Making an exhibition of the North's greatest work

Sheffield bid to be the host city '“ but Newcastle and Gateshead were victorious.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 21st June 2018, 2:17 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th June 2018, 11:10 am
How the Great Exhibition of the North's water sculpture will look
How the Great Exhibition of the North's water sculpture will look

The Great Exhibition of the North, a Government-funded, 80-day celebration of art, design and innovation, begins tomorrow (Friday), bringing scores of events to venues and outdoor spaces beside the River Tyne.

Billed in the programme as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ in the spirit of the Festival of Britain in 1951, the Great Exhibition aims to showcase the best of culture, engineering, business and education across a summer-long schedule.

It is the biggest happening in England all year and is expected to attract three million visitors. Three ‘hubs’ – the Sage and BALTIC, in Gateshead, and the Great North Museum in Newcastle – will be the focus of activities, alongside three walking trails looking at the programme’s trio of themes.

The main opening event tomorrow includes the launch of a spectacular ‘Angel of the North Fountain’ at the quayside. The water sculpture will be 80 metres long and as high as the Tyne Bridge – as the fountain rises and falls, its ‘wings’ will open and close. Indie band Maximo Park and the Royal Northern Sinfonia will perform, and poet Lemn Sissay is reading his new Anthem for the North live.

Organisers have tried to offer something for everybody. People can see Stephenson’s Rocket, which is making a visit ‘home’, John Lennon’s piano and Emily Bronte’s writing desk.

Lauren Laverne’s Great Northern Soundtrack, a week of gigs curated by the Sunderland-born broadcaster, runs from tomorrow until July 1 at the Sage, featuring Nadine Shah, Roisin Murphy, Field Music and more.

South Yorkshire will have a presence. Sheffield artist and writer Tim Etchells has contributed With/Against, a high-tech LED and neon text installation at Gateshead Quays, inspired by local dialect and phrases. Meanwhile Rotherham sound artist Mark Fell has produced Protomusic #1, an instrumental piece that will be played inside the Sage, using music techniques and technologies to reimagine found sounds from across the North.

Artists from Bloc Projects in Sheffield city centre have offered their perceptions on Life in a Northern Town for exhibitions and events at Carliol House in Newcastle, and the Newbridge Project on Gateshead High Street.

Grenoside-born astronaut Helen Sharman’s Zvezda Sokol suit, which she wore as the first Briton in space, will be on display in the ‘To The Moon and Back’ gallery at the Great North Museum, which is being completely taken over by an exhibition called Which Way North. Artworks by David Hockney and Damien Hirst are among the highlights.

Newcastle’s flagship department store Fenwick is staging a series of events highlighting Northern food and drink – such as a chance to drink gin in the shop’s window.

The bulk of the Great Exhibition is free, but some parts – such as Laverne’s Soundtrack – are ticketed.

The BBC is an official partner and is bringing shows to the exhibition throughout the summer.

Backed by over £5 million of Government money, the undertaking is chaired by Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

“Our diverse programme tells a pioneering story and one that will help change the way the world views the North,” said Verity earlier this year.

Sheffield’s unsuccessful bid was led by the city’s Culture Consortium in 2016. A commission with the Hallé Orchestra, a ‘promenade musical’ inspired by the cutlery trade and dozens of activities in galleries and on Devonshire Green were envisaged.

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