I made my first trip to the legendary city of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (or to give it its preferred modern moniker Newcastle-Gateshead, reflecting both the north and south bank of the river) last week for a conference on records management – and didn’t regret it. My limited knowledge of the north-east of England had been drawn largely from the popular stereotypes as depicted in Viz comic, The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedershen Pet. Much of this depicts a rather grim, violent place, but I discovered a thriving modern city proud of its industrial past, steeped in history and looking forward to the future. The city’s renaissance of the last few years is reflected by the recent developments on the south bank of the Tyne (ie the part known as Gateshead) such as the Sage theatre (which as one conference speaker pointed out resembles a giant silver slug), the former Baltic Flour Mill, now an art gallery and the luxury riverside flats which have sprung up.
And there’ also of course the marvel of post-modern engineering design, the Millennium Bridge, a curved bridge which lights up at night, regularly changing colour. It was only on receiving change at a corner shop which yielded a pound coin, on the reverse side of which was the bridge itself that I finally realised that this image had been in and out of my pocket for all these years.
And one popular stereotype is in fact true – they do go out in t-shirts in freezing cold, wet weather.