(#AD) Festival of Thrift 2019 – let’s get thrifty!

It’s September….it’s Autumnal and this is my favourite time of year…. It’s also time for Festival of Thrift!

There are some events and festivals that go on every year in the North East and you can mention them to folks and you’ll see a glint in their eye and their face lights up because they love them so much. In the North East, it doesn’t take too long if you put on a really lush festival/event that’s all about the people attending and connects with folks with a lush offer, that suddenly, it’s like the event is a North East tradition and we embrace it as one of our diamonds.

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(All photos belong to Festival of Thrift in this post)

Festival of Thrift is one of those events…..and this year it returns 14th & 15th September 10am-5pm in lush village of Kirkleatham – it’s a MUST do for everyone.  This annual award-winning festival is in its 7th year and is a proper celebration of sustainable living, positive change and protecting our planet….which has never been more necessary! Whilst there are lots of lessons and things to take away from the festival, it’s also a lush event and around every corner of the magical festival site is something different for you to discover and enjoy. And lots of my fave artists and creatives work on it…so I’m a bit (a lot) biased!

Each year, Festival of Thrift brings fresh themes and #thriftfest 2019 highlights clean air and celebrating the anniversary of the moon landing. Expect new journeys of discovery, thought provoking performances and a special mix of hands-on fun, food, music, dance and song. There are over 160 stalls selling all manner of thrifty, upcycled and recycled goods, delicious food and drink as well as a few surprises along the way….

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Since it started 7 years ago, I’ve never been able to fully enjoy it as it’s always clashed with Gateshead Family Sculpture Day, the day itself or the event prep, so my mind has been elsewhere and had to rush back. So this year, I’m excited…I’m going for the full Saturday, my mind will be all about enjoying the event and yes, I will be charting my full Thrift experience over on my Instagram……

There is loads to do and take part in across the two days…..drop in and pre-bookable workshops, storytelling, performances, lush live music, installations, thrifty stalls, advice pop-ups, talks, thing to make, see, do and experience….things for adults and families alike…..

Download Festival of Thrift programme to get plotting and planning your festival experience and for those who are just hearing about Thrift or haven’t quite decided if you’re going to go….well, by the end of this blog post, I hope you will!

I recently caught up with the wonderful  Festival of Thrift Director – Stella Hall for an interview; Stella is the visionary behind the festival and has been at the helm since its birth seven years ago! I met Stella at Make & Mend Festival 2019 and her passion for culture and events, across Teesside, in my opinion is largely responsible for lots of the excited happenings that are going on now and are set to come……

Interview with Festival of Thrift Director – Stella Hall

For those who are unsure, never been or curious, what is Festival of Thrift?

Festival of Thrift is the UK’s first large-scale festival promoting sustainable, socially responsible living, and creative, resilient communities.  Each September since 2013,  it has provided  a free weekend event  presenting  a mix of professional and emerging artists, community driven projects, skills and learning activities – with a focus on upcycling, recycling, making, growing, volunteering, skills building, learning and saving money.

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Let’s go back to the beginning…..How did it all start? What was the inspiration?

Festival of Thrift was launched in Darlington in 2012 at Lingfield Point business park inspired by the creative reuse of the buildings there, together with the UKs growing DIY and reuse, recycle, upcycle  culture.

Over the last seven years, the Festival has attracted 200,000 visitors, and is now recognised as playing a pivotal role in the social, cultural and economic regeneration of Tees Valley. It won the Observer Ethical Award for Arts and Culture and the North East Tourism Event of the Year 2015 and was shortlisted for Best Event North East for 2018.

In 2015, after the closure of the steelworks in Redcar, we moved the Festival to our beautiful Kirkleatham site and established as a Community Interest Company.

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For those who this will be their first year, what can they expect? Any pre-festival advice to get the most out of the weekend?

A beautiful , wooded green site  in a lovely village with play areas, fields  a museum absolutely packed with activities, stalls, performances, stages, demonstrations, food and drink .

Advice wise…

  • Bring walking shoes, dress for the UK weather, a picnic blanket and reusable cup and water bottle.
  • Bring your surplus fruit and veg and we will make soup and jam.
  • Bring things you don’t need – and swap them for things you do at the swapshop.
  • Bring stuff that doesn’t work and we will help you fix it at the Fix It café.
  • Dress in your finest remade clothing and get picked for the catwalk.
  • Book in advance if you fancy any of the workshops – but there will be plenty to see and do if you don’t!
  • Download the festival programme to plan your day(s).

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The theme changes every year, so tell me about the theme for this year?

Clean Air is one of our big themes his year – being in the Great Outdoors in the Tees Valley – we just don’t deserve the name “Smoggies” anymore, we’ve moved beyond that and Art is an invaluable way to help people to understand serious issues, as tapping into people’s emotional responses is far more powerful than simply presenting bald facts.

The other artworks in this year’s Viewpoints by Festival of Thrift will also respond to the Festival of Thrift’s clean air theme for 2019…. View Points is a series of pieces with a clean air focus curated by the Festival of Thrift for its second Viewpoints project, which sees sculptures, installations and artworks displayed across the Tees Valley from 12 -19 September to prompt discussions about sustainability issues.

The works include a lung cleaning experience at its railway station, a giant drawing using ink recycled from exhaust fumes, a series of enormous painted canaries using a dazzle camouflage technique, an extraordinary green house, a free-standing observation platform and Human Sensors consisting of wearable costumes that respond to air pollution levels.

The works we have selected for Viewpoints are effective ways to explain and help people to experience and explore the clean air crisis that we simply can’t afford to ignore.

You can find out more about ViewPoints HERE!

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Your marking the anniversary of the moon landing this year too, how has that influenced your festival programme?

It’s a great theme for celebrating what we can do if we really try – and boldly go! The theme also reminds us that we only really have one planet to live on – so let’s make the most of it and look after it well.

Plus we will be

  • Taking off with Whippet Up’s – Mission (out of) Control – an interactive re-imagining of the 1969 Moon Landing. Whippet Up’s vision will bring the excitement and optimism of space travel in the 1960’s to the Festival of Thrift.
  • Putting girls in charge with Space Rebel princess theatre show – a fearless young princess raised for royalty but not for rocketry, dreams of becoming an astronaut. Outsmarting the confines of her palace upbringing, she must boldly go where no princess has gone before!
  • Building your own rockets with Woodshed – this year they are building rockets out of reclaimed wood, hammers and nails, once the building is complete we will ask you to get creative with paint to personalise your invention.

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Now this is a toughie question….what are your programme highlights for 2019…your top picks?

