will find something worth seeing over the summer.
To book tickets for any event, and to find out more about the Great Exhibition of the North, please head to the official website at getnorth2018.com.