Great Exhibition of the North: The City as the Stage

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Blog post by Rachel Kershaw writer of Life in Geordieland, the blog guide to NewcastleGateshead.

From the moment you arrive in Newcastle and Gateshead this summer you’ll be immersed in Great Exhibition of the North. You don’t need VIP access to experience the 80-day programme of events, as there will be creative surprises happening all around you, every day.

Visitors who come to the region via plane, road or rail can expect a warm Northern welcome from our enthusiastic army of volunteers who will happily help you navigate your way around. If you live in Newcastle or Gateshead then you may have already noticed your home town be transformed into a stage for all to enjoy – from the colourful banners to the branded buses. A whole host of new sights and sounds will be springing up from 22 June – 9 September to celebrate our Northern culture, character and creativity.

There is so much to look at and listen out for during Great Exhibition of the North and plenty of opportunities to explore spaces off the beaten track that will open up your eyes to a different side of Newcastle and Gateshead.

Of course, it goes without saying that the three main hubs – BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Sage Gateshead and Great North Museum – are must visit venues but beyond these iconic landmarks there are hundreds of other places and events waiting to captivate and inspire you.

Get North Water Sculpture

One of Great Exhibition’s most eagerly anticipated events is the Get North Water Sculpture which performs hourly (10am-11pm) every day on the River Tyne at the heart of the Quayside. Three specially commissioned soundtracks accompany the UK’s largest water sculpture and after sunset it will include a stunning light display.

You can listen to each of the pieces of music on Soundcloud (no account required) and time them to their choreographed displays. Enjoy Maximo Park Official’s North by North East, Secret Keeper by Kate Rusby and Since There’s Only You by Darkstar, all accompanied by Royal Northern Sinfonia


Be sure to keep an ear out at precisely 1pm every day during Great Exhibition to hear the evocative sound of steam engine whistles cascading across Newcastle. The soundscape called “Whistle” created by Durham’s Steve Messam will reverberate along the medieval walls around the city, reminding us of the region’s significant role in the history of the railways.

Aeons: a Sound Journey for Newcastle

For another adventure through sound against the breath-taking backdrop of the Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside, book your free place on this guided walk with a difference! After picking up your special headset from Gateshead Millennium Bridge you’ll continue along the banks of the River Tyne where a series of sensors will trigger specially composed sounds and music to match your surroundings. Opera North are behind this stunning and surprisingly calming installation: Aeons: A Sound Journey for Newcastle (This event is FREE but we strongly advise pre-booking your ticket as this is a very popular event and limited head sets are available per time slot. You can chance it on the day but you are not guaranteed to be able to get on – pop into the glass booth on the Newcastle side of Gateshead Millennium Bridge and see if there are any spaces available)

The Worker’s Maypole

One of the things that I particularly love about Great Exhibition of the North is the fact that everyday spaces, buildings and landmarks are being reinvented to spark our curiosity. Grey’s Monument is something I walk past every day and often take for granted but during Great Exhibition there’s no way it will go unnoticed as it is turned into a huge, colourful Worker’s Maypole in tribute to the North’s achievements and feats for equality.

The Maypole was deinstalled on 2 August. The flower from the crown of the installation will be on display at BALTIC giving you a chance to take a closer look it’s ornate detail. Segments of the brightly coloured ribbons will also be hung alongside large-scale images of the transformation of Grey’s Monument and the historical Walter Crane illustration. The display will feature a short film documenting the installation and creation of the piece.

Winged Tales of the North

Ouseburn is a thriving cultural corner of Newcastle that I always urge locals and tourists to visit. I will be popping in even more over the summer to see the beautiful and inspiring trail of street art named Winged Tails of the North. It features original flash fiction by acclaimed children’s writer David Almond which has been brought to life in a breathtakingly beautiful street art trail by artist Kate Drummond. You can even listen to the flash fiction in a quirky gramophone in the centre of Ouseburn.

every thing every time

Outside the stunning Theatre Royal in the centre of Newcastle, you will find every thing every time – an imaginative installation by artist Naho Matsuda. An ever-changing poem unfolds as this ingenious piece of art creates poetry from the city’s smart data.

To Give Light (Northern Aspirational Charms)

Outside BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, you will find the playful work of Chester’s Ryan Gander who celebrates the lively spirit of Northern innovation through ten black concrete sculptures arranged in a circle on Baltic Square. There is also the brilliant With / Against installation by Tim Etchells which is so striking overlooking the River Tyne and really gets you thinking about whether I “Go with the flow” or “Swim against the tide.”

I have only scratched the surface here by picking out some of my favourite installations from Great Exhibition of the North but I really mean it when I say the outdoor spaces really do become the stage to this ground-breaking programme of art, design and innovation.

If you want to know about all the other exhibitions, activities and events that you can experience during Great Exhibition of the North, then be sure to pick up a copy of the free Great Exhibition of the North programme which can be found in coffee shops and cultural venues across the city. You can also download a copy online. The Wayfinder App is another fantastic way to discover what’s going on and ensure you don’t miss a moment of this unforgettable summer.

Go explore, soak up your surroundings, be inspired and then share your experiences on social media using the hashtag #GetNorth2018.

Accenture is committed to using innovation to improve the way the world works and lives. We are honoured to sponsor Great Exhibition of the North and celebrate the North of England’s pioneering spirit; shaping the world and building the economy of tomorrow. Visit us at

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