My First Socially Distanced Theatre Experience As Carl Hutchinson Is Allowed To Play Out Again

Everything Else, Show and Gig Reviews

Last night was the first night in almost seven months that the Tyne Theatre and Opera House was able to open their auditorium for a show. It was their first ever socially distanced performance, keeping everything in line with the government’s rules, and, for the staff and audience alike, it wasn’t a normal theatre experience.

Carl Hutchinson headlined the evening with his new material, aptly named ‘Carl Hutchinson Is Allowed To Play Out Again’. He was also joined by support acts Anth Young and Louise Young, both local favourites in the comedy scene. Anth and Louise were both welcomed