On Sunday 9th September we said a fond farewell to The Great Exhibition of the North, the jam packed summer programme of events that shone a light on Northern achievements in art, design and innovation.
Along with millions of others, I had a wonderful time visiting cultural venues and taking part in unique events across NewcastleGateshead, which provided the stage for a well deserved celebration of all things Northern.
Sure, there were a few teething problems with some of the installations and not every event appealed to the masses but I loved that there was such an eclectic mix of experiences on offer, and that it was all free to enjoy!
As I look back on my Summer, I am reminded of these five lessons that The Great Exhibition of the North taught me…
I always knew that Northern England had an impressive history filled with stories of industrial triumph but what I perhaps hadn’t realised was that ambitious and inquisitive Northerners have never stopped looking for ways to improve life for others. Many of today’s ground-breaking inventions have come from the North, from ipods to life-extending cancer drugs.
So, there’s a lot more to the story of Northern innovation than lightbulbs and trains. Judging by some of the work I’ve seen around ‘Future Homes’ and robotics during The Great Exhibition, there are plenty more science and technology breakthroughs coming out of the North to shape our future too.
I am as guilty as the next person for wandering around the city engrossed in my phone but The Great Exhibition of the North brought colour and creativity to NewcastleGateshead’s urban landscape and I found myself looking up much more than usual!
Grey’s Monument became an Instagram sensation as over 3 million people photographing its transformational new look as the ‘Worker’s Maypole’. Other local buildings that I would have usually strolled past like The Mining Institute, the Lit & Phil, Cooper’s Studio and St Mary’s Heritage Centre (to name but a few) invited me in with their Great Exhibition bunting telling me there was something special to discover inside.
The Great Exhibition of the North was all free so other than travel expenses and maybe a spot of lunch, there was no need to cough up for a day out this summer. Although the programme of events has now come to an end, I have discovered loads of places that offer free entry all year round and that I will definitely re-visit. The Lit & Phil is one such venue, a haven of peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city centre.
The many museums across Tyne and Wear always offer free entry and often have free, fun, family events alongside their exhibitions. Plus, with NE1’s ever increasing events programme offering everything from free film screenings to motor shows and yoga classes, there’s really never a dull moment!
Check out the ‘What’s On’ guide at www.newcastlegateshead.com and simply put ‘free’ in the keyword box for loads of upcoming events and suggestions for days out.
It can be easy to take all of this for granted when it’s on your doorstep, but hearing visitors give their rave reviews of days out in the region and knowing that the Rough Guide 2018 named Newcastle as ‘the number one place that should be on your radar in 2018’ confirms that it really is the place to be.
I love to travel and when I’m in a foreign city I go out of my way to discover hidden gems, admire the beautiful buildings and soak up the surroundings – The Great Exhibition of the North has been a reminder to do exactly that in the place I am lucky enough to call home!
The Great Exhibition of the North really brought to my attention how much talent there is in Northern England in the fields of art, design and innovation. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the successes of my follower Northerners.
National Media Organisations, the Prime Minister, the Governor of the Bank of England and even a Royal Prince all left the comfort of their residencies in the South to pay Tyneside a visit this summer and hopefully it had a similar impression on them too!
And finally, after many centuries, the North has a powerful new voice (the former ‘Council of the North was abolished in 1641)… Before The Great Exhibition of the North ended, political and business leaders gathered in Gateshead for the first ever Convention of the North, to ensure that issues that matter to us are heard – that has to be a good thing, right?
Sorry for getting all political there but it really excites me that the North is getting the attention (and investment) it deserves!
Exciting times are ahead, don’t you think?