Who could be the next Leonardo Da Vinci? #bemoreMary

We are getting towards the end of the run of Sunderland Museum & Winter Garden’s Leonardo da Vinci: A Life In Drawing exhibition. It closes on 6th May so it really is your last chance to view right here in the North East. I’ve been so immersed in the project and eagerly seeing audiences’ responses – that it’s dawned on me; Leonardo da Vinci was just a man…. a super talented one, but just a human none the less. His legacy and the impact of his work, has given him this almost super human status across so many sectors.

Then I got thinking that I wonder in 500 years from now, who are the artists that we might be celebrating (in a similar way to 2019’s Leonardo 500 campaign) for their works and legacy? Which artists are walking amongst us as fellow humans, who might someday hold this super human Leonardo-esque status?

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And if that’s the case, I wish we could find them and champion them now, when they are living. So a month or so ago, I caught up Sunderland lass, artist and curator Michaela Wetherell and I posed her the question….”who do you think could be classed as the NEXT Leonardo da Vinci?”.

Da Vinci was an innovator, designer, maker, artist, activist, entrepreneur, inventor….he saw the world a little differently and created work that enabled us to begin to see the world and its potential through his eyes. It was an interesting concept exploring who exists today, who is doing things a little differently like Leonardo da Vinci in society when he was alive.

So I set Michaela a challenge…. I asked her to guest write a blog post using her own opinion and an Instagram call out in the wider artist community for suggestions, to answer the question –  “Who could be seen today as the next Da Vinci”?.

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Michaela Wetherell: a guest blog post edited by The Culture Vulture.

I’m a born and bred Mackem; totally and unashamedly proud of where I come from. I was raised in a little pit village called Shiney Row where I totally and utterly fell in love with the arts. In Shiney Row, culture wasn’t exactly at the main point of conversation and you couldn’t imagine having a career in the arts – it just seemed impossible. Even when growing up in the 90s where “girl power” was seen as the feminist battle cry – you could be just like Barbie and grow up to be whoever you want to be!  It seemed impossible coming from a place where culture seemed dead.

But luckily for me, I was blessed with parents who took me to museums and galleries when I was young and the art bug bit me HARD!! After years of making, learning, creating, researching, educating, volunteering to freelance I finally made a career out of it and became a curator based in the North East.

I share this because I was lucky; today education in the arts is becoming harder and harder to reach. University funds are immensely expensive, arts education in schools is being cut so museums and galleries are hugely important to educate and inspire not only young minds but everyone who believe art is not for them, just like it did to me.

So I was thrilled to hear that Sunderland was selected as a place to display selected drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci. You can’t get any bigger than Da Vinci and the thought of schools and locals coming to see this exhibition made my little art heart sing! If you haven’t seen the exhibition yet…. you should!

Da Vinci was a pioneer of everything! Maths, Invention, Art, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography just to name a few!! You name it he did it!

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Many people will argue that no one could come close to Da Vinci’s genius…..but I beg to differ.

There are so many incredible artists out there who are pushing the boundaries of art, technology, science and socialism just like Da Vinci did, so here I am in this blog post sharing with you some of the local, National and International artists who could very well be The Next Da Vinci.

Local Artists

IDA4 – The Rebel.

There has always been a lot of speculation surrounding Da Vinci’s sexuality and his role as rule breaker and activist. Like many artists, he used his voice to push forward his version of the world, challenged the rules and norms and look beyond. But do we view his art as political? Is it considered in today’s terms activist art?

Many artists use their work in a similar way that Da Vinci did – to put forward a proposition, have their voices heard, use their arts to break the rules and to create a social commentary about the society at the time.

Chris Fleming or IDA4 is a graffiti artist who focuses his work on the LQBTQ+ communities and social commentary. He has created work about Trans Identity, celebrates drag queens and has created amazing mural street art around the North East and beyond.

In 2014, on the day the Sochi Winter Olympics Ceremony was showing across all media platforms, Chris created a street art graffiti piece in the centre of Newcastle of a man being arrested by the police with the Olympic rings as cuffs. This was a protest against newly reformed laws on gay propaganda. Chris’s work is meticulous; he creates his stencils before he even finds a canvas and creates layers upon layers of spray paint to get the depth and texture info his forms. Like Da Vinci, Chris uses anything he can get his hand on to spray on. Street walls (permitted of course), Studio doors, canvas, cardboard! And just like Da Vinci his work makes me smile and is often instantly recognisable.

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Future Da Vinci – Members of Thought Foundation Art Club

I currently work as a curator for Thought Foundation in Birtley. A huge part of our vision in the arts is not just learning new skills but reinforcing that you do not have to be an incredible painter or drawer to love and learn where your creativity flows.

We have an amazing Educational Officer (I am sure she hates it when I call her that) Amanda McMahon, who is an incredible woman who runs art classes every Saturday morning. These little ones come in with such enthusiasm and passion to learn and explore through art. Creating new work, taking creative chances and seeing how their work with progress week to week; I see these young humans as little Da Vinci’s in the making.

Leanne Pearce Billinghurst – Traditional portraits with a contemporary twist

You would think breastfeeding in 2019 would not lead to controversy. But still in modern day society, you hear stories of women being shunned to bathrooms, made to feel uncomfortable and of course, the fact a female nipple is still censored online. Yet artists have been painting women and child breastfeeding for centuries, celebrating the female form and representing the bond between Mother and Child! In 1490, Leonardo da Vinci painted Madonna Litta’ a painting of the Virgin Mary, breastfeeding Christ – a painting that I’m sure was controversial at the time but is considered a “high power work”.

Leanne Pearce Billinghurst is a modern day artist that combines traditional portraiture like Da Vinci but with a contemporary twist often using the subject of breastfeeding. Leanne takes the traditional overused, overseen images of the male gaze over the female body and creates beautiful large scale paintings of breastfeeding mothers. Her paintings are not of saints and noble figures, like Da Vinci’s female portraits often were, but women in their day to day lives breastfeeding children. Leanne’s work celebrates breastfeeding mothers, just like Da Vinci did in the Madonna Litta’ and challenges those in society, who believe an important, natural function should be hidden away.

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Cack Handed Kid – The Skull King of Newcastle

Da Vinci was fascinated with anatomical studies; he would study and draw from Doctors’ studies and morgues. His detailed studies are something of wonder and show unintentionally the macabre of the time where anatomy wouldn’t normally be shown to the public. Anatomical studies in art have evolved throughout art history and today the obsession is still strong; with skulls featuring heavily in tattoo art, fashion design, symbols etc.

Cack Handed Kid is partly responsible for flying the flag across the North East, keeping the anatomical obsession alive – his artist skull designs and illustrations are printed around Newcastle and he’s a talented tattoo apprentice. Out of all the artists who use the human anatomy in their work I LOVE Mr Kids work.

I love the macabre anatomy details of his skulls with the precision of his pen and the detail he can draw. The reason why I love his work is so much is that it has a pop culture funny twist connected to them. Of course, I want to see the inside of Mickey Mouse head and Felix the cat, who wouldn’t!?

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Jonpaul Kirvan – The Mad Scientist at Ampersand Inventions

I can imagine Da Vinci’s mind being abit like a hamster on a wheel full of never ending thoughts and ideas, just going faster and faster, whilst always on the go. That Da Vinci style of mind, is exactly how I think artist, director, building manager and all around creative, JohnPaul Kirvan’s mind works too. If you know JP you wouldn’t think he creates his own work as he’s normally running around Commercial Union House, keeping the building on its feet and supporting other creatives. But when you see his work you can see his personality all over them; he takes found objects and repurposes them to create works that explore literary escapism. In his practice, he creates large installations where he collects objects and images and creates chaotic, cluttered and wonderful spaces.

JP believes that the most important aspect of the creative process is the process itself of designing, devising and making – just like Leonardo da Vinci. When beginning to create an installation he starts with the idea and concept and allows himself to be led connecting multiple ideas, binding them together into something larger and more meaningful than the individual elements.
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Ampersand Inventions

Zara Worth – The Next Generation.

I have been a fan of Zara Worth for many years now and I have had the pleasure of working with her in the past. Last year she had an exhibition at Vane gallery in Newcastle called FEED’. FEED’ brought together a body of work created since 2016. Concerned with our relationships with hand-held technology and social media, Worth’s practice has been described by curator Tyler Robarge as ‘swipe-specific’: using online culture and technology as subject and medium for artworks with on- and offline lives. Throughout the exhibition materials and methods of creative production point to themes of value, presence and self-image in the social media age.

Like Da Vinci you cannot put her practice in a box. In her work, she has used video, photography, painting, technology, found objects, collage and textiles to name a few! And just like Da Vinci, she is an academic at heart and uses this within her own drawing practice.

