From Newcastle Quayside Stuart Forster reports on the opening of the Great Exhibition of the North.
The Great Exhibition of the North started with a spectacular opening event by the River Tyne, between Newcastle and Gateshead, in North East England. The 2018 festival was billed as a celebration of northern arts, design and innovation. It ran for 80 days, until 9 September 2018.
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I attended the opening event with my camera. For me, the highlight was viewing a cleverly choreographed illuminated drone performance in the night sky.
A spectacle on Newcastle’s Quayside
Squeezing up against barriers on Newcastle’s Quayside maximised my opportunities to record the opening ceremony without crowd figures in the frame.
I didn’t want people to get in the way of my photos of that firework display concluding the evening programme. Consequently I arrived as early as possible to secure an optimal spot.
I ended up next to the BBC camera crew. It’s rumoured that more than 20,000 people gathered along the Quayside to view the event.
Earlier in the day I’d been chatting to several of the people who played a role in organising the event. I also spoke with people involved in creating installations and curators of the exhibitions that featured in the Great Exhibition of the North.
Great Exhibition of the North
The evening event provided an opportunity to leave my notebook and Dictaphone in my pocket. I viewed proceedings with a camera in my hands.
The density of the crowd meant that I simply couldn’t move around freely enough to get photos of the street entertainers. They included a giant chicken that was pecking around on the Quayside like some steroid-pumped sporting mascot.
Nor was I able to get close to the group of grannies riding their turbo-powered, outsized shopping bags. I could, though, see all the performers on the giant screen that was set up by the bank of the River Tyne. That enabled me to hear poet Lemn Sissay recite his Anthem of the North.
Like an incarnation of The Beatles from the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, a group of colourfully clad musicians played a series of upbeat tunes. Then a cannon fired confetti into the air and fireworks fizzed from the winking Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The pedestrian bridge tips laterally to allow boats to pass below, a movement known as winking.
Maximo Park playing on the Tyne
The riverside performing arts venue, designed by Foster and Partners, was one of three hubs from which experience trails designed for the Great Exhibition of the North began. The other two are the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art and the Great North Museum: Hancock.
As the Sir Bobby Robson pulled away illuminated water jets shot into the air from the Get North Water Sculpture, an 80-metre platform installed in the River Tyne.
Fireworks and drones
I murmured a quiet wow while photographing illuminated drones hovering above the Sage Gateshead. Deftly, they switched position to depict a star, the double helix of DNA, the word ‘GREAT’ and the Great Exhibition of the North logo.
The fireworks display that concluded the evening also impressed. It was fun to photograph.
Books about North East England
Interested in the heritage of North East England? You may find these books worth reading:
Memories of the Great Exhibition
Did you attend 2018’s Great Exhibition of the North? What are your key memories of it? Why not share your viewpoint in the comments field below.
Accommodation in Newcastle upon Tyne
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Find out more about the event on the Great Exhibition of the North website.
The Newcastle Gateshead website has information about where to go, what to see and what to do in and around Tyneside. If you are visiting Newcastle and Gateshead take a look at my walking in Newcastle travel tips. You may also find this
Award-winning travel writer Stuart Forster is based in North East of England. He is available for copywriting and editorial commissions about Newcastle and other destinations.
See the Visit Britain website for ideas about things to do and see in northern England.
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A version of this post was fist published on Go Eat Do on 23 June 2018.