I love all of it of course!

If I were a teenager (or adult!) it would be brilliant to be part of

  • Manic Chord’s search for an alien  in The unknown – Amber, a tech savvy teen and her rather more traditional grandmother, Dawn are onto something supernatural. With fellow members of the Society for Speculation, can the daring duo get to the bottom of these gravitational goings on? This show is free but prebookable HERE!
  • Urban Playground in the parkour show looking into the future, Zoo Humans. It’s a brilliant visual fast paced spectacle.

If I were under eleven I would go and be a Little Inventor…. Little Inventors is a creative initiative that takes children’s amazing ideas seriously and brings them to life working with local makers. From food waste to space travel, Little Inventors have tapped into children’s creative powers to engage them with the issues of today. At Thrift…

  • Dominic head inventor at Little Inventors (and Sunderland-born designer) will launch the new Pioneers Energy Challenge right at Festival of Thrift, a new project for children aged 8 – 12 to invent better ways to make, use, store and stop wasting energy.
  • Work with Little Inventors to create your own invention from ideas that help generate, save or use energy better. Come and draw your idea and have a go at making a simple prototype model using recycled materials, helped by the Little Inventors team. Your idea could help to save the planet!

If I were under five I would want a go on…  

  • The hand-carved wooden roundabout – The Bewonderment Machine. A visually stunning cycle-powered carousel creating a magical journey for small children-This handmade, human-powered merry-go-round combines hand carved animals, puppetry, and music. This is a miniature theatrical flight of the imagination, empowering the very young to care and to be curious. Climb on and embark on joyful journey. For times visit HERE!

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For adults – there is literally loads to do see, do, eat, listen to but this year….

  • I can’t wait to taste this year’s menu in our community meal – The Town is the Menu, inspired by the town Guisborough – The Town is the Menu is created by Simon Preston with Menu by Jess Miller and Sammy Coxell, the Ugly Duckling team. It’s £7 for 3 courses and there are limited slots left….you can see the whole menu HERE!
  • I always love the ingenuity of the Oxglam fashion show; it’s moon inspired this year! The Oxglam fashion show, features stunning creations using recycled clothing donations, is one of the highlights of the Festival weekend.
  • I am fascinated by the WRAS show – The Best of All Possible Worlds.. The story of a trio of innocents continuously buffeted by fate – 3 characters torn out of the pages of a book, Candide, and placed in an unfamiliar, unstable world. There’s a wilderness, the growth of civilisation, territorial disputes, war, a flood, a miraculous get-away, bad weather, hell and a happy ending that isn’t what it seems This puppet/object theatre show  will be presented with all the visual panache and wit expected from the Whalley Range All Star. For times visit HERE!
  • And all festivals are about their live music and we’ve got a great outdoor live music programme….

These highlights are just a fraction of what we have lined up this year. There’s plenty more to come and, as ever, people can expect the unexpected at the Festival of Thrift…..

Tell me about the Friday community parade launching this year’s festival?

We began the Parade last year to join the town to the village – it was a hit so we have created another one…. This year’s Thrifty parade will launch the seventh Festival of Thrift in joyful style, championing creativity and community in Redcar and helping to spread the Thrifty message of good living in sustainable ways.

Led by Stellar Projects, the procession will include a combination of local community groups, professional performers and musicians, including last year’s popular CowCar (has to be seen to be believed), to restate the highly topical warning of the dangers of methane emissions, and dancers wearing Kasia Molga’s extraordinary Human Sensor costumes, which measure and reflect  diesel emissions in the atmosphere!

Setting off from Kirkleatham Museum with a cohort of bikes which will make their way to Redcar town centre where they will meet the walking parade participants which will include school and community groups, performance groups and structures. The parade will take Thrift through the heart of the town centre and along the sea front to finish Bandstand.

It starts at 6.30pm at from Kirkleatham Museum and it’s going to be ‘Breath of Fresh Air’!

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Festival of Thrift is a jewel in the North east events and festival programme…..rightly so! Why do you think Thrift is SO popular and much loved?

We take huge pride in being a one-of-a-kind event with our packed celebration of sustainable living and we are promising another riot of ways to have fun at the festival this year.

It’s just a joyful weekend packed with sustainable arts, crafts, music, fashion, food, entertainment, shopping, demos, workshops and upcycling inspiration, our hugely popular Festival offers a weekend of free eco-friendly fun and attracted over 35,000 visitors last year.  A true weekend to remember!

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Whilst the festival is a lush weekend, there is a really strong environmental and sustainability message – what could the eco-curious take away from Thrift?

That each of us has a responsibility and each of us can make a difference but altogether, we can make a big difference.

Do you think events like Thrift has positive change making effects for the everyday?

Certainly – our audiences tell us this every year. But we also need to get active, join campaigns, make our voices heard. It’s a 365 day a year project – not just a weekend! Festival of Thrift is a great starting point for the rest of the year and an excellent way to discover new ideas….

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What’s one bit of Thrifty advice you have for my readers?

To ask ourselves questions in the moment….

  • How much do we really need?
  • What can we share?
  • What would we want our grandchildren to think about how we have contributed to creating the world they will live in?

We have those answers ourselves.

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Well thank you Stella – I’m totally in the mood for Festival of Thrift right now and I hope my fellow Culture Vultures are too.

Click here for 10 Festival of Thrift 2019 highlights and get planning your visit and happenings. The official Thrift website is a fountain of EVERYTHING happening across the weekend….or be like me, plan nothing and just discover as you go…..

Until next time Culture Vultures…. xx

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(#AD) Sundown Social -the new mini festival on the block.

So one of the wonderful things about being the Culture Vulture is that I have my ear to ground and seek out all the lush new happenings and stumbling across or finding a new event is one of my favourite things – I have a serious constant case of FOMO.

And if this was a superhero movie, I’d class this chapter as “the rise of the independents!” The event and festival sector is extremely dominated in the region by big corporates or same old same old and I don’t know about you lot, but I’m hungry for more, things that are a bit special and new. Independent event organisers and commissioners are nailing it at the moment –putting on lush events, with a community heart that focuses on audiences having a great time and are able to experiment, take risks, be bold with their programming. I’m loving watching independents thrive.

