Street art in the north-east of England: Fifty Northern Icons

What did the north of England ever give to the world? A pictorial answer to that question will be displayed outside of the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead until 9 September 2018. Fifty Northern Icons is part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

The work stretches for 150 metres. It was painted by Frank Styles, a Sunderland-based artist. Fifty Northern Icons features 50 murals of things from the north of England. The images represent the region’s architecture, culture and innovations.

The icons are an eclectic mix. They include the puppets Sooty and Sweep, The Beatles and the Lindisfarne Gospels — the illuminated manuscript created by monks during the eighth century.

The Turbinia was once the world's fastest ship.
The Turbinia was once the world’s fastest ship and can be seen in Newcastle’s Discovery Centre.

The Great North Run

Athlete Mo Farah is also depicted, doing his ‘Mobot’ during the Great North Run. The Tyne Bridge stands in the background. The 2018 Great North Run coincides with the end of the 80-day Great Exhibition of the North.

Mo Farah depicted doing his Mobot during the Great North Run.
Mo Farah depicted doing his Mobot during the Great North Run.

The people displayed include the musician Sting, shown by the Sage Gateshead, the performing arts venue which is a five-minute walk from the Northern Design Centre. Joseph Swan, the Sunderland-born inventor who received the patent for his carbon filament lightbulb in 1880, also features among the icons. His bushy beard would not look out of place today on hipsters in one of Tyneside’s craft beer pubs. (I popped into one of the most recent openings, the By the River Brew Co., next to the Gateshead end of the Swing Bridge, after viewing Fifty Northern Icons.)

Did you know that Meccano was invented in Liverpool? Frank Hornby received the patent for his idea in 1901. A metal model of the Angel of the North, made from Meccano, is displayed in the lobby of the Northern Design Centre.

Joseph Swan was a key figure in developing the electric lightbulb.
Joseph Swan was a key figure in developing the electric light bulb.

A Greggs pasty as art

There’s a Greggs pasty among the icons. The wildcard section of the mural allowed people to suggest inclusions. Surprised by that inclusion? I certainly am. I thought it would have been a sausage roll that made the mural.

Tasty! A Greggs pasty peeks from a paper bag.
Tasty! A Greggs pasty peeks from a paper bag.

The Sanctuary Knocker, from the door of Durham Cathedral, is depicted. People wanted for committing offences used the knocker to enter the cathedral during the Middle Ages. Doing so meant they could be granted up to 37 days of sanctuary.

The Sanctuary Knocker is at Durham Cathedral.
The Sanctuary Knocker is at Durham Cathedral.

Rocket, the locomotive designed by George Stephenson, will be displayed at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum for the duration of the Great Exhibition of the North. Another of the museum’s exhibits, Turbinia, is also depicted. Turbinia was the world’s first steam turbine driven ship and, for a time, the fastest in the world.

Depiction of the Rocket, designed by George Stephenson, who was born in Wylam.
Depiction of the Rocket, designed by George Stephenson, who was born in Wylam.

Artwork and popular television

Lancashire’s L.S. Lowry was a regular visitor to the north-east of England. His paintings of people heading to mills and on streets with terraced housing have come to characterise an era.

Art depicting art. Frank Styles' depiction of L.S. Lowry's painting.
Art depicting art. Frank Styles’ depiction of L.S. Lowry’s painting.

Coronation Street, the popular television series, is also represented among the icons.

Coronation Street is a long-running television series.
Coronation Street is a long-running television series.

Want to find out what else makes the Fifty Northern Icons? Stroll to the Northern Design Centre at Abbot’s Hill and take a look.

Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck were among the characters created by Beatrix Potter.
Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck were among the characters created by Beatrix Potter.

Further information

For a full listing of events included in the exhibition’s programme, see the Great Exhibition of the North website or download the app. Visit Frank Styles‘ website for more information about the artist. Thanks to SOS Travel for suggesting it would be worth walking from the Quayside to view Fifty Northern Icons.

See the NewcastleGateshead website for information about things to do and see on Tyneside.

The Visit England website also has ideas relating to tourism and attractions in the country’s north-east.

The photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography, a north-east based photography company. Commission a shoot by calling 07947 587136 or making contact via the Why Eye Photography website..

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning journalist. He is based in the north-east of England and available for magazine and newspaper commissions. Make contact via this website if you want to sponsor a post on Go Eat Do.

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Wallace and Gromit was animated by Nick Park.
Wallace and Gromit was animated by Nick Park.

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