My favourite work in her recent FEED exhibition was “The artist’s presence.”; two chairs face each other and when you download the app you point the phone to a certain point on the chair and Zara appears. The work explicitly references Marina Abramović’s performance ‘The Artist is Present’ (2010) in order to question notions of real ‘presence’ in the digital age. I love this piece because in the hologram she looks like an oil painting that has been digitally been removed from a painting, bringing together old and new ways of seeing art.

Much like Da Vinci, Zara uses technology and innovation in her work to ask questions of the present and the possible. Da Vinci not only used technology in his practice- but he was a master innovator, creator and designer.

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National Artists

Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark

Da Vinci is not overly known for being a sculptor but he certainly did dabble, as he did with everything! He was captivated by objects and people’s “form”. When I was researching for this blog post, I knew I wanted to look at sculptors and this amazing artist popped up straight away; Rayvenn Shaleigha D’Clark!  Her work explores the playful theatricality of sculpture, examining the space between objects modelling the real and its ability to usurp the ‘original’ as self-sustaining fictions. It also raises important social comments around whitewashing not only in sculpture but in all art history – by presenting and celebrating the diversity of humans and differing races which has always existed.

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Pippa Young

Another artist I discovered when considering the ‘next Da Vinci’ was Pippa Young; she’s an artist, like Leanne, who uses traditional drawing and painting with a lovely contemporary twist! Pippa’s works are hyper realistic portraits with a missing imprint on each piece of work. A missing hat, an “unfinished” collar, the portraits are reminiscent of some of Da Vinci’s portraits, full of realism, character, representations of people and an often haunting vacant stare out communicating directly to the audience.

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International Artists

Rafael Lozano Hemmer

I learnt about Rafael Lozano Hemmer’s work when studying for my MA in Curating at Sunderland University.  We were learning about New Media artists and honestly, I was not connecting with the movement at all… until I learnt the name Rafael Lozano Hemmer and I was hooked!  Rafael is a Mexican Canadian electronic artist whose works branches to architecture, technological theatre and performance. My favourite piece of work he created is Pulse Room.

Pulse Room is an interactive installation featuring one to three hundred clear incandescent light bulbs. The bulbs fill the space with an interface placed on a side of the room has a sensor that detects the heart rate of participants. When someone holds the interface, a computer detects a pulse and immediately sets off the closest bulb to flash at the exact rhythm of the heart. When the participate let’s go of the interface all the lights turn off and then starts flashing then the other heartbeats move down the room until it disappears. I love this piece because it blends technology, shared experiences and human connection brilliantly just like Da Vinci did.

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Bathsheba Grossman

Da Vinci used mathematical calculations and design techniques to create work and inventions that are equally considered pieces of art work and mathematical genius. I tried to look for a modern day artist, that could be considered in the same way and my research led me to Bathsheba Grossman and her work blew me away. Bathsheba creates sculptures using computer-aided design and three-dimensional modelling. They use mathematics in creating these extremely beautiful but precise works just like Rafael Lozano Hemmer, uses new and growing technology within their practice creating pieces that are experimental and innovative. Some of the pieces are actually quite functional – like interesting bottle openers.

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So that’s the “Future Da Vinci list” and ones to watch out for! I hope that this blog has inspired you to learn more about these artists and beyond!

All my love Michaela xx

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Well what a list and I’ve certainly discovered and fan girled over several new artists in the process of editing it. So much talent there – and some of the above are quite ordinary people, a human just like Da Vinci, who have achieved some extraordinary things.

I’ve got so many take away messages –

  • Da Vinci’s legacy lives on inspiring and permeating past, present and future artists, people and projects.
  • The world is just filled with fantastically talented humans – the above list is not exhaustive and is just a hint of some of the talent that exists out there and some of the people who are real trail blazers in their own right.
  • That artists can be more than one thing….”oh so you’re just an artist” – why yes, I’m a designer, innovator, maker, creator, visionary, artist, inventor, rule breaker, academic, researcher, opportunity seeking business person….Leonardo da Vinci evidences how cross sector artists are, how they don’t feel the same fear trying something new, experimenting and that artists have the power to reimagine and look beyond normative restrictions of possibility.
  • Art is a fearless social commentary – it does not shy away from newness, truth seeking and challenging narratives. It enables audiences to see the world through different eyes and at the very least, question their own reality and perceptions.
  • Da Vinci experimented and was fearless in the face of failure – he did many versions of his work and in some cases, these “sketches” that we visit and love at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens today, are the very same, as that sleepless night when you’re consumed with a new idea and at 2am and write, scribble or draw in your note book. He continuously learnt, bettered himself, was hungry for knowledge, disproved his own theories until he got to the truth and remained in a constant state of personal development until he died. Growing and learning never stops.
  • He absorbed influence from society, innovation and new learning of the time – but at the end of the day, Leonardo da Vinci put out the work, into the world, that he wanted to and meant something to him…..now I’m not commenting on status of privilege here (and his means of doing so), I’m commenting on the core value and self-belief of being able to do that. Being able to fall in love with your own ideas and art and make them real.

But the main take away, I have from above – comes from a friend who has established the mantra and hashtag #bemoremary – in relation to her little girl who is absolutely as fearless, full of character, creative and just all round lush. Whether you’re an artist, creative, art lover or a fellow (or future) Culture Vulture, I want you to embrace some of that Da Vinci mindset and BE MORE MARY!

Who knows…may be little Mary from Sunderland is the next Da Vinci?!

You can still catch the end of the exhibition run at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens – tickets available from here!

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Mary ^^

Until next time Culture Vultures. xx

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Calling all rebels this International Women’s Day!?

After Eurovision (which is like my own personal Christmas), there is only one annual celebration that gets me super excited….. and that’s International Women’s Day. An opportunity to toast some of my favourite #lasses, recognise achievement and those who have supported the journey towards equality.

And this year, I’m throwing a proper party with Thought Foundation & Durham Distillery called Rebel Disco – I’ve wanted to throw a party for years and with The Culture Vulture thriving and vibing with so many lush megababes in my network, it seemed like the perfect time. Rebel Disco is an opportunity to get glittered up (we’ve got an eco- glitter bar!), dance to an amazing female DJ who is going to DJ some diva cracker tunes with projection, creative shenanigans for you to have a go at, food on offer, “tit-tails” and more. It’s this coming Friday and tickets are £12… why not join me, bring your rebel tribe and disco tits and get ready a corker of a party in the name of International Women’s Day….

Tickets are £12 and available from HERE.

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IWD is celebrated on 8th March annually and is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights. After the Socialist Party of America organised a Women’s Day on February 28, 1909 in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

Today, International Women’s Day is an International day of recognition; in some countries it’s celebrated as a day that championing people who identify as female and womanhood, in others it’s a day of protest and sadly, still in many places it’s ignored.

International Women’s Day is sometimes perceived as quite contentious or a day of “feminism”….. but I think it’s a beautiful celebratory day and at the heart of it, is about recognising the history of women and suffrage alongside championing the achievements of female identifying wonderful humans and an opportunity to have a discussion about the issues that exist in the present.

This year’s theme is right up my street too…. Totally recognising that IWD is not Men verses Women (I don’t believe in two genders for the record); it’s about celebrating wonderful people and striving for equality. This year’s campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter – focusing on forging a more gender-balanced world and trying to secure equality. I’m totally against any form of bias including preferential treatment (quotas on a business board – please! I either am the right candidate or I’m not – I don’t want my place to tick a box.).

So really excited for this year’s IWD and Rebel Disco; this party is going to be mega and it’s all about celebrating women and dancing the night away whilst enjoying “tit” tails made with Durham Gin (one of my FAVE gins by the way). I bet you’re wondering what a “tit tail’ is.. good question….basically we’ve taken the “cock” out of cocktail and swapped it for “tit” and then devised a LUSH Durham Distillery gin cocktail! Simple as that!

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However, I’m not the only one doing something MINT for this year’s International Women’s Day – actually this year feels like a bit of a festival of IWD happenings. So I thought this was a good opportunity to do some Culture Vulture IWD suggestions and recommendations for events I think you should be aware of and checking out!

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Film Screening: Kusama: Infinity (12A)

Gosforth Civic Theatre, Tuesday 5 March, 7.30pm

Insightful documentary about #kween of polka dots Yayoi Kusama, and her journey against the odds to become an internationally renowned brilliant artist. Yayoi is an absolute ray of light in the arts world.

Tickets are £5 and available from HERE!

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Hear My Voice: A Working Woman’s Fight For The Vote

Caedmon Hall, Gateshead Central Library, Thursday 7 March, 6.30pm

Mark, IWD with Meridith Towne; she will lead you on a march through history to discover the determined women who sparked “The Cause” through to the Edwardian militants who refused to take “no” for an answer. This is a brilliant lively and informative talk about women who were inspired to go forth with “Deeds not Words”. I’ve seen Meridith many times before – and she’s excellent!

Tickets are £5 and available from HERE!