I’ve had my eye on Saltwell Park for some time….. I’ve lived at the top of it for 30 years and it just screams potential.. I’ve had three ambitions for Saltwell Park as The Culture Vulture – I wanted festivals, I wanted outdoor theatre and I wanted a Silent Disco. My silent disco ambition has become a bit of a joke across my networks as I’m always banging on about it – but going off Beccy Owen’s success and their beach silent disco – I’m happy that other folks are finally buying into how mint it is! So how excited was I when I heard Third Space events (an amazing independent events company) was building on the smash hit successes of their Gateshead food markets and launching Sundown Social on 27th July – an outdoor event with a festival vibe AND a silent disco. And to use Meatloaf’s song title…. two out of three ain’t bad!

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Thirdspace are doing fantastic things and they are certainly ones to watch – their food markets are full of folks who really “get” their events, food traders who love being a part of them (this is not an easy task believe me!), audiences who return month after month and people just having a bliddy good time. It takes a long time to establish an event and A LOT of hard work has gone into things – so hats off to them…..they were on my list for some Culture Vulture love!

Visit their Low Fell Food Market facebook page to see other events they’ve run!

A head of the launch of Sundown Social THIS Saturday in Saltwell Park (Tickets and more info available HERE) – I thought I’d sit down with them for a weeee interview to find out more about the event, what to expect, why tickets are must have and what’s next!

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Of course, sitting down with me a few days before a new event…perfect Culture Vulture timing (haha!). So tell my readers who you are and what you do?

We are Liz and Sally from Third Space Events; a 3 year old events company which specialises in pairing up interesting, beautiful or underused spaces with high quality events. We each have an MA in Event Management along with a total of 15 years’ experience in events, exhibitions and hospitality between us. So it’s fair to say we LOVE events and creating memorable experiences. We are also friends who go way back and share a passion for good food, the outdoors and making the most the time we have with our nearest and dearest.

Well I can’t think of a more underused space than Saltwell Park’s Grove and all the best friendships are formed over food…..What is Sundown social?

A chilled out gathering in beautiful surroundings with a fun, festival vibe – that’s it in a nutshell! The first one is on Saturday 27th July – this weekend. We like to think of it as an exclusive party in the park where you can sip a craft gin or beer under the trees, be entertained by a host of pop up performances and have a bite to eat from some of the regions’ best street food stalls.

We’ve got two slots – one is 4.30pm – 7pm and is family friendly (adults £4.50 & Children £3) and then a more adult session 7.30pm -10pm (Adults £4.50 & Children £4.50). Babies under two are free but need a ticket.

Who should go to Sundown social?

For all! We’ve split the event into two and packed a lot into both. The afternoon session has more of a family vibe with activities such as a play bus and free kids yoga, dance and storytelling sessions. When the kids have run off enough steam the adults can sit back and enjoy a summer tipple along with the finest regional street food. The evening session is more for adults, so people can take full advantage of the food, wine tasting, holistic treatments, amazing local ales and fizz whilst enjoy amazing live musicians, comedians and of course our silent disco.

Why did you pick Saltwell Park for this event?

Because we love it! It’s leafy, lush and green. Add some live entertainment, street food and folk kicking back and relaxing whilst enjoying a cool drink – well you’ve got the best beer garden in the North East!

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As you know, I’m allllll about the food. My Buddha belly is a testament to that….so come on, what food traders have you got?

Well – not only will we be delighting the senses with live music and performances we’ll also have your foodie favourites to feast on. Folk can choose from freshly cooked wood fired pizzas from Noshbox Pizza, Catalinas Newcastle with their flavoursome topdog kebabs and bruschetta, loaded fries and tasty wraps from Hatch76, Acropolis Street Food with the best gyros in the North East, delicious rolled naan with your choice of tasty curry from CurryRolls and Churros Barcelona will be serving up their dangerously delicious fried treats drizzled in chocolate!

Mama Horts LOVES Churros… I shall alert her. I’ve got friends with minis who want to come…what’s there for families?

We’ve got this covered in the afternoon session. As well as the street food and free live entertainment, there is free activities with yoga, dance and storytelling. We also have a play bus and for just £1.50 for your child to climb, slide and play in the ball pool! We also have the amazing Kay Ella who’ll be adding a bit of extra sparkle to the event with her glitter creations.

I’ve got a troop of my child free pals coming…. What is there for them? I’ve heard rumours of a Silent Disco (literally screamed with excitement and hope Britney is on repeat) and my pal Si Beckwith providing some funnies!

If you’re pals are planning to come to sessions 2 then we’d fully expect to see them dancing the evening away with our Silent Disco. We’ll be keeping it old school with hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s – so we recommend your pals to wear these dancing shoes!

The evening will also feature amazing live acts with Duke – Duo – acoustic music, Matt Grant and comedians Si Beckwith and Andrew Flood from Off The Wall Comedy.

They won’t be going thirsty either with regional ales from Black Storm Brewery, fizz on tap with Fizz On The Tyne and a great selection of gins, lagers and wine with The Tipsy Trailer.

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Mama Horts is coming with me and she loves all your events – which is high praise indeed…. What is there for Mama Horts and her pals?

We know Mama Horts is a lady of refinement so a spot of wine tasting with Laneberg Wine Ltd would be right up her street – you can book onto a slot via this link or at the event. Gateshead’s first and only Urban Winery, Laneberg Wine Ltd invites you to a night of wine tasting like no other! Head Winemaker Elise Lane will guide you through their very first vintage made here in the North East, sampling four fantastic 2018 English wines, explaining how each wine was made and giving you the chance to taste.

Or if Mama Horts is after a bit of pampering then she should head over the our Holistic Treatment tent which includes Indian Head Massage and Organic Facial Treatment with Neal’s Yard.

I’m obsessed at outdoor events – at being head to toe covered in glitter….my boyfriend has embraced this by getting involved too….i need glitter deets?

Who isn’t?! We love a bit of sparkle! Expert in all that shines and glimmers Kay’Ella will be at Sundown Social creating that glasto vibe with glitter face and body creators.  We love Kay’Ella because all her products are water based, biodegradable and alcohol free so everyone can be part of her fabulous festival services.

Why are you so passionate about championing and supporting North East (and often Gateshead based) independents?

As we’ve said, we both live in Gateshead so what can be better than supporting your home town by hosting a range of events. Keeping it local is always part of how we operate. From the food, to the drink, to the live entertainment – Sundown Social, like all our events, showcases the melting pot of creativity and hard-working small independent businesses we have here in the North East.

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Blackstorm Brewery

Why do you think people are really buzzing about Sundown social and that tickets have been flying?

Hopefully we’re adding something different into the mix of fabulous events that are offered in Gateshead and the region already. For us the setting of Saltwell Park for this kind of event could not be any better. We can’t wait to welcome everyone in the event on Saturday 27 July and to have a well earned drink (or two) when it’s finished.

