Newcastle and Gateshead are the winners of a regional competition to host a major exhibition showcasing art, design, and innovation from the north of England. The area has been selected by the government to host the £5m Great Exhibition of the North in 2018.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: “This is an exhibition for the whole north, and certainly through the legacy work, we are looking for bids across the whole of the north of England so we can really show everything the north has to offer.”
Three other shortlisted bidders – Sheffield, Bradford and Blackpool have not been selected this time around. The former Chancellor George Osborne conceived the idea as part of his Northern Powerhouse package. The new Culture Secretary added she was won over by Newcastle and Gateshead’s “ambition”, including the organisers’ estimate that the exhibition will attract three million people.”That level of ambition really did stand out,” “But that doesn’t mean this is just for Newcastle-Gateshead.”
The exhibition will last for 77-days and have the overarching theme of The Blazing World – The Fires of Invention. Organisers hope to bring Robert Stephenson’s Rocket back to its birthplace
Proposed highlights of the exhibition:
An opening ceremony on 21 June 2018 will take place on the Quayside, featuring a bridge of illuminated drones over the River Tyne.
During the event, three themed walking routes will guide visitors to venues and attractions. The Arts Circuit, Design Circuit, and Innovation Circuit will start at an exhibition about northern pioneers and trailblazers at the Great North Museum: Hancock.
Visitors will then traverse Newcastle before crossing the River Tyne and converging on the Baltic art gallery, which will invite five northern and five international artists to create work on the exhibition’s themes.
Fifty writers will be tasked with “rewriting the narratives of the north”, while the organisers promise to “connect artists with scientists and inventors to work closely”.
Organisers hope to bring Robert Stephenson’s early steam locomotive The Rocket from the Science Museum in London to Newcastle, where it was built.
Other activities will include a summer camp for families and a closing ceremony will take place just before the Great North Run.Newcastle and Gateshead’s joint bid said: “Inspired by the trailblazers of the north, the exhibition will have several cross-cutting themes for all to respond to, showing how the north’s fires of invention continue to transform our world. “Crucially, we will connect artists with scientists and inventors to work closely together, to create new artworks and respond to the great innovations of our time. Arts will meet industry in powerful and memorable ways.”
The area has already hosted major art events, with a record 140,000 people visiting the Turner Prize exhibition when it was staged at the Baltic in 2011. But cultural venues in both Newcastle and Gateshead have struggled in the face of local council funding cuts in recent years. As well as the £5m for the exhibition, the government has pledged £15m for a legacy fund, which will be open to cultural organisations across the north.