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Stupid

Northern Stage, Thursday 7 March, 8pm

A “not-just-me-then” tale of one woman figuring life out. We meet Stupid on her first day as a supply teacher and follow her quest to piece herself together, one school (and life) lesson at a time. New writing by an extraordinary megababe – a hilariously honest story about adulthood and whether it will ever really make sense?

I’ve seen the show and it was fantastic – written by Sian Armstrong and directed by Anna Ryder; two of my favourite humans.

Tickets are £10 and available from HERE!

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Period Positivity Event

Newcastle City Library/Grey’s Monument, Friday 8 March, 10am

This event is all about raising awareness surrounding period poverty and promoting period positivity. Starting at Newcastle City Library, you will have the opportunity to make red pompoms before taking them to Grey’s Monument to make it red. There will also be a flash-mob choir performing.

You will also be able to drop by and donate to Red Box and Streetwise.

Tickets are free – but you can register your interest HERE!

International Women’s Day Story Time

Seven Stories The National Centre for Children’s Books, Friday 8 March, 10.30am, 1pm & 3.30pm

Awesome stories about inspirational super-women shared all day in celebration of International Women’s Day. Dress up as your favourite independent woman and tag us in on Instagram #IWD2019.

Storytime is free with general Seven Stories admission.

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International Women’s Day at City Space with Sister Shack

City Space, Sunderland University, Friday 8 March, 11am-7pm

Sister Shack will be showcasing stalls, activity and workshops with a creative, entrepreneurial and artistic background. This event will have a focus on the wellbeing of women by the way of specialist stalls, speakers, workshops and performers.

Entry is free and no need for tickets – but visit the website to find out more about the schedule of activity.

Sister Shack is also running an event the next day at Tyne Bank Brewery, so if you can’t make the Sunderland event – check out the Newcastle one!

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Reclaim The Frame presents The Kindergarten Teacher

Tyneside Cinema, Sunday 10 March, 3pm

This screening is part of the fantastic Birds’ Eye View’s Reclaim The Frame project; a mission to bring ever greater audiences to films by women, to build a more balanced film future.

Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Lisa Spinelli, a kindergarten teacher and poet fed up with her career, her oblivious husband and teenage kids who largely ignore her. When she discovers that a five-year-old in her class may be a poetic prodigy, Lisa becomes fascinated and tries to protect him from neglectful parents.

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There will be a post screening panel discussion hosted by Mia Bays who runs Birds’ Eye View, the charitable pathfinder for films by women and network for those who make, show, release and watch them. She is an Oscar-winning producer of documentaries and fiction.

Tickets are £7.25-£10.75 and available HERE.

Tyneside Cinema are running a whole season of International Women’s Day inspired films.

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Newcastle Fuck Up Night (in collaboration with Women of Tyneside)

Ampersand Inventions CIC, 39 Pilgrim Street, Tuesday 12 March, 7pm

An evening of all-female line up of artists, writers, business people and entrepreneurs who are set to tell their stories – this evening is all about celebrating the mistakes, the “whoops”, the blind faith moments, the moment it all went tits up – yep the fuck ups…. These moments are learning opportunities and often the making of us – this event celebrates and shares them.

Tickets are free but pre-bookable – available HERE.

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Other lush events coming up to note:

Women of Tyneside Festival

Across Newcastle & Gateshead, March – June

I was lucky to catch up with one of the project co-ordinators Gemma Ashby to find out about the festival and it sounds fantastic. A wide programme of collaborative events and TWAM led events celebrating women in Tyneside and exploring the representation of women in Museum collections.

Festival information and programme of events can be found HERE.

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Women are Mint Festival

Cobalt Studios, 10-12 May

Women Are Mint Festival is a three day event showcasing the best of local female talent including Culture Vulture megababes Becca James, The Cornshed Sisters, Ladies of Midnight Blue and Lady Annabella. Women are absolutely MINT, but we already knew that.

Festival information and tickets can be found HERE.

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And if you can’t wait to see Lady Annabella…well guess what? She’s DJing Rebel Disco, so come and sample a tit-tail with me on Friday and get your Rebel Disco tickets!

I have a feeling I’m going to be raising a lot of glasses full of gin across the week at all these IWD events, toasting lots of megababes….

That’s all for now Culture Vultures! xx

Gateshead Silent Film Festival 2019 – the low down

So now we are half way through January (how did that happen?!?), I hope you have your diaries full of events, happenings and plans for 2019…….there are so many amazing things going on in the region and my last post covered just a few of my top picks! One of my recommendations was the Gateshead Silent Film Festival – I’ve got my ticket and I’m so excited to go! It will be my third time attending and each year it just gets better and better, and as a Gateshead lass, I’m so proud that something like this happens right here, on my patch!

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This year’s Gateshead Silent Film festival, a collaboration between St Mary’s Heritage Centre & Side By Side Arts; two nights of silent movies accompanied by ‘live’ piano music.

Friday night is ‘Horror’ night showing the 1925 seminal American silent horror ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Scream for Pizza are serving a range of their ghoulishly gorgeous fresh made pizzas from 7pm, and a pay bar is available too. Tickets available here.

Saturday night is ‘Comedy’ night showing ‘Girl Shy’. The Poor Boy (Harold Lloyd) is a bashful tailor’s apprentice who longs to be a published author. Heading for the city to sell his romantic anthology, he encounters the Rich Girl (Jobyna Ralston) on a train, and he helps her hide her dog from the conductor. Excited about a budding romance, the Poor Boy goes off to a publisher and gets rejected. Disheartened, he gives up on the Rich Girl. However, when the publisher changes his mind, the Poor Boy tries to rekindle the spark of romance. Scream for Pizza will also be back serving from 6pm and bar open from 7pm. Tickets available here.

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But instead of me jabbering on about why you need to get tickets for Gateshead’s Silent Film Festival, I thought I’d catch up with Mr Gateshead Silent Film Festival, the Director of Side By Side Arts – Stuart Angus. We caught up recently (before Christmas) and bonded over Stuart’s FANTASTIC gin collection and I had the privilege of finding out all about Side by Side Arts and what is in store for this year’s Silent Film Festival!

Let’s start at the beginning for my fellow Culture Vultures – who are you?

My name Stuart Angus and I am the Director of Side By Side Arts.  I’m originally from Northern Ireland, but moved across when was 18 to study music at Newcastle University and fell in love with the North East so stayed!

The North East tends to do that, once you arrive here, people don’t want to leave/we don’t allow you to leave. So Side By Side Arts, what is it and what does it do?

Side By Side Arts is a Community Interest Company which aims to bring performing arts opportunities covering music, dance and drama to people in the North East who would not normally have the opportunity to take part. Currently we run stage schools for children, supported by partners and various funders, which enable young people from lower income backgrounds to take part. We also lead the Low Fell Community choir, have a music tuition studio, run group and individual piano lessons and even run an annual Silent Film Festival!

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Stuart leading Low Fell Community Choir at BALTIC as part of Great Exhibition of the North

You’ve just mentioned The Silent Film Festival, that’s what I want to hear more about! Tell my fellow Culture Vultures, what’s happening and what’s on across the festival?

The Silent Film Festival is now in its third year and run jointly with St Mary’s Heritage Centre. This year we are even bigger and better running three events, all celebrating the magic of silent film, over the 25th & 26th January.

Friday 25th January is horror night! Enjoy the gothic settings of St Mary’s while watching the all-time horror classic ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

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Saturday 26th sees the venue transformed into the St Mary’s Speakeasy where the hilarious Miss Dixie Swallows introduces the comedy film ‘Girl Shy’ featuring Harold Lloyd. This is a great love story about a guy who thinks he knows how to make women fall in love with men, but in reality can’t speak to a girl without stuttering!

Both evenings will be accompanied by myself live on piano, a pay bar open and the delicious Scream for Pizza will also be cooking up a storm!

This year for the first time we are also holding the family funny bones hour where we will be showing three short comedy silent films, one of which will be accompanied by myself on piano. These are three of my most favourite short films and the one I am accompanying live is my all-time favourite (Buster Keaton’s One Week). This event is especially for families to come along, be thoroughly entertained and have a great time together as a family.

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I really like your choice of films – Girl Shy is just fantastic. What made you select this year’s films?

I chose Phantom Of the Opera because most people are very familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, but the silent film is where it all began and a true class. I wanted to show the original film and surprise people with a similar story line but with music that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the film.

Last year for comedy night we showed Charlie Chaplin and the year before we showed Buster Keaton, so for 2019 following on with the theme of showcasing some of the silent film comedy greats, we thought we’d let Harold Lloyd have a turn this year! Every year, I like to show a film which people are a bit less familiar with (everyone knows the scene where Harold Lloyd is hanging from a large clock face) and ‘Girl Shy’ has all the elements to make a great comedy film from a love story, through to hilarious slap stick and even a comedy chase!