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Sum up the event in 3 words

Chilled, feel-good, fun

Is there going to be more Sundown socials?

The next Sundown Social lined up is Friday 23rd August. Stay tuned for announcements about that! Next year, as well as Saltwell Park, you will be able to find us at some new exciting venues and locations across the region.

P.S. For any of you festival loving couples who are looking for an alternative wedding, give us a shout as we offer individually curated Sundown Socials for your special day. How exciting!

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If I was going to get married, I’d want an outdoor festival vibe! You’ve certainly tapped into something there….and we’ve got some collaborating to do in 2020 haven’t we!? I’m super excited for Saturday and to see how this grows and grows.

Well you will find me down at Sundown Social on Saturday as The Culture Vulture with my gal Marion in tow – so if you’re around and coming along– make sure to say hello!

Tickets for Sundown social are available here!

Disclosure : I have not been paid to write this post but I have been given comp tickets to the event and doing a social media take over on the second second.

(#AD) GemArts Masala Festival 2019: strutting into Summer like a Bengal Tiger….

We are so blessed in the North East for wonderful events and festivals all year round – there are often total gems in the event/festival calendar that due to you all being busy bees that you might not know about or discovered yet. I see my role as Culture Vulture to tell you about them and champion them!

Well let me tell you about a PROPER Culture Vulture festival gem – GemArts’ Masala Festival….

This award winning, multi venue festival has been running for several years and has been growing each time. It’s back for 2019 across 15th – 21st July 2019 with a mix and blend of the finest South Asian Arts and Culture. They’ve got an incredible line up of film screenings, theatre, music, yoga on the beach, Bollywood dancing, crafts, spoken word, poetry and free family fun!

I sat down with Vikas Kumar MBE, GemArts Director recently for a catch up (I’ve been a GemArts supporter for many years now and he’s been a Culture Vulture champion since the beginning!) and to interview him about this year’s festival. But before I get into our interview, I thought I’d walk you through this year’s Masala Festival programme…because it’s a corker!

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GemArts in The Crack Magazine

Masala Festival launches on 15th July, at Sage Gateshead, with an incredible collaboration and special evening of music composed and performed by the internationally renowned Sarod maestro Ustad Wajahat Khan with a String Quintet from our region’s fantastic chamber orchestra Royal Northern Sinfonia. And if you’re like me, and have to be the first at everything, then you’ll be joining me at this feast of music. I’ve seen RNS quite a few times and they are quite something, so I’m excited for this collaboration.

This is followed by, on the 16th July at the Lit & Phil, two of the most prominent women on the contemporary jazz scene, pianist Zoe Rahman performs alongside saxophonist Laura Macdonald. These two ladies are at the top of their music game and so accomplished…. I will be fan girling from the audience. And after the show, why not continue the Jazz theme and swing Prohibition Bar…that’s why I will be headed!

For spoken word and poetry, look no further than Luck and Hope: an evening of poetry with two of the best poets writing today Mona Arshi and Imtiaz Dharkar at Culture Lab on 16th July. I know those in the poetry scene are extremely excited about that one! They also have a a stellar line up of regional spoken word talent in Strictly Spoken with at Arch16 on18th July which is now sold out. Spoken Word largely thanks to Button Pottery and the likes of McNish has jumped in popularity and the fast, Strictly Spoken has sold out highlights that – but good news is, that I’ve nabbed tickets just in time, so I will let you know what it’s like!

Masala Festival has a fantastic line up of films and this is music to my ears as since turning 30, I’ve really got back into my independent films and visiting the cinema at least once a week. At Masala Festival they’ve got the heartwarming, ‘feel good’ comedy of the year Eaten by Lions on 15th July; half-brothers Omar and Pete are on a journey of discovery via Blackpool, featuring Jonny Vegas, Jack Carroll and rising star Antonio Aakeel. At Tyneside Cinema on 17th July, they’ve got The Sweet Requiem with stunning cinematography and subdued tension highlights the ongoing and often forgotten Tibetan refugee crisis. This film, feels extremely timely and I’m sure will provoke a lot of reflections.  At BALTIC on 19th July, GemArts are screening Woman.; a specially curated evening of  contemporary South Asian film shorts about freedom, desire, resistance and the indomitable spiriot of women.

Writer, performer and professional wrestling manager (natural combo!), Pariah Khan brings his ‘shrewd and bitingly funny’ An Indian Abroad to Northern Stage on 20th July; we follow the story of Krishnan, who is stifled by life in middle class India and decides to visit the exotic island of Great Britain. This is a hilarious journey of self-discovery especially when he falls in love with one of the “natives”.

If you want to get yourself moving, why not try out Bollywood dance on 20th July,  yoga on the beach  on 21st July or if you are in need of a little TLC before your summer holidays try out an introduction to Meditation on 15th July.

Masala Festival is back at Dabbawal Street Food Kitchen. Over seven days, you can sample a specially crafted and delicious menu created by Dabbawal’s talented chefs. I’m a HUGE fan of Dabbawal’s food – as soon as I found out they did gluten free onion bhajis and lush spicy curries, I’ve been visiting lots ever since. I’m planning on going a few times to work my way through the menu…..

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GemArts Masala  Festival ends on a total high on Sunday 21st July at Live Theatre’ Garden with a spectacular FREE fun packed Mini Mela finale, with South Asian arts, craft, music and dance workshops for all of the family to enjoy! This year enter a seafront arcade in a caravan with ….. Elvis’ Bingo Balls, neon, sounds of the slots and an Indian Elvis as your bingo caller! Not to mention Circus Raj, a circus troupe from India performing throughout the day, with stilt walkers, extreme juggling, sword swallowing and acrobatics, plus dancing marionettes, Dabbawal serving up delicious Indian street food, and much, much more…..

Visit www.gemarts.org to find out more and book tickets.

Look out for GemArts Masala Festival beautiful brochure around Newcastle and Gateshead or download your full brochure here GemArts Masala Festival 2019 Brochure

And if that hasn’t convinced you to come along to Masala Festival starting on Monday, well…. Let’s hand over to Vikas Kumar MBE, GemArts Director to find out more!

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So I know how important GemArts is to our region but for those who haven’t heard of GemArts, tell us what GemArts is?

GemArts is an arts organisation and charity based in the North East of England.  We are a nationally recognised leader in the South Asian and diversity arts sector, and we create, produce and programmes high quality concerts, events, festivals, workshops and commissions with regional, national and international artists across all art forms. GemArts is committed to excellence in our participatory arts practice, particularly supporting artists working in the diversity sector, and we specialise in delivering arts projects with schools and community groups across all age ranges, to provide creative and enjoyable learning experiences, and to promote a greater understanding of people and their respective cultures.

