The Late Shows – Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley

Too late for the pigs to stay up

The Late Shows happen once a year now across the UK. Museums, Galleries, bridges, stately homes, gardens and artist’s work shops all open their doors for free and celebrate our English cultural buffet all night – well at least until 11pm. With special events, drinks, dancing and a warm welcome for everyone, it is, to coin a phrase, a very good idea. You generally get to see somethings you may not have seen before. You may also see things you have seen before in quite a different light. Here in Newcastle we headed past our resident brick bard who appears on the end of a row of terraced houses in Stratford Road, for the Ouseburn Valley now a vibrant creative hub of Newcastle’s East end.

Once more into the bricks!

The Ouseburn valley on the edge of the Tyne, was once a part of Newcastle’s great industrial hub, taking in cargo from the ships that traded up and down the mighty river, storing and distributing things that were made here. Coal of course – but other stuff aswell. Biscuits from the biscuit factory (ship’s biscuits – not custard creams) Toffee from the Toffee factory, whiskey from the Cluny Warehouse. The Biscuit factory is now an art gallery, the Toffee factory is now a block of trendy offices for creative industries. The Cluny Whisky Warehouse is the heart of the Ouseburn creative quarter, with artists studios, a music and comedy venue, bar and restaurant all part of the huge rabbit warren of a building.

The Ouseburn Valley from the Cluny Warehouse

The other unusual and charming feature of the Ouseburn area is Byker City Farm which has been here for many years. Nestling beneath the brick built railway bridge and the Metro bridge, it is a little haven of fresh produce and friendly farm animals. It’s hard to believe but some kids who come here from the surrounding estates, don’t realise that pork comes from pigs and eggs from chickens – they think everything comes from the supermarket. While reclining on a hay bale you can pet super tolerant bunnies and tortoises (they must be on Temazapam or something) or buy fresh herbs and plants for your garden or bread from the local artisan baker.

She’s past picking them so you have to pick your own..

It is a real working farm and everywhere there are signs of humour and creativity which make it a fun place to be as well as somewhere to learn about the natural world right in the middle of a busy city.

It won’t take CSI Ouseburn to work this one out

 The artist’s studios were open on the multiple floors of the ex warehouse where local Geordie phrases have been turned into art ‘Why Aye Man’ and  ‘Why Aye Pet’ both expressions of agreement and approval in the vernacular, now appear on trendy mugs T shirts and plates.

Why Aye Pet!

The Toffee factory, now a hub of artists and creative businesses was open. They sported a vintage fair, retro cocktails, a musical speakeasy with tunes from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s every hour with some appropriate swing dancing going on. All very civilised. The nearby Tyne pub was jumping and a number of folk appeared to have turned up on their bikes. Can you be done for drink driving on a  push bike? I did try it once but collided with a lamppost and had to walk the rest of the way..

Off your bike?

 The Seven Stories, the museum of the children’s book was open for business and there was a close encounter with Peter Pan in the foyer. To top it all it was a beautiful warm spring evening. We hardly ever get these in the North East of England so it made the experience extra special. Everyone was sitting outside on the grass and the street furniture drinking, chatting and generally enjoying them selves in a relaxed friendly and fun atmosphere. I wish that bloke who wrote the very rude article about the North East in the Guardian last week (Andy Beckett I believe his name was) had been there. It might have put a bit more of a smile on his unhappy Southern face!

Get Happy!

Peter Pan and Wendy