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St Mary’s is just such a perfect venue for this type of event and as always, can’t wait to see it for horror night– from your perspective why did you pick this as your Silent Film Festival home?

St Mary’s is a fantastic venue and is so versatile in its uses. Who could imagine that such a place could host a wedding one week, a conference or a workshop the next and then even a silent film festival?!?! The gothic setting of a church is amazing to show horror films while speakeasies appeared in the most unlikely of places during the 1920’s prohibition, so where more unlikely to have one than in an old church?

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I’ve heard lots of people talking about this year’s festival – like they’ve just discovered it, which is always a great sign! But this is actually its THIRD year – how did it all start?

It all started with me going to the Heaton Park Silent Film Night which used to be held in the Summer time. From here I discovered silent films and in particular Buster Keaton. This inspired me to write my final dissertation on the evolution of silent film music and from there my love for the silent film era grew! I was really sad when the Heaton Park Festival ended because of the loss of funding and really wanted to bring silent films back to the North East!

You introduced me properly to silent films and since the first festival, I’ve been keening watching them and I’ve discovered that watching silent films was (and still is) actually anything but silent! People watching giggled, socialised, drank and of course, lots of live musical accompaniment. You’ll be doing live piano along to the films to bring them to life – are you doing a special score?

Every performance that I give is a soundtrack that I have compiled especially for the showing using a massive array of music, a lot of the music you will hear is taken from original music that would have been used to accompany films.

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Why do you love Silent Films? Why is it important for people to fall in love with the genre today?

I love silent films because they don’t have any of the mod cons that you would expect to see in modern cinema. All of the actors do their own stunts, there was no CGI and most importantly the main way that they could tell a story effectively was by using music to match with what you see on the screen.

It’s really interesting that the whole perception of what you watch and experience can be altered by what you hear! That’s why the musician’s job in the silent film era was almost as important as the actors who were on screen. It also led to so much more including folly artistry to provide sound effects which ultimately developed into what we recognise now as a modern day film score.

What I find interesting is that nowadays audiences are looking for that fully immersive experience while watching a movie; from attending showings with live orchestras playing the movie’s scores through to audience participation and live actors interpreting what is shown on screen simultaneously, so of course, what better way to enjoy a film than going back to where it all began?

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For people who haven’t seen any Silent Film before but just fancy a lush different night out to get them through January (it’s a long bliddy month), what can they expect if they get a ticket? Why should they get a ticket?

For people who haven’t watched a silent film I need to ask where have you been for the past two years!?!?!?! Coming to an event like this means that you are able to appreciate a film which is very cleverly made. While you’re watching you will get so engrossed in that you almost forget about everything around you because it is so visual! You can expect to have a unique experience with what you hear as the soundtrack is compiled especially for the event and not forgetting the amazing Miss Dixie on the Saturday night adding that extra bit of comedy!

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What’s next after the Silent Film Festival – what do you have planned for 2019?

2019 looks to be a busy year so far! I have a great project coming up with Imagine Gateshead where I will be working with a group of children to write a song about what they think Gateshead will be like in 100 years’ time! The Low Fell Community Choir are working on lots of great new music and getting ready to perform it over the coming months and I will also be growing the music studio. But most excitingly, I have a couple of new tutors who will be joining me over the coming weeks to take Side by Side Arts to the next level – so singing lessons, dance etc will be added to our growing offer!

You teach the piano and run lessons for adults and children – you’ve promised to give me a lesson or too (I’m not very musical), I need to know what you are going to teach me on the piano? My musical profile consists of Little Donkey on the recorder, The Rugrats theme tune on the glockenspiel so I’m eagerly awaiting another string to this bow…

I really don’t think that it is true that people aren’t musical….. you just have never had the right teacher! I firmly do believe that if you have the willing to learn something like piano and are happy to take 10 minutes a day to do a little bit of practice that you can learn to play in no time at all! (rant over!) So having said that my aim for you is to teach you a Britney Spears song as I know how much you love her!

Proud Britney Spears super fan right here…..right now I’m excited for my lesson. You also head up Low Fell Community choir and keep trying to get me join…… right this is your chance, 30 second pitch. I can’t sing, but love to sing as it makes me feel a bit lush inside….why should I join? If I join, can we do some Tina Turner or Britney? (non-negotiables)

The Low Fell Community Choir is a really friendly and welcoming choir, just like I say anyone can be musical, we really do believe that anyone can sing! We meet every Sunday at 5:30 at the Nest in Low Fell, there is no audition to join, you just have to turn up and sing! I teach everything by singing it to you and then you have a go at singing it back!

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Last year we did some amazing music from an Abba medley through to Adel’s Make You Feel My Love and big classics like Don’t Stop Believing! This year we are working on more epic tunes from Queen’s Somebody To Love, through to songs from Greatest Showman, a few modern day hits and yes! There is even a Tina Turner song to be learnt, but I’m not going to tell you which one – you’re going to have to come along to find out!!!

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I can feel my little feet stomping a la Proud Mary, in excitement already. So Culture Vultures, 25th & 26th January is this year’s Gateshead Silent Film Festival. Tickets are flying and it’s going to be a great weekend of silent film. I will be there lurking in the shadows on horror night, hanging out with minis (more on my level) for Funny Bones hour and cackling away at the back for comedy night.

If you see me – say hiyer and use the hashtag #GatesheadSilentFilm19 on social so I can track your silent film festival shenanigans!

That’s all for now.

Events and Happenings to look forward to across the North East for 2019

So I’ve been plotting and planning this blog post for some time – but you know what it’s like over the festive period…..always more cheese to eat, more gin to drink, another cat to stroke…..

Lots of you send me messages via my various social media channels asking for my recommendations of things to do, happenings, events etc – so I thought I’d write a blog on the things that I’m excited and looking forward to in 2019. There are so many amazing events, exhibitions, performances, happenings, things to see, do, visit, coming up, that it’s impossible to include them all but these are the ones that give me excited butterflies……

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New Year New Artists – Thursday 17 January – Sunday 20 January

If like me New Year and January is all about trying and seeking out new things and you’re feeling musically experimental after BBC3 Radios New Music week across the first week of January, then THIS is for you. I get SO stuck in a music rut through-out the year – but I love gigs, discovering new bands, singers and types of music that day to day, I’d probably not be open to.

New Year New Artists at Sage Gateshead, in association with my pals at NARC Magazine, brings together stars of the future; a weekend full of new music, different genres and artists of tomorrow. You can say you saw them here first!

The programme this year is amazing but if I had to pick a Culture Vulture recommendation it would be to go to Saturday 19 January – BBC Introducing in the North East Presents. This evening will be filled with exciting emerging artists, unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar music across the UK. The line-up includes the AMAZING Beth Macari, who if you are a lover of the regional gig and live music scene, you’ll have seen and fallen in love with her, like I have. She is certainly one to watch!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: Various prices per gig/festival pass (and some are free!)

How to Book: Sage Gateshead Website

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Gateshead Silent Film Festival – Friday 25 January, 8pm & 26 Saturday January, 8pm

This is now in its third year at St Mary’s Heritage Centre and is run by the incredibly talented creative Side By Side Arts.  If you haven’t been to St Mary’s Heritage Centre – then please you MUST go and this is your perfect excuse! It’s one of my favourite venues for an event; think converted Church, atmosphere, bit gothic and PERFECT for a silent film fest!

Side By Side Arts present two nights of silent films accompanied by live piano music, taking you back to 1920s where film making was pure gold, without special effects. Night one is ‘Horror night’ with a screening of The Phantom of the Opera, a 1925 silent horror classic, about an enigmatic masked presence. Night two is ‘Comedy night’ with a screening of Girl Shy, a silent comedy classic about ‘Poor Boy’ heading to the city to sell his romantic anthology and stumbles into a romance of his own! Night two is also being brought to life with compare and Rusty’s legend Miss Dixie Swallows bringing some class and sass to the proceedings. New for this year, is the addition of Scream for Pizza serving up their lush pizza and of course, there is a pay bar and each night ends up with dancing (or in my case twirling) to 1920s-40s music.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £10 per night (each booked separately)

How to book: Gateshead Council Box Office Website – Horror Night / Comedy Night

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Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing – Friday 1 February – Monday 6 May

In February 2019, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 144 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection will go on display in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens! Sunderland has got it going on at the moment and we are SO lucky to have this on our door step – it’s a MUST visit!

1st Feb marks the opening weekend of Leonardo da Vinci, A Life in Drawing – and if like me, you’re all about being there first, then it’s all about the opening weekend! The exhibition is your rare opportunity to see the extraordinary drawings of Leonardo da Vinci from the Queen’s Collection. The drawings on selected for display reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests and his innovation – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

Keep an eye on Sunderland Culture social media and website over the coming weeks for a wide ranging programme of supporting events and activities for families and adults through-out the exhibition period.