Why and When did GemArts start?

GemArts started in 1992, working in Gateshead primarily and then across the North East.  We now work Nationally and Internationally through our commissioning and touring programme.  We passionately believe the arts enrich the lives of individuals and communities through celebrating our shared cultural diversity – Raising aspirations, building stronger communities and breaking down barriers.

We know that inequalities exist, and many communities and artists face social, economic and cultural barriers, so are excluded from taking part; this is disproportionately more so if you are from a Black, Asian, minority ethnic, asylum seeker or refugee background.  GemArts mission and focus is to increase equality of opportunity for everyone to engage with culturally diverse arts – as artists, producers, participants and audiences.

I’ve told everyone about what Masala Festival is in the present (top of this blog) – but can you tell us what was the inspiration behind starting it?

The festival is a mass of GemArts yearlong programme condensed into one colourful and creativity fuelled week in July.  We wanted to really show the breadth of incredible artists and art forms from the Indian subcontinent and diaspora, and celebrate the fantastic contribution that South Asian communities and culture has made to the region, UK and the world.  Masala itself is a mix of spices that goes in a curry or tea; we’ve taken that concept and replaced the spices with amazing arts and culture!

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Oh I like that Vikas! Masala festival is award winning (in fact I can remember “whooping” for you in the audience) which is just fantastic as I know you are such a small but perfectly formed team who work so hard, so to get that recognition is lush; can you tell us about the award? 

GemArts Masala Festival won the coveted Arts Council Award at The Journal Culture Awards in 2017, which was brilliant for everyone involved!  And we were runner up for Best Event Tyneside in 2018, which again is great recognition…..hopefully more in the future!

How would you describe Masala Festival to someone who hasn’t been before?

Since its launch in 2016, the weeklong festival has become a yearly celebration of South Asian arts and culture, bringing thousands of people to experience the best music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, performances, workshops, pop, ups, talks, family fun days, food events and much more.

The programme presents a diverse mix of contemporary and traditional South Asian artists, art forms and identities, produced and curated by GemArts, working with artists from the UK and Indian sub-continent.

This year the festival is across even more venues than ever before and the programme feels jam packed – is the intention to keep growing it year after year?

We’ve always had aspirations and ambitions to grow and develop the festival, and it has year on year.  We are very lucky in Newcastle and Gateshead to have so many amazing flagship venues who we work in partnership to present work.  Accessibility and ownership is something which is fundamentally important to GemArts, and we are absolutely committed to working with independent and community venues to programme arts and cultural experiences by, with and for communities, so we always want to build on our current work.  It would be great to expand the festival further South of the region……..watch this space!

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Last year’s GemArts festival launch as part of Gateshead Council’sGreat Exhibition of The North programme

Why are independent festivals like this important in the North East? 

Independent festivals are massively important because they shine a light on artists and art forms which might not get a look in otherwise.  They are culturally relevant and enable communities to celebrate their identities; people see their traditional and contemporary lives and stories reflected in venues and spaces.  Independent festivals, like Masala Festival, absolutely demonstrate that in the North East creativity and diversity is thriving and championed, and that we can connect on so many levels across so many experiences  whether that’s food, music, dance, etc .  We need more of this now than ever.

We absolutely do Vik!Tell me a bit about this year’s festival programme?

The design of this year’s Masala Festival brochure is just brilliant, if I do say so myself….you need to see it to believe it!

GemArts is (literally and visually) strutting into summer like a Bengal tiger as we bring the region another magnificent Masala Festival!  Over 7 days, from 15th to 17th July we are thrilled to present another  incredible line up of classical, traditional and contemporary artists from the UK and Indian sub-continent exploring themes of home, belonging, freedom, resistance, luck and hope.  We have music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, performances, workshops, pop, ups, talks, family fun days, food events and much much more.

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I’m excited! You always start the festival with a big of a bang with a launch event, what’s in store this year for the launch? 

Launching Masala Festival on 15th July, at Sage Gateshead, we have an incredible collaboration and special evening of music composed and performed by the internationally renowned Sarod maestro Ustad Wajahat Khan with a String Quintet from our region’s fantastic chamber orchestra Royal Northern Sinfonia.  It’s going to be epic!

I’m really looking forward to attending Woman at BALTIC – feels like a very pertinent time to be showing film shorts about women in the current climate; have you seen any of the shorts? Is there one that you are most looking forward to seeing?

Curated by Bobby Tiwana, this year’s shorts programme on 19th July at BALTIC is inspired by the political act of being a woman; exploring themes of freedom, desire and resistance. You can read about Bobby’s film choices in his blog post here and why as a man he has curated a programme about women.  I have seen all the films, and ‘The Field’ is a beautifully crafted short set in rural Punjab in India.  I’m from Punjabi heritage, and go see family in Punjab whenever I visit, so it particularly resonated with me, especially the scenery.  I’m looking forward to seeing War-ia again as it was written and directed by Bobby. We also have a post-screen discussion with filmmakers Sandhya Suri and Riffy Ahmed which will give a great insight into their creative process.

Don’t forget your complimentary glass of wine or juice on arrival!

I’ve fallen in love with poetry – both written and spoken word performance – I literally hit 30 and it just happened. You’ve got quite a few poetry related events as part of the event programme, can you tell me a bit about them?

We are working in collaboration with curator Dr John Challis and NCLA to present Luck and Hope on Tuesday 16th July at Culture Lab, an evening of poetry with two of the best poets writing today, Mona Arshi and Imtiaz Dharkar, whose poetry explores the nuances of luck, grief and hope within our often violent and unsettling contemporary world.

Then on Thursday 18th July we have a stellar line up of North East talent in Strictly Spoken (it’s sold out!) at Arch16.  We have Tahmina Begum, Prerana Kumar and Wajid Hussain presenting spoken word and poetry on identity, South Asian heritage and inspiration.

It’s really exciting that you’ve taken some of the festival out to Whitley Bay – WB is having a real evolution as an independent cultural hub of the region – what made you take some of Masala out there? 

GemArts has been working with Jam Jar cinema for a while now, and they are always up for working with us and programming films with a South Asian flavour during Masala Festival.  It enables us to expand our cultural offer and engage new audiences up in Whitley Bay.  We’ve got heart-warming, ‘feel good’ comedy of the year Eaten by Lions, which follows half-brothers Omar and Pete on a journey of discovery via Blackpool, featuring Jonny Vegas, Jack Carroll and rising star Antonio Aakeel.

