From Newcastle Quayside Stuart Forster reports on the opening of the Great Exhibition of the North.
Disclosure: Some of the links below and banners are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
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.
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 were 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 rock group Maximo Park, who are from Newcastle, played a handful of their hits from a stage aboard the Sir Bobby Robson. The boat paused beneath the Sage Gateshead.
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 positions 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 me. It was a fun event to photograph.
Books about North East England
Interested in the heritage of North East England? You may find these books worth reading:
Angels of the North: Notable Women of the North East:
Bradt’s Slow Travel guide to Northumberland:
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
Search for hotels in Newcastle via Booking.com:
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 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.
If you enjoyed this post why not sign up for the free Go Eat Do newsletter? It’s a hassle-free way of getting links to posts on a monthly basis.
‘Like’ the Go Eat Do Facebook page to see more photos and content.
A version of this post was initially published on Go Eat Do on 23 June 2018.
Ferne ArfinJune 24, 2018 at 10:10
Wonderful pictures. It looks as good as I imagined it would. Hope they can keep up the buzz all summer.
Stuart ForsterJune 25, 2018 at 17:59
Thank you, Ferne. The mood seems very upbeat so here’s hoping for a buzz into the autumn!
SteveJune 25, 2018 at 07:21
Looks like a great night- would have loved to have seen the drones but I was stuck on babysitting duties.
Stuart ForsterJune 25, 2018 at 17:57
It was a lovely evening and my favourite part was the drones. At least you’ve got a few more weeks to get in and take a look at some of the events and installations in Newcastle and Gateshead.
Indian EagleJune 27, 2018 at 10:38
Beautiful text and wonderful pictures, drone and fire work displays awesome.
Stuart ForsterJune 28, 2018 at 10:09
I have never previously seen a drone display and was very impressed!
Rick CobdenJune 27, 2018 at 13:46
Just booked a train to Newcastle to visit the festival. The pictures are beautiful.