 

Even though the exhibition doesn’t open until 1st Feb – tickets are on sale now and I do recommend pre-booking yours to avoid disappointment.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £2.50 per person & Under 16s free (but ticket still needed)

How to Book: Visit the Sunderland Culture Leonardo website page.

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Sunderland Comedy Project- Thursday 7 February, 7.30pm

With Jesterval Comedy Festival, South Tyneside Comedy Festival, Arts Centre Washington comedy programme and of course, The Stand Comedy Club, I think we do pretty well for comedy. I love attending comedy shows and seeing touring comedians. However, I’ve just found out about The Sunderland Comedy Project and their monthly shows with regional comedians at the lush Sunderland venue, The Peacock. This is a MUST for this Culture Vulture in 2019….

The Sunderland Comedy Project has just announced their February show and line-up; I’m buzzing that Jesterval fave (and organiser) Dave Haddingham is comparing for the evening. Now, I’ve seen Dave many times before and I’ve go to this, just for him alone – he’s hilarious! Other acts announced so far are Karen Bayley and Vince Atta with more to come. This sounds like a great night to discover some new comedy; I will be cackling in the back!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £10 per-booking or £12.50 on the door.

How to Book: Visit the Jokepit online box office.

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Screenage Kicks: True Romance- Thursday 14 February, 7pm

After a year-long absence, which left a hole in my social life heart, Screenage Kicks is back with a vengeance in 2019! Now, if you haven’t heard of Screenage Kicks – well they are a MUST for you in 2019. Screenage Kicks creates bespoke immersive pop up cinema events celebrating absolute cult cinema classics in truly unique locations. They have to be experienced to be believed – but think live music, character performance, beautifully themed venue decorations and special touches inspired by the films themselves.

So, here they are back for 2019, returning with their first ever (Anti) Valentines special, screening one of their (and mine!) favourite cult classics, Tony Scott’s beloved ‘True Romance’. Presented in full Screenage action packed glory, within the unique and romantic surrounds of a space never yet used by Screenage Kicks; The Assembly Rooms is set to be transformed into The Beverley Ambassador.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £22 or £39.60 for a couples ticket (Please note – this is NOT a couples event – everyone and anyone is welcome!)

How to Book: Visit the Seetickets Screenage box office.

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The Art of Taxidermy: Artist Talk- Saturday 2 March, 11am

With Taxidermy and Entomology having a big revival and growing in popularity – are you feeling a bit curious? Have you thought about having a go but a bit unsure? I certainly have! Moreover, I have so many questions! Moth Studios are the leading Taxidermy and Entomology studio in the region, hosting a wide range of workshops in their own studio and all their items are responsibly and reputably sourced – for one special morning, Moth Studio is hosting a talk at St Mary’s Heritage Centre Gateshead (what a PERFECT venue for it!?).

In this artist talk and demonstration with Moth Studios, they will share their visionary way of re-introducing Taxidermy, Natural History and Entomology into contemporary lifestyle, exploring techniques they use, hints and tips for your own pieces and how you can get involved in the practice.

The talk is such a unique opportunity to find out more and will close with a Q&A so you can truly satisfy your curiosity.

I really love an Artist talk!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £6 per person

How to Book: Visit the Gateshead Council box office

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Where There’s Muck There’s Bras- Wednesday 13 March, 7.45pm

This beautiful show at The Northern Stage celebrates the ‘real’ Northern Powerhouse – the sung and unsung women of the North of England. Its politicians, entertainers, musicians, sportswomen, activists, writers, innovators and mould breakers – women who are often missing in the ‘standard’ Northern Powerhouse who (in my opinion) consist mostly of white men in suits. I mean how tragic was the line-up for the Business Conference during Great Exhibition of the North!?!?! I’ve felt more inspired by a smack in the face….

In this hilarious and thought provoking show, stand up poet and Radio 4 regular Kate Fox and actor Joey Holden champion #lasses such as Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman, the first female speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd and music hall star the inimitable Hylda Baker alongside some #lasses you may not have heard of, Liverpool’s Hilda James who introduced the front crawl to the UK, Lilian Bader, one of the first black women in the RAF and “Red Ellen” Wilkinson the MP who led the Jarrow March!

I heard AMAZING things about this show during its mini tour last year so I’m mega excited to see it myself! In addition to Northern Stage – it’s playing all over the North including Darlington, York, Halifax, Middlesbrough and many other venues – visit Kate Fox Facebook for full tour details.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: From £10 per person

How to book: Northern Stage Website – Where There’s Muck There’s Bras

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Curious Arts Fundraiser – Friday 16 March, 8pm

Curious Arts champions and develops LGBTQ arts, artists and audiences across the North East. Their work, events and yearly festival in July celebrates and explores Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Culture through the arts. Every event, I’ve attended has blown my mind – interesting, high energy, such a memorable experience and guaranteed that you leave curious for more. In short, I love everything they do. They haven’t announced their festival programme for July 2019 – but I can promise you, it will be amazing!

However, they have just announced their fundraiser evening at Alphabetti Theatre; this evening directly supports the Curious Festival 2019 programme. Last year was a BLAST, so you can expect a line-up packed full of talented performers, dance and drag artists with the proceedings most likely led by Mutha Tucka. I promise, you will laugh until your sides hurt, see performers from the region doing amazing things showcasing the unreal talent we have in the region and you’ll end the night dancing away in Alphabetti’s theatre bar.

And if like me, you’re curious for more or if you can’t make the fundraiser – they also have Northern  Stage is Curious: 2019 on 1 June, for a preview of what to expect from award-winning Curious Festival 2019;  an evening of comedy, theatre and performance from established and emerging Queer Northern talent.

Ticket/Entrance Cost for Fundraiser: £10

How to book: Via the Curious ticket website.

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The Bon Bons Cabaret: God Save the Queens – Thursday 28 March, 9pm

Bonnie and The Bonnettes and The House of Love are back with another one of their fun, feisty, entertaining and infamous Bon Bons Cabarets; God Save The Queens. Tonight they explore and celebrate what it takes, to be a Queen! Whether it’s Mariah Carey, or Mary Queen of Scots, these Queens have always got the job done. From a culturally shifting Christmas number one to running the entire country of Scotland, they inspire generations, they make their mark, their voices heard; they are true Queens. During the night, Bonnie and The Bonnettes explore what exactly makes a “Queen”? Are you born one? Do you transform into one? Do other people’s love and adoration make you become one?

Get ready for a night like no other at Alphabetti Theatre and remember to wear your crowns and tiaras!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £7 (£5 concessions)

How to book: Via the Alphabetti Theatre website

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The Guilty Feminist- Saturday 4 May, 6.30pm

The Guilty Feminist podcast has become a comedy phenomenon with over 50 million downloads since it launched in late 2016 – it is pretty much my life Bible and small bit of sanity during periods of absolute insanity. I actually didn’t know this was even coming to Newcastle’s City Hall until I was tagged into a social media post and the lush ladies from Third Space Events sorted me a ticket to join their gang! I am so excited – I will be fangirling and whooping like a cracker!

Lush megababe – Comedian Deborah Frances-White and her guests discuss things which all twenty-first century feminists agree on – while confessing the insecurities, hypocrisies and fears which undermine those noble goals. For this special touring version of the show, Deborah will be joined by some of your favourite comedians, guests and musicians from the podcast for a celebration of how far we’ve come, and a conversation about what remains to be done.

Now in a world where “feminism” has become a bit of a (sadly) negative term…. I promise you this evening will have you giggling, thinking “oh my god – ME TOO” and walking away empowered. #LASSES

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £26.50 – £32

How to Book: Visit the Theatre Royal Website

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Elmer’s Great North Parade – Early August – November 2019

In 2016, did you (like me) fall in love with Snowdogs? I was a one woman advocate and superfan! LOVED IT! So I’m so excited that another mass Art participation event is planned for 2019, an even bigger set of feet will be parading through our region’s streets, parks and coastline – Elmer the Elephant’s ‘Great North Parade’, in support of St Oswald’s Children Hospice, is coming to town!

This beautiful art trail made up of individually designed sculptures based on the much loved Elmer character will stomp its way across the region for 10 weeks from August to October 2019.

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It will be similar to in concept to last time – expect Elmer’s across Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle, Northumberland & South Tyneside designed by local, regional and International Artists with one or two celebrities thrown in for good measure. You will be able to follow a paper trail map or an app on your phone in order to follow the trail alongside lots Elmer themed events across the whole region.

I am sure Elmer will absolute capture the hearts and minds of the region again – getting you all to be tourists in your own town. I am SO bliddy excited for this and it’s just fantastic that it benefits St Oswald’s Hospice; I was humbled recently, when I was invited for a tour of the hospice and hear about all the great work they do.

Keep an eye on the Facebook page for announcements or sign up to the mailing list.