For those who attend Masala Festival every year/have attended before, what would be your recommendation as a “must experience”?

I’d recommend two things:

If you’re looking for a night out and a good laugh – Definitely recommend An Indian Abroad, as writer, performer and professional wrestling manager, Pariah Khan brings his shrewd and bitingly funny show to Northern Stage on Saturday 20th July.  It’s getting great reviews as it tours the UK, and we are delighted to be presenting at Masala Festival this year.  It follows the story of Krishnan, who is stifled by life in middle class India and decides to visit the exotic island of Great Britain.

I’d also recommend The Sweet Requiem at Tyneside Cinema on 17th July with stunning cinematography and subdued tension it highlights the ongoing and often forgotten Tibetan refugee crisis

For those who haven’t been to Masala Festival before, what would you recommend them checking out to introduce them to the Masala vibe?

The true Masala vibe will be at the Lit & Phil on the 16th July; we have two of the most prominent women on the contemporary jazz scene, pianist Zoe Rahman performs alongside saxophonist Laura Macdonald. This will be a powerhouse of a performance, and guaranteed to sell out so get your tickets quick!

What about for those, who prefer to have a go at something….what do you suggest?

We’ve got a whole host of workshops that people can take part in Bollywood dance, yoga on the beach, or an introduction to Meditation.

Also check out the Chai & Chat exhibition at Gateshead Central Library, beautiful textile artwork inspired by traditional chai recipes.  You can also take part in paper tea cup making.

Full details to book on workshops see www.gemarts.org

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GemArts Bollywood Dance workshops as part of Late Shows 2019

Through-out the festival, you’ve got a bespoke special menu at Dabbawal, which is my favourite place to get a curry, so i’m excited for the Masala menu! Can you tell me a bit about the (commissioned!?) art work, you have on the walls at one of Dabbawal’s restaurants?

Dabbawal are the original authentic street food restaurant in the region, and it’s always a pleasure to work with them – their food is simply outstanding!  Each year their talented chefs craft a special menu which is available during the festival, and we can’t wait to sample it!

Our artist Kate Hunter Parker will be creating art work inspired by this year’s Masala Festival brochure design, as well as elements from the programme and the menu, so expect to see vibrant, luscious and colourful work at both High Bridge and Jesmond restaurants.

So the finale…. any yearly Masala Festival goer knows that you round off the festival in style with a mini Mela at Live Theatre courtyard for families and adults alike. Can you tell me about this year’s Mela programme, what can attendees expect?

GemArts Masala  Festival ends on Sunday 21st July at Live Theatre’ Garden with a spectacular fun packed Mini Mela finale, with FREE South Asian arts, craft, storytelling, music and dance workshops for all of the family to enjoy! If you love caravans, bingo and Elvis, then look no further as this year’s finale brings you…….. Elvis’ Bingo Balls –  enter a seafront arcade in a caravan with neon, sounds of the slots and an Indian Elvis as your bingo caller! We’ve also got Circus Raj, a circus troupe from India performing throughout the day, with stilt walkers, dhol drummers, extreme juggling, sword swallowing and acrobatics, plus dancing marionettes, Dabbawal serving up delicious Indian street food, and much, much more…..

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How on earth, did you stumble across the Indian Elvis bingo caller? He sounds brilliant and fellow Culture Vultures who love things a bit out there and different will be all over this! ?

This is going to be so special!  We really wanted to introduce something new and exciting to this year’s mini mela which will connect with young and older audiences alike, and Elvis’ Bingo Balls absolutely will.  The theatre piece has been produced by Black Country Touring and it’s great that we can bring it up here for the finale.

It’s perfect, as it’s the start of the summer holidays and you’ve got a bingo caller clad in his Elvis outfit, telling stories of moving to this town ‘so every day can be a holiday’……what’s not to love!?

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And finally, if you could sum up Masala Festival 2019 in three words, what would they be?

  1. Epic

2.Vibrant.

  1. Fun

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Mini Mela 2018 as part of Masala Festival 2018

Well thanks Vikas and I just can’t wait! I’m taking over GemArts social media during the launch on Monday AND during Mini Mela, AND I will be attending lots of Masala events so you can follow my journey on my Facebook & Insta.

Visit www.gemarts.org to find out more and book tickets.

Look out for GemArts Masala Festival beautiful brochure around Newcastle and Gateshead or download your full brochure here GemArts Masala Festival 2019 Brochure

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Circus Raj Puppets which are set to be at Mini Mela

That’s all for now Culture Vultures – until next time!

P.s. I’ve had the exclusive opportunity to interview several Masala festival artists and performers – so look over for those interviews coming out in the next week or so!

(Full disclosure: I am not being paid to write this post but I have received complimentary tickets to the full GemArts Masala Festival 2019 programme and I am working with them on the festival’s audience development).

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

The Late Shows 2018 : The Culture Vulture essentials!

After recovering from the excitement of Eurovision, I’m now thinking about this coming weekend and The Late Shows. It’s another mega favourite weekend of mine and one of the ultimate culture vulturing weekends across Newcastle and Gateshead on 18th May 7pm-11pm and 19th May 6pm – 11pm.

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It’s a free late-night culture crawl taking over this weekend – an array of museums, galleries, studio collectives and landmark historical buildings open their doors to offer visitors one-off events, parties, sneaky peaks at new exhibitions or work, demonstrations, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, performances and lots of lush artists and creatives to speak to.

There is something totally lush about being about to visit venues and spaces in the night time – whilst they treat you to a unique after dark experience. Every year, I get really excited and what’s not to love about a city wide creative and cultural celebration. Each year – people and venues do different things, so whilst you may go every year – you’ll have a brand new experience.

So I’m not one for telling you guys, my fellow Culture Vultures, where you should go to – as the venues and spaces involved this year are all equally as brilliant and part of what I love about Late Shows, is that YOU plan your own cultural adventure or as I often do, simply go with the flow on the night and just enjoy it!

I thought instead, I’d feature this blog post on the unmissable reasons why you MUST not miss Late Shows 2018…..

