Meet the Great Exhibition of the North Contributors

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

After spending the last few weeks visiting lots of exciting events around Newcastle and Gateshead, I couldn’t help but wonder about the people behind them. I have been hugely impressed by the efforts of the contributors to Great Exhibition of the North and intrigued by their challenges and objectives.

I wanted to learn more about what makes them tick so I asked some of the artists, designers and innovators to share their stories or a little bit about their commission and this is what they told me…

Roxy McKenna – Remake a Take

I’m a freelance creative producer and also one of the directors of Chalk

Most of my freelance work has been with Northern Film & Media (NFM) as I come from a film background and worked for 10 years at NFM developing film talent in the region before going freelance. I developed the Remake a Take project as Northern Film & Media were keen to see the diversity and breadth of Northern Film represented as part of Great Exhibition of the North. We have tried to take a playful and fun approach to exploring film from the interactive pop-up film stills positioned across Newcastle and Gateshead to our DIY Film Challenge and Movie Map. Our challenge with developing this project was finding a way for people to engage with film beyond sitting down to watch a screening. We want people to interact with friends and family and have fun celebrating our rich film culture. We were also keen to see a real range of films represented so as well as classics such as Kes and Get Carter we have also presented films from exciting up and coming talent such as God’s Own Country and Lady Macbeth as part of our movie trail. We hope that the Remake a Take project gives people a deeper insight into Northern film culture whilst at the same time, becoming a part of it!

Rebecca Horn – The Hexagon Experiment

Brighter Sound is the organisation behind The Hexagon Experiment – a six part series of ‘Friday night experiments’ featuring live music, conversations and original commissions from pioneering women at the forefront of music, art and science. A Manchester-based music charity, Brighter Sound works across the North and nationally to support creativity, put music into the lives of young people and work for gender equality in the music sector.

Their Both Sides Now initiative is an ambitious and inspirational three year programme of residencies, commissions, training, resources and activism advocating for change around the roles, representation and recognition of women in music – particularly those in the North of England.

It’s this strand of work, and a partnership with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester that drew them to develop a programme for Great Exhibition of the North.

“We saw this as a perfect opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary female talent emerging in the North of England, not just in music, but in science. The ‘wonder material’ graphene was isolated for the first time in an after-hours experimental session between Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov. We were inspired by this idea of limitless possibilities, and wanted to represent this across the programme by making unexpected links between art and science.”

You can still catch 3 more sessions before the end of Great Exhibition of the North: Part #4: Making Waves, Part #5: Wow Machine, Part #6: Works in Progress

Steve Mayes – Lego Timeline of Northern Innovation

I’m a Lego artist and my contribution to Great Exhibition of the North is a timeline of northern innovation created from Lego.

I wanted to create something fun and interesting so that children in particular could relate to it. It starts with the industrial revolution and the invention of the Rocket and goes on across nearly 8 metres worth of models right up to futuristic innovations.  When people come to see the Lego Timeline at The Mining Institute in Newcastle what we’re encouraging them to do is explore the venue, we’ve got another room with loads of Lego in it so people can be inspired by what they see and then have a go at building their own models. I really hope that it appeals to both little kids and big kids alike.


I work with a company called Future Everything who are based in Manchester. I’m showing a piece called EVERY THING EVERY TIME in front of Theatre Royal in the centre of Newcastle. It is a split flap display that’s showing poetry that’s derived from data from the city using open data from the Urban Observatory based in Newcastle University. The idea behind it is to explain the city through it’s data and to make that tangible by a big display. It’s been amazing to be involved in Great Exhibition of the North, I really like Newcastle!

Listen to a short interview with Naho on our Get North 2018 Facebook page.

Mark Fell – Protomusic #1

I’m Mark Fell and I’m an artist based in South Yorkshire and I’ve been commissioned to make a 40-channel speaker sound piece called Protomusic #1 for the concourse in Sage Gateshead. I started out by asking the public to submit environmental sounds. I was quite keen to make people listen to their environment. We got hundreds of these sounds and I took about 27 of them and worked with lots of musicians to try to recreate those sounds using instrumental ingredients. All different kinds of musical traditions were involved like classical, folk music, Northumberland Pipes and then collaged together to recreate these environmental sounds.


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