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World Transplant Games 2019- Saturday 17 – Saturday 24 August 2019

If like me, you get borderline obsessed during the Olympics, then you’ll be super excited about a week long of live sporting events right here to the region. Held over seven days, the Summer World Transplant Games are held every two years in host cities around the world. I’m over the moon NewcastleGateshead have been chosen to host.

Summer 19 will see around 3000 visitors from 70 countries come to NewcastleGateshead to compete; competitors are aged from 4 to over 80 and will all have had lifesaving organ or tissue transplants. There will be events for living donors and donor families, as well as a number of social and cultural events for the public – alongside the obvious opportunity to attend the Games to watch at venues like Gateshead International Stadium. Sports will include archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, cycling, darts, football, golf, volleyball, petanque, squash, swimming, table tennis, ten-pin bowling and tennis.

Details about pricing and how to book are yet to reveal – follow the Facebook event page to keep in the loop!

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Well that was just a flavour of a few of the things I’m excited for across 2019….. quick shout outs also go to:

No28 – their themed quiz nights are amazing – I had a blast at last year’s Peep Show one!

MAPS Festival by Chalk – a creative and immersive weekend of art, music and play aimed at children under 8 and their grown-ups.

Lundgren Tours – they are yet to announce their tours for 2019 – but I’ve heard rumbling of Lake District and as I’m trying to get back to my outdoorsy best, I’m excited!

Tyneside Cinema – I’ve fallen back in love with the cinema again and one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to go to the cinema at least once every two weeks…. Tyneside always feature amazing films and host unique film events.

Low Fell Food Market – Everyone loves a food market and I especially love Spring/Summer ones in Saltwell Park and Gateshead (easier for me to roll home full). They are yet to announce dates – but they are coming!

Great Northumberland – After the MASSIVE success of last year’s Summer event season, it’s no surprise that I’ve heard rumours of this happening again! I really love Northumberland and the programme of events they put on so I’m eagerly awaiting more news and I will update you as I find out!

That’s all for now Culture Vultures!

 

 

Enchanted Parks 2018 the Artist edition…..celebrating outdoor art and hidden stories with Helen Yates!

We’ve been blessed across the North this year for outdoor festive events – you could literally attend something lush and magical every day and night. When you’re attending you might forget that these events are only possible thanks to a mega team of creatives; a project team and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears that make such events happen. Since I’ve started working on outdoor events as The Culture Vulture, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for these people and all the artists/creatives involved.

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The Finders Keepers at Enchanted Parks, Theatre Space NE (Photo: Rich Kenworthy)

I recently attended this year’s Enchanted Parks at Saltwell Park; Enchanted Parks is an outdoor after dark arts adventure around the park with light installations, sound, performance – all based around a theme. This year the theme was The House of Lost and Found – the story of a mysterious travelling circus that collects lost things and reunites them with their owners. You can get a sense of this year via this year’s professional photos from local (and bliddy amazing) photographer Rich Kenworthy.

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Enchanted Parks 2018 Photo: Rich Kenworthy

In my opinion, it was a great year and I loved all of the installations – quite different than previous and pushing the boundaries! A firm favourite of mine was an installation called ‘Precious and Found’ by Helen Yates – Burning Light Arts. Helen’s installation consisted of hanging in the branches of the Cherry Tree Walk in Saltwell Park, a series of birdcages hosting a fascinating array of curiosities, each with a story to tell.

I became really curious about what it’s like to be behind the scenes, working on this type of event and the artist experience! How scary mary, but also lush to have your artwork out there for all to see – night after night! So I decided to reach out to Helen Yates for the artist perspective – to find out more about her piece, how she came to be a part of this year’s Enchanted Parks and of course, her Enchanted Parks experience as an artist!

So step forward Helen Yates, one of this year’s Enchanted Parks’ artists!

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

Hi Helen, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you – so let’s start at the beginning for my Culture Vultures; tell me about you? Who are you?

Who am I? Strangely enough I made a piece a number of years ago with that very title, a textured, wax wall piece that incorporated the phrase in as many languages as I could track down. Some languages don’t even have the words to be able to ask the question!

Me? Well…… I have had a number of labels over the years: artist, lead artist, educator, lecturer, project manager, workshop leader, schools’ artist….I reckon my most enduring labels have been mother and artist.

Can you describe your arts practice?

I am one of those people that loves to gather new skills, materials and processes; so my work varies. I feel I have succeeded whatever the piece is, if I can create a response, a need to touch or discover more. Site specific installation tends to be my preferred way of working at the moment. I want to make work that fits the people and place that it is intended for and introduce some elements of hidden stories and thoughts for people to question. Temporary installations are great because people and places change, so I like that the work doesn’t feel static.

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The Lost and Found Tree, Dave Young at Enchanted Parks 2018. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

I ask every artist I interview this question….what was your journey into the arts?

From a very young age, I loved to read and draw. My mum would order me outside to ‘get some fresh air’ when she thought I had stayed in my room to long…. I would take my books and pencils outside and sit until I went numb with cold.

Throughout my life I have drawn, made and created things. My journey wasn’t as typical as most but I was always determined to go to college and university to ‘prove I was a creative’, so just after my son was born I did. I gained my degree and 2 daughters along the way! From there I hounded my local arts officers and officially became an artist. Three children and tight finances led to diversifying into college teaching and from there into arts development whilst still working as an artist.

What inspires your practice?

There are probably three things that have been extremely influential in shaping what I do. The first was at Uni; I obsessively drew and painted large scale nude figures in empty spaces – I wanted to portray being ‘human’. Secondly, when asked why I never incorporated objects or clothes, my response was that these things labelled people, put them in categories, people made assumptions. The more I thought about it, it led me to thinking about the power of objects and how we respond to them. I have always loved history, so archaeology and how objects are used to build pictures of long gone people become the overriding theme in my work…. Objects ruled! The third event was my visit to the Tate modern some years ago and seeing Cornelia Parkers Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View – she exploded a shed and its collection of objects into thousands of pieces and then reconstructed them in mid-air, creating a still, quiet and beautiful moment in time from a noisy, destructive moment in time. I saw how installations transformed and created their own spaces and this idea has stayed firmly in my mind.

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Cornelia Parkers Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View

Can’t believe I’d forgotten about Cornelia’s piece – went to see it at the Tate and WOW! But back to you….You had an installation at this year’s Enchanted Parks – how did that come about?

I came across the opportunity and loved the theme…. The idea of storytelling and lost objects immediately caught my attention. I have collaborated with storytellers on previous projects; I feel it’s a wonderful way of creating a new link between the work and audience. It invites people into thinking about an objects past, its meaning and the people that owned it. I want my work to engage children as well as adults so this commission had the possibility to do all of that. So I applied and I am extremely glad to say I was asked to create my proposal for the Cherry Tree walk at Saltwell Park.

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

What was the inspiration behind the piece?

The overriding theme of the commissions for Enchanted Parks 2018 was put forward within the brief and some images were sent within this to visualise these ideas. Within this was an image of a contortionist who had squeezed into a birdcage, it was a very striking image, if a little sinister! From here I wondered where Peter Chavalier (travelling circus leader) might store all his found objects on his travels and birdcages seemed very portable and just the kind of thing he might use to keep the found objects safe. They also seemed an excellent way of lighting and displaying the Precious and Found objects.

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Helen during the rigging process for Enchanted Parks 2018

How did you chose what items went inside the cages? Loved the Octopus and it was a firm favourite for visitors!

Thank you! The items were inspired by my research into what items have ended up in lost property offices around the world and it seems some very unusual items have been found, including an octopus on the London underground – probably not as big as the one in Precious and Found… but you never know! Can you begin to imagine though how anyone can lose a bag of skulls, a prosthetic leg or a missile guidance system? Of course others are more usual, the teddy bear and the puffer fish (well maybe not!!).

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

What does it feel like having families and culture vultures seeing your work every night and engaging so positively with it?

It makes me smile, even when I saw a toddler vigorously tugging at the octopuses leg one half of me was worrying that the leg would stay on, the other was chuckling and loving the intense concern that the child had, wanting to free a foam and latex, pink octopus..… I love the interaction…. It’s why I do it.

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

What did you think of this year’s Enchanted Parks theme?

Excellent! It has given rise to a lot of varied and excellent work. I feel the way the theme has been created is extremely creative in itself …. Well done Enchanted Parks!

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The Little Legionnaires of Lost and Found Studio McGuire at Enchanted Parks 2018 – Photo: Rich Kenworthy

I recently found a story about a day in the life of a chicken written by a 6 year old me – it’s so lush and pure; I don’t remember being obsessed with chickens but apparently I was a big chicken fan as a mini….have you ever found something that you thought you’d lost forever?

That’s a lovely story….chickens make excellent children’s characters! Unfortunately my response is not so lovely. After a brain injury some years ago, I lost the ability to walk, communicate and draw even a simple circle! Over the following years I found all these things again.  Words can’t explain my relief at knowing they were not lost forever.