  1. There are several FIRST TIME venues taking part or venues in their brand new digs opening their doors and I’m all about being one of the first to see and do something– so for you it’s an opportunity to check out somewhere you haven’t been before and their spaces whilst experiencing something lush and creative. So who are the first time Late Shows 2018 venues:
  • The Nest – Low Fell, Gateshead (Sat Only) – A lush family venues full of fun times and good food – you can print the Angel of the North and also eat the Angel.
  • The Kiln – Low Fell, Gateshead (Sat Only) – A vibrant and interactive paint your own pottery studio – you can paint your own Angel mug.
  • The Newbridge Project: Gateshead (Sat Only) – Visual arts studios and gallery in it’s first year; Explore the Deep Adaptation exhibition and leave your own responses to questions, take part in kimchi making and take home your own starter seed capsule.
  • Alphabetti Theatre – Newcastle (Sat Only) – A performing arts venue open since Sept 17; venture from room to room as you stumble across a variety of bands, poetry and pop-up theatre.
  • Star and Shadow Cinema – Newcastle (Fri Only) – An alternative social, cultural, arts and community hub run by a collective of volunteers open again in its new space – drop in to celebrate their re-opening.

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The Nest by Pop Up Studio Low Fell – Print the Angel. #Angel20

  1. There is a really special one off from Curious Arts on Baltic Square, Gateshead on Saturday on – the launch of Curious Arts’ 36point7 – a HIV/AIDs light art awareness project. 36point7 aims to support the visibility of this global issue and the legacy of those lost and silenced during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, Curious Arts is working with light artist Stuart Langley to reimagine the World AIDS day ribbon.

You will be able to chat to Curious Arts about the project and take in this lush large light installation which will be positioned inside Gateshead Millennium Bridge box.

In addition – Curious are offering free creative workshops so you have the opportunity to create your very own light art.

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Sneaky peeky of 36point7 from Curious Arts.

  1. Late Shows embodies a lot of what The Culture Vulture is all about…. It’s an opportunity to support, champion and visit Independent venues! I’m ALL about the independents and many of them across the weekend are hosting amazing events and parties – so get in the Late Shows vibe and enjoy! My top independent picks:
  • The Tyne Bar – Newcastle (Fri & Sat) – one of my favourite boozers anyway – but for the Late Shows they have a collaborative 90s throwback exhibition featuring work by second year Newcastle Fine Art students Charli Payne, Roberto de Abreu Preciosa, and Wesley Bray. I’m OBSESSED with the 90s – so I will be there on Friday for good time and 90s vibes.
  • Cobalt Studios – Newcastle (Fri) – A creative studio space and venue; I love what Kathryn and her team put on there and I’m itching to do a Culture Vulture event in the space. They got a mega Silent Disco party for you – three very diverse DJ’s & three parties in one with visual projections. My dancing shoes and twirling is at the ready.
  • The Staiths Café – Gateshead (Sat) – A lush independent café space… drop in for some communal singing with Beccy Owen’s Pop-Up Choirs who will later perform at the end of the workshop. Expect lush vibes.
  • Kommunity – Newcastle (Sat) – A bar/participatory social space that hosts dance, art house film screenings and much more…it’s run some of my favourite people in the world and it’s just a lush venue. And what a night they have planned for you from 9pm-middnight! Think STUDIO 54 and the last days of disco! The global growth of disco music and nightclub culture is going to be celebrated by your DJ for the evening Absolutely Fabulous Lady Annabella Marczewska! Dress to impress, exude energy and most importantly glamour!

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  1. Lots of Gateshead venues are celebrating The Angel of the North 20th Birthday this year within their Shows events! #Angel20
  • First up is the Nest in Low Fell Gateshead on Saturday – it’s a must for all you mini culture vultures (and grown-ups!). This year, they’ve brilliantly partnered up with another megababe local business – Pop Up Studio Low Fell. With Laura from pop up, you can bring an Angel of the North design on to fabric – make it as loud and proud as you want. She has also said for the grown-ups, you can totally go rogue and print whatever you want – including glittery swear words! With Lee and the Nest team, you’ll be able to make #Angel20 biscuits and literally eat the Angel. Mint!
  • Then there is the wonderful hidden gem on Low fell high street – The Kiln! On Saturday, you’ll have the opportunity to get proper creative and have a go at painting an Angel mug….they will provide expert guidance, lots of materials and of course, chat all about their wider offer!
  • Bensham Grove on Saturday in yep… Bensham Gateshead; is also doing lots of #Angel20 creative and crafty activities. You can create your very own Angel of the North sculpture for their garden and make your own angel in their make and take glass, pottery and textile workshops all whilst listening to live music.
  • The Shipley Art Gallery – On Saturday they are celebrating the Angel of the North’s 20th birthday and you’re invited! Join them to make your own Angel themed crafts, and get in the party spirit with live music, dance performances and a bar from Arch Sixteen’s Pam.

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The Kiln – Low Fell

  1. Be the first to see some of the AMAZING summer happenings and exhibitions – Late Shows 2018 acts as a bit of an exclusive preview – so enjoy!
  • The BALTIC (Sat) – This is a rare late-night opening view of their spring exhibitions. Visit Idea of North, a group show part of the city-wide Great Exhibition of the North. This exhibition celebrates northern imagination and identity through architecture, photography, music and design. It’s an exploration of northern imagination, unpicking and revealing different voices within the idea of a ‘northern’ identity.

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  • The Shipley Art Gallery (Sat) – Whilst they are hosting a fantastic #Angel20 party – Late Shows 2018 on Saturday also provides an opportunity to see the new Grayson Perry exhibition.

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Grayson Perry

  1. It’s not just about the venues and spaces – it’s about showcasing lots of amazing artists across the weekend; so if art is your bag – here are my recommendations!
  • The Biscuit Factory (Fri) – This is certainly my first stop on Friday and I can’t wait! They are launching the Open Contemporary Young Artist Award 2018; a mixed media exhibition featuring new artwork from over 20 emerging young artists. You will be the first to view the shortlist and cast your vote for our People’s Choice winner. Alongside the exhibition award-winning Streetwise Opera are performing live in the gallery AND you can enjoy The Factory Kitchen’s new urban roof top terrace with Ouseburn views, a pop-up bar and Mexican street food! (It looks amazing!).

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The Factory Kitchen rooftop garden

  • 36 Lime Street (Fri) – A top favourite artist space of mine! So many of my favourite people in there. Artists and makers from 36 Lime Street Studios open their doors after dark to give a glimpse of their working life and to have a natter. In the gallery Bethan Maddocks and Maria Sears present Paper Jungle, a growing, glowing paper-cut jungle that visitors can add to throughout Friday. Big fan of megababe Bethan – so excited to see what this looks like!
  • Jim Edwards (Fri) – Well he’s in my top 5 favourite artists of all time – and of course, I will do my usual trip to his studio and pay homage to Craig David Pub Cat. However, for Late Shows, I’ve heard he’s going to be working on and exhibiting some brand new pieces – I’ve already seen the Hadrian’s Wall one on social – so can’t wait to see it in person. But whispers tell me, there might be a Heaton focused one – and as Heaton is my second home, I’m excited!

