Myself and my Other Half were in Newcastle over the weekend. The primary purpose for me was to see my second favourite band in the whole world – Warm Digits – play the Old Coal Yard near the Byker and Ouseburn areas of the city. You can read more about that on my review on the Priptona Weird blog.
To try and save on funds and to make the logistics of getting to and from the venue easier, I decided to book a room for us at a hotel called the Dorset Arms at Wallsend. It seemed like it was a short-ish walk from the Metro station to get to the hotel but actually it was longer than I had anticipated and interpreted on the map. Straightforward though. Just taking a straight walk down to the hotel for around 1 mile.
The hotelier, Stan, was a really friendly and helpful guy and offered me a lift to Wallsend metro station closer to the time of the gig. In the end he dropped me off right near the venue which I was very thankful for as the heavens were open by that time and it would have been a bit of a walk from Byker metro to the venue.
The gig was great and I had quite a late night, but we needed to be out of the hotel by 10am the next day. I was out of bed and in the shower by 7.45am having had around 4 hours sleep by the time I eventually drifted off.
The weather was much better on Sunday and the air was already warm early in the morning. A change from our last visit to Newcastle which although sunny was VERY windy and still quite cold. This time it was ‘taps aff’ by comparison.
After a fantastic buffet and cooked breakfast at the hotel (we just had scrambled eggs on toast for the ‘cooked’ side of our breakfast), Stan was kind enough to give us a lift to Wallsend metro. We got to Monument station at around 10.30am and decided to head to the Quayside with a view of checking out the Baltic art gallery. There’s a street market down along the Quayside Road running along the banks of the Tyne between the Tyne and Millennium Bridges with all kinds of wonderful foodstuffs and crafts on offer. It was absolutely hoachin’ down at the Quayside.
After a slow wander through the market stalls we crossed the Millennium Bridge to get to the Baltic. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Baltic – whether there would be a fee to pay to get in as most galleries in England these days charge an admission fee, if not for the main gallery space itself, then definitely for access to exhibitions that are on. To my joy and wonderment, the Baltic was free. We went up to the fifth floor which has a ‘viewing box’ – an area to stand and take in the views of the city overlooking the Tyne. From there we made our way back downwards, exploring what each level of the gallery had to offer. On levels 3 and 2 was an exhibition by artist Larry Achiampong. The exhibition is called Wayfinder and comprises several different visual displays and art installations. Flag designs, traveller-explorer-cum-spacesuit outfits that are worn and featured in his video documentary pieces called Relic. There were also chalk boards with repetitive words to be read out as instructions or slogans.
We sat and watched several of his video docs. All three of the Relic pieces, as well as Wayfinder itself. All the information on the layout of the whole exhibition can be viewed on the Baltic website HERE
I found the whole exhibition really moving, especially the video pieces. They were beautifully filmed, evocative, wonderfully scripted and very poignant. Larry gives a very powerful voice to British African people through his art. I don’t say this with any measure of flippancy or glibness at all when I say it is one of the most moving and beautiful exhibitions of contemporary art that I have ever encountered. So much so, I had to let Larry know how much his exhibition spoke to me and contacted him via Instagram to let him know how profound I found his work. He replied with a voice message to me on Instagram thanking me for my words and was pleased to hear that his work had moved me so much.
The exhibition runs until 29 October. If you are in Newcastle at any point up til this date (or you are a local Geordie), I implore you to check out Larry Achiampong’s exhibition. It is stunning.
On level 1 was an exhibition by the photographer Chris Killip. Absolutely stunning photos, particularly the portraiture. Most of the photos were depicting life in the North-East in the mid 1970s until the early 1980s. All the photos are black and white. Most were quite large images too – A3 and A2 sized prints. Again, visually evocative and poignant. I’d also highly recommend seeing Chris Killip’s exhibition as well. The exhibition is on until 3 September.
With just a couple of hours left until the coach back to Glasgow was due to depart, we made our way back to the city centre. The plan was to get something to eat to see us through the rest of the day as we weren’t due to get back to Glasgow until just after 8pm. On our way up Pilgrim Street we stumbled across the Town Fry. It doesn’t get the best rating via Google Maps but to be honest, I hadn’t looked at the ratings until after we’d eaten there. It was there, it was handy and the cod bites and chips were affordable at £7 each. It was quiet and there were seats for us to sit and eat inside. It was cooked fresh while we waited. The chips were delicious! As was the generous sized piece of cod. It filled our bellies more than amply for the journey back home.
We popped into Greggs as well for a hot beverage and a yum yum. I gotta say, Greggs are bloody good value compared to the likes of Costa, Starbucks and Caffe Nero. A tea is £1.15, a latte is £1.95 and a box of two yum yums was £1.35. If you were to get something similar in one of the coffee chains it would set you back at least DOUBLE that price, if not more.
We got to the coach station a little early – around 3.45pm for the coach at 4.10pm. Well, that’s when it was due but a driver that had come in on a coach from Manchester had informed one of the other passengers waiting for the Glasgow coach that it was running an hour late – caught up in floodwater back in London when it started out its journey north. So, 4.10pm actually did become 5.10pm.
I don’t know what it is about the coach to Newcastle but it feels like it takes so much longer than the four hours it only does take. I think it must be down to the stops it makes along the way. I don’t know. But the four hours seem to pass sssooo slowly on the coach.
We eventually arrived at Buchanan Bus Station at 9.20pm. It being a Sunday night there are no trains to Ashfield after 6.30pm on Sundays so it was taxi or the 75 to Milton. A 75 was due at 9.35pm so we legged it out of the bus station to get ourselves to Hope Street in time for the 75 – only for the bugger to be 10 minutes late! Although after a few minutes it was indicating on the electronic board that the due bus wasn’t even running late, it was just not going to arrive at all! Thankfully, it did arrive, albeit 10 mins late.
Arrived home exhausted but happy from a lovely little whirlwind trip away to Geordieland. Newcastle is starting to become the new ‘home away from home’, and the great news is that the OH likes the place just as much as I do – so I think we may just get to have a couple of trips a year away down there in future. She won’t need too much persuading, which is grand!
Now, back to getting some creative writing done! (P.S. Less than a week to go until I find out my uni results.)