The Little Legionnaires of Lost and Found Studio McGuire at Enchanted Parks 2018 – Photo: Rich Kenworthy

They say that the brain never really forgets – it’s just the path to remembering which is damaged. Whilst all the pieces are fantastic this year – do you have one that stands out and you’d say is one of your faves?

Can I cheat and chose two? I love And Now’s piece with its carousels and fire garden and the lost and found labels hung by the visitors are a treat to read. Whilst that piece is beautiful low tech, I also love The Mcguires’ Studio pieces, The Little Legionnaires, I love the mix of tech wizardry and the beautifully constructed 3D elements that make up their enchanting illusions.

Merry Glow Round, And Now at Enchanted Parks 2018. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

Now EP is done and dusted – do you have a bit of down time? Christmas plans?

Not yet, I have workshops in schools immediately after the de installation, after that hopefully a mince-pie and brandy or two might be in order!

Looking back across the year, tell me about a highlight for you/your practice in 2018?

2018 has been a good year for work – I have been kept busy and produced work that I have enjoyed creating so I can’t ask for more. Of course Enchanted Parks has been my highlight, great people, great place, met lots of interesting artists from around the country, excellent food (think I’ve put on half a stone!) all in all a very lovely and interesting opportunity.

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Nova by Studio Vertigo at Enchanted Parks 2018. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

What is on the horizon for you 2019?

I enjoy collaborating with other artists, especially when they bring very different skills to the mix, so I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline…..watch this space!

Well thank you Helen! Such an interesting insight into being a part of Enchanted Parks and it’s been lush to hear about the artist experience. Really looking forward to seeing how Helen’s 2019 unfolds….

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Precious and Found by Helen Yates at Enchanted Parks 2018 (Photo:Rich Kenworthy)

Promise not to leave it soon long Culture Vultures!

Thoughtful Night Market Winter 18

There is still something for me about a Saturday night….I struggle to stay in (not a Saturday night TV fan) and yet, the call of Saturday nightclubs are long gone! But I still crave to get out and about on a Saturday night! I love going to different things on a Saturday night that still have an evening vibe and a bit different. This Saturday night I’m hitting up Thought Foundation in Birtley Gateshead for The Thoughtful Night Market Winter 18 edition!

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If you’ve been along before – you’ll know how magical and lush this event is (this one’s even bigger and better!) – but if you haven’t, then it’s a must for this Saturday evening! Go along, go as a troop and I’ll be lurking there.

I thought I’d take some time out from what has been an insane week of Culture Vulture work so far to catch up with my faves The Crafthood who present this event with Thought Foundation!

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Well hello lovelies…right so tell my fellow Culture Vultures who you are and what you do?

We are The Crafthood; a North East based modern craft company. We are a female duo; Kay & Sharon and we deliver contemporary craft workshops and events as well as designing and producing a range of products.

(Visit their website to see all their lushness in all it’s glory and their Instagram game is pretty good too! http://www.thecrafthood.co.uk)

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Now onto what we are here to hear about….tell everyone about the Thoughtful Night Market!

The Thoughtful Night Market is a collaborative project with the wonderful Thought Foundation. First held in November 2017, we set out to create a ‘market’ that was experiential and engaging with a focus on the provenance, ethics and ethos of the businesses that were selling.

We wanted attendees to come along and have a great night out… for it to be a pleasure away from the hustle of the high street with a great atmosphere; music, great food and a programme of workshops on offer. We also wanted to support and showcase amazing local small creative businesses – at an event they enjoy and are also happy to be part of. We really wanted to champion the #shopindie movement and encourage guests to see the lovely range of unique goodies and talent that is out there. This is the third event and each time round we learn and build something new into it.

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Crafthood Baubles

So tomorrow evening; what can people expect when they visit the Thoughtful Night Market?

There are 2 goody bag drops – for the first 25 through the door at both 5pm or 7:30pm so if you are lucky you may receive one of these bags of treasure made up of a selection of goodies from our stall holders.

Once through the door they can beat the winter chill with some amazing food and drink from the super tasty brain food kitchen at Thought Foundation. There are a selection of creative workshops going on through the night from festive watercolour to chunky knitting to terrarium baubles (more on that later).  There will be live music throughout the evening from a singer that Leanne (Thought Foundation) found, the artist was busking on Northumberland Street at the time!

However, the main feature is of course, the beautiful stalls made up of 25 of the regions’ finest makers and creators alongside the Thought Foundation Shop, which is in constant residence. This is a chance to chat with and meet the makers and find out the story behind the items you choose. If you are a selfie fan then make sure you find the balloon backdrop from our event stylist Imaginarium Balloons – it’s the stuff of Instagram dreams. We hope you feel it is cosy and thoughtfully put together. Entry into the Thoughtful Night Market is £3.50 which includes a donation to our chosen charity Help Refugees – a double whammy of the feel-good factor.

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Crafthood product

You’ve mentioned workshops….what is available to take part in across the evening?

We have three workshops running across the night. Firstly, Festive Watercolour Gift tags with Katie Burns from Katie Burns Design House.  Katie will guide you through some simple contemporary watercolour mark making to create some unique festive gift tags.

Next up, we have Woolly Nana leading a chunky knit hand-woven scarf workshop.  In this workshop you will be provided with everything you need to start your very own chunky hand-woven scarf so no need for needles at all – revelation! Expert tuition will be provided by Woolly Nana and you will leave with your own cosy winter scarf and the skills to make more.

Finally, we have a workshop that is now sold out – Terrarium Bauble making – a little birdie tells us that this proved so popular Hoe’s & Ditches are running another at Thought Foundation on December 2nd.

All of these workshops are available to book onto in advance via Event Brite (all include cost of entry into the event).

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I’m passionate about purchasing all my Christmas gifts from independents this year…. So tell me more about the traders?

We have over 25 very varied traders with us on the night and have recently written a blog which details them all (along with a few of our other favourite North East indies) and have really tried to cover all bases so you’ll get something for everyone.

(Culture Vultures you can read the blog post here! )

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What about the live music? Can’t have a Saturday night without some music….

Along with the chance to participate in a creative workshop, we have live music from Megan Davidson. You can check her out before the event on spotify – we cannot wait to hear her on the night and Megan may even provide a little entertainment outside to people waiting to get in! It’s the third market of its kind and have found that people come along and help contribute to the atmosphere and banter so whether you come with friends, partners or family; it’s a great chance to get Christmas ready in a chilled out way.

How did this collaboration with Thought Foundation come about?

We connected with Thought Foundation as soon as we heard about them. They appealed to us so much because of the ethos behind their brand; Thoughtfulness, Kindness and Creativity – so much positivity!! In the very first meeting we had with Leanne (Thought Foundation co-founder) we discussed having a market in their space and around six months later the first Thoughtful Night Market was actually happening!  We were so worried that nobody would turn up but had almost 300 people through the door and a queue to get in!!

Thought Foundation are a dream team to work with and having similar values means that the event has a strong identity that we are continuing to build. We love working with them! They are so pro-active and have so many ideas, that they are both a joy and inspiration to be around.

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Leanne and Gareth – Team Thought Foundation!

This is a silly question – because Thought Foundation is just a lush unique space – but I’m going to ask it anyway! Why did you pick Thought Foundation as a venue?

For anyone who hasn’t been to Thought Foundation then we always urge people to check it out. It is in Birtley, Gateshead and we LOVE the fact that a creative arts space and is thriving in this area.  The space is an ideal market venue as all traders are in the same area allowing for a unique atmosphere.  Thought Foundation already has a beautiful and eclectic shop (which is like having another beautiful stall in the place).  It is easy to get to being on a major bus route from both Durham and Newcastle and there is parking around the venue.  Thought Foundation epitomises everything the market stands for and is a unique blend of creativity, energy, warmth and thoughtfulness so it’s how could we not?!

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Thought Foundation

You’ve piqued my interest when you mention goody bags…. Tell us more!

The goody bags are EPIC. We ask every trader to provide a small number of items that are then distributed across the bags.  Traders are unbelievably generous and so the goody bags are not just full of flyers/business cards but host a range of beautiful bespoke goodies.  We have already made up the goody bags this year and yet again have been blown away by what we have been able to put in them! Think gin, jewellery, greetings cards, baubles – we are not surprised that people queue round the block to get their hands on them.  Each bag is hand lettered by us too.

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You had me a gin….Now this is a good question and something we all collectively champion….Why is it important to buy from independents at Christmas/In general?

Shopping from local independents feels good; not only will the individual maker be truly grateful that you have chosen them (and do a happy dance with each sale!!), you are also supporting the local economy and creative sector. When you buy independent, like at the Thoughtful Night Market, you will get the unique opportunity of being able to chat to the maker and ask questions that they can easily and happily answer.  They will often go the extra mile; for example by offering a beautifully packaged purchased or arranging to make something to your requirements. In buying independent, you are investing in the maker and contributing to developing a local talent helping to secure vibrant and diverse gift options. You are also securing a unique item that cannot be purchased widely on the high street – perfect for anyone wanting the wow factor.