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Jim Edwards

  • Commercial Union House (Sat) is just full of galleries, artist spaces, parties and workshops include Vane, B&D Studios, Breeze Creatives and others – so take your time and enjoy! But my recommendation for extra attention goes to of course, Ampersand Inventions! I love Ampersand and if I wasn’t working the full Gateshead Late Shows evening on Saturday – I’d be ALL over this…. They are presenting a ‘Homage to The Handyside Arcade: The New Breed’ – (Another great theme Jonpaul!) The Edwardian-built arcade on the city’s Percy Street was a spectacular glass-roofed construction housing a range of popular quirky shops and outlets, ‘Tyneside’s answer to Carnaby Street’. From the dust of legends, Ampersand Inventions are opening their front doors to showcase their amazing boutiques, shops and not forgetting their weird and wonky artists! Mixing heritage, culture, lifelong learning, innovation and enterprise! You have some Culture Vulture faves in there including Trendlistr, Melanie Kyles, Roberta Louise Green and others.

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Ampersand Inventions

Bliddy heck…what a Late Shows 2018 weekend! I’m excited to get Culture Vulturing and of course, if you see me – say hiyer! I will be live social media-ing, drinking gin (not when working obvs) and having a fantastic lush time.

 

 

Vegan Restaurant Week 2018 – your next cultural adventure!

So you all know I’m queen of championing Independents in the region and that’s one of the reasons I love Newcastle Restaurant week; an opportunity to eat my way across the city, explore new places and support lots of independents. You may have heard of Newcastle Restaurant week – but have you heard of next week’s Vegan Restaurant Week? You may not have – but you absolutely need to fall in love with it, like I have.

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So you may be vegan and this week may be music to your ears! Or you may not be vegan and think – “eh – why would I be interested in this!?”. Well let me tell you, I’m not vegan either. But I’m a cultural adventurer – I absolutely love stepping out of my comfort zone, trying new things and I’m eternally curious. Vegan food when done well means beautiful colourful plates and lush tasting food. There are lots of vegan versions of your meaty favourites, plant based soul soothing dishes and if you’re feeling naughty, well there is even vegan junk food.

So if you have the misconception that vegan food isn’t tasty or not for you – well firstly, you’re absolutely wrong and secondly, give it a try! You’ll be pleasantly surprised – I promise, especially if you like your spice like me.

Lots of Independents are getting involved in Vegan Restaurant Week so it’s an opportunity to not only to try something new but also to visit and experience somewhere new. Last year, I had the pleasure of attending Kommunity’s Vegan supper club run by Mama Zen and it was beautiful. Each mouthful so full of flavour and all great with a gin and tonic on the side.

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Kommunity Ncl

If you’re after a recommendation from me – I’d say get yourself to Thought Foundation who are hosting a foodie pop up night with the Calabash Tree on 12th January; you need to book in advance so nab your place and have a taste of the Caribbean. Or, go to Kommunity for Wildflower’s Pop-Up for some lush home-made food at lunch time Thurs-Sat!

So enough from me – I recently caught up with the founder of Vegan Restaurant Week – all round mega babe and Culture Vulture favourite and friend Emma Phillips.

So Emma, tell me and for those that don’t know; what is Vegan Restaurant week?

Vegan Restaurant Week is a celebration of plant-based food here in the North East. It first started in 2017 and was the first event of its kind in the world. Since we launched a state in the US ran a similar promotion, so it must have been a good idea!

What was the inspiration behind starting it?

Vegan Restaurant Week came to being because I wanted to show how easy it was to find plant based food here in the North East, despite misconceptions! I think we were never considered as very ‘forward-thinking’ when it came to cuisine, but times are changing. We have a thriving restaurant scene, especially in Newcastle, but I also wanted to show support to the local independent restaurants and cafes that have accommodated those who don’t eat animal products over the years.

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Is it the only UK Vegan restaurant week?

This is the only event of its kind in the UK, and I feel proud VRW has been able to showcase what we have to offer in the region. I would love to be able to take this to other areas in the country as it is a fantastic way of bringing the community together, especially during Veganuary.

So it’s in its second year – what was the reception like to the week last year?

The reception last year was fantastic. Any event is a concern, especially as we had no marketing budget. But the community rallied round, and many restaurants were fully booked during the week.

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Who is Vegan restaurant week for?

VRW is for everyone. I was clear from the outset that the week was not just aimed at vegans within the NE. I hoped many people would be interested to try out vegan food, even if it was on account of the special offers that many cafes and restaurants ran during the 2017 event.

I’m heading out with my vegan friend next week – we are massive foodies and love colourful plates. We both like spice and see food as a mega social treat – where do you suggest we go?

I would recommend trying out the pop up event Thought Foundation are hosting on Friday night with Calabash Tree. The menu features Jerk Butternut Squash, Curried Chana Aloo, and for dessert a Spiced Rum Almond Cake.

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I’m also taking my friend out with her little boy – she’s a massive meat eater and loves BBQ-esque food and I want to prove her vegan food can absolutely hit the spot – any suggestions?

Somewhere like Grumpy Panda or Junk It Up will be a huge hit with those who like BBQ and/or junk food. Think burgers, Southern Fried Fricken and doner kebabs. This is not what people imagine vegans eat and I love the surprise on people’s faces when they tuck in!

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Grumpy Panda

You know me, and you know I’m not a vegan. I love trying different foods and I was one of those people that through curiosity discovered that vegan food can be so yummy. What would you say to those curious about vegan food?

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what vegans eat. I am by no means a healthy vegan and couldn’t exist on salads alone. I think VRW is a great opportunity to try out something a little different, especially if you’re trying to cut down on your meat and/or dairy intake. There’s a huge array of alternatives out there, and you might actually like them.

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Common vegan misconceptions

I’m the queen of seeking out the hidden gems, somewhere I haven’t been before; what is your hidden gem suggestion?

That is a hard question to answer as we want to support everyone involved in the event! Pulp Fiction are offering an All You Can Eat Breakfast Buffet which I think will appeal to those who are trying to be ‘good’ during January. I think many will be surprised to learn Darcey’s in Central Station have vegan grilled cheese and sausage sandwiches on offer, and Chaia in Gosforth have a lovely afternoon tea for just £10 too.

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Well thank you Emma – mega excited to eat my way across the region, one lush vegan dish at a time! For the full list of participating restaurants head over to the official website!

Until next time Culture Vultures!