We are passionate supporters of the movement towards ‘consciously consuming’ – shopping thoughtfully, investing in great quality items that are well crafted using quality resources by makers who know their supply chain. We have consistently found that small creative businesses often have ethical making and creating at their core.

Shopping indie is just all round more colourful and joyful than the alternative! Please do support what independents you can even if it is #just a card.

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Couldn’t agree with you more ladies! Right….Culture Vultures The Thoughtful Nightmare is just a lush and different way to spend a Saturday night. I’m itching to see what’s on offer and will be doing some live social media during the event as The Culture Vulture. I will share my haul of goodies purchased from all the lush stall holders too…..

And of course – look up The Crafthood for all their lush work! http://www.thecrafthood.co.uk

Gateshead Open Studios 2018 – 27th October; a day to celebrate creativity in Gateshead.

I had the absolute pleasure about 8 months ago of being invited to Brighton Road Studios in Bensham, Gateshead. I was excited because it’s an artist studios inside a converted Church and somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for ages– behind the front door I found an independent creative studio space, lush facilities and full of local artists, creatives and SME creative businesses all doing great things – certainly somewhere I could see The Culture Vulture thriving and setting up camp. My meeting was with several of the artists to hear about what they are doing, their plans as a creative collective and fabulously, their plan to do Gateshead Open Studios.

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Gateshead Open Studios is a proudly Gateshead centric project and has been something that many artists, creatives and venues based in Gateshead have discussed and flirted with (including myself) so it was great to hear Brighton Road Studios wanting to lead on it. Fast forward to the present day and Gateshead Open Studios is an exciting impending reality – it’s happening in Gateshead!

On Saturday 27th October, the lush people of Gateshead will be able to discover what’s hidden away in 5 different but all very brilliant creative and historic hubs….

I caught up with James Oliver (artist name: William Fawkes) who is arguably the lead on this year’s Gateshead Open Studios organisation (however – there is a whole host of brilliant artists and creatives also making this happen). I wanted to catch up with James so my fellow Culture Vultures could hear what is in store for them on 27th October across Gateshead.

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Hi James Oliver/William Fawkes – I am over the moon to see how far you’ve taken Gateshead Open Studios – enabling it to be a reality in spite of many challenges. So let’s start with you and your work – tell me a bit about you and your practice?

I’ve always been an artist from a young age inspired & encouraged by my mum, and have painted my whole life. But it’s only been in the last couple of years, that I took the plunge to rent a studio, and start practicing more seriously. I previously worked professionally as a graphic designer, designing record sleeve artwork for clients including Blur, Sigur Rós, Trojan Records, EMI, and Universal music. I’ve also been a web designer and user experience researcher in recent times. All these skills have helped prep me for the world of marketing, events and experience design.

As a professional artist I chose to adopt the alter-ego William Fawkes, an ancestor from my family tree. My recent artwork is based on surreal storytelling, with a collection of dying British institutions with skeleton characters being an emerging body of work. I tend to create a master painting or drawing, and then have high quality framed prints available for sale.

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William Fawkes

What is the inspiration behind Gateshead Open Studios? Why now?

Since I moved up north 3-4 years ago, I was immediately drawn to what was happening over in Ouseburn with their Open Studios’ events. As soon as I’d found a studio in my local neighbourhood Gateshead, I looked around and thought “why isn’t Gateshead doing Open Studios?”. My mother passed away in January this year, and because of this, I decided ‘Gateshead Open Studios needs to happen this year!’ I’ve been driven ever since to make it happen, and had some great encouragement & support from fellow peers, friends and family.

So when is it?

Saturday 27th October 2018, from 10am to 5pm across multiple Gateshead venues.

Which Gateshead venues are involved?

There are 5 venues across Gateshead opening their doors:

  1. NewBridge Project: Gateshead High Street.
  2. Saint Cuthbert’s Church, Bensham
  3. Bensham Grove Community Centre
  4. Brighton Road Studios, Bensham
  5. Saint Chad’s Church, Bensham.

We also have partner cafes nearby who have been really supportive and can provide refreshments including The Staiths Café (who have an exhibition available to view) and The Nest Café in Low Fell. There will also be friendly volunteers on the day to help direct people, give you tours and generally make you feel welcome.

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So what is in store for visitors – what can they expect to be able to see/do?

You will be able to explore unique creative environments and historic venues, some of which have never had a public open day like this. You will be able to meet practicing creative people, see their studio spaces and be inspired, and even take part in creative workshops and try making new things to take home. There will be art, music, conversation, refreshments and a friendly excitable community buzz on the day.

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Will people be able to buy things on the day?

Yes, the artists and makers will have unique items you can purchase, or you can even discuss a private commission. There will also be creative workshops & demos happening for free, and other courses in the near future people could book on to learn a new process.

There is something so brilliant about being invited into an artist studio – a behind the creative scenes if you will! Are you excited to have people come into your studio?

Yes I think it’s great, and I can’t wait for people to come have a rummage, ask me questions and hopefully be inspired! I’ll try to make sure it’s tidy before they arrive!

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Here is the mini sales pitch – tell my fellow Culture Vultures why is this an unmissable weekend for Gateshead?

It’s a chance to explore hidden historic venues right on your doorstep, meet the quirky creative inhabitants and see their personalities spilling out through their work!

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Why are events like this so important for artists and creatives?

Creative people are not always the best at promoting themselves, but this is a unique chance to get a glimpse into their world and see something you never imagined you’d see! I can promise you’ll come away inspired and with a greater respect for Gateshead local talent.

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Tell me about your studios in Gateshead and who is in there with you?

I’m based at Brighton Road Studios. We are housed inside a beautiful 3-storey converted church, which was designed by Christoph of Kiosk Architecture & Design, who is also still a tenant. Other tenants include Skunkwork Props who specialise in replicating Star Wars helmets such as Darth Vader. Kourosh Edalat is another painter & illustrator who is always busy with commissions. We have Serious Stamp Company run by Clare who makes personalised rubber ink stamps and seals for your personalised stationary needs. Little Silver Ring Co. is run by another Claire who practices as a silversmith but also dabbles in other things. Chris is another talented silversmith, who is also a teacher at Bensham Grove. Raw Leather Company is run by Phillippa and she makes beautiful leather bags, purses and other bespoke items. IG Media won’t be present on the day but operate as an animation & web design company. Bobzilla is a busy guy – he dabbles in painting, outdoor street art mural designs, concrete pot-making, and also a resident DJ. Finally Gaelle of Tamiah Designs imports Ivorian African textiles to make cloth-bound books, bags and many other unique items.

There’s 14 studios spaces all together, and currently a couple vacancies as I understand.

What will be going on in your studios specifically?

In my studio I’ll be showing people my work, talking though different pieces and explaining how I get inspiration. I’ll also have a large blank canvas set up on an easel and I’ll be encouraging anyone who wanders in to have a go painting a little of whatever they wish, and over the day hope to have a unique piece of work created which will be a great memento of the event! I’ll share the final outcome on social media.

I’ve also produced a limited set of framed art prints of my most popular work which will be on sale for those wishing to take home a unique piece of signed art / it could be the perfect time to grab an early Christmas gift for someone special.

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Other creatives in Brighton Road will be talking though their work, giving demos or running fun activites and also some will have a unique items to sell.

We also have special guests The Nest Cafe offering a pop-up Refreshments stall, and gentle background music provided by DJ friends of ours.

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I will be culture vulturing and doing some live social media on the day – do you have a suggested route for me?

There’s no particular order you have to do things, but if you’re travelling into Gateshead Metro station on the day, a logical route is to start with venue no.1 – NewBridge Project which is right outside. From there it’s 15mins walk or short bus ride into Bensham to reach venue no.2 – Saint Cuthbert’s Church. After that you’ve got venue no.3 minutes away – Bensham Grove Community Centre. From there venue no.4 – Brighton Road Studios is again only several minutes walk away, and finally venue no.5 – Saint Chad’s Church is just across on a parallel street.

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What is next for Gateshead Open Studios in 2019?

This year is a 1-day experiment to see what the appetite is like in Gateshead for discovering what’s inside a few quirky creative venues! If all goes well, we plan to seek funding next year to expand the event to potentially include further venues and cover a whole weekend. It may even split into a twice-yearly event if the appetite is there.

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I can’t wait for 27th October – it’s going to be a great day for Gateshead.  Really looking forward to some true Culture Vulturing at some Gateshead venues. You can follow my journey across Gateshead via The Culture Vulture and of course, keep an eye on the main event page for updates before the main event!

Until next time Culture Vultures and see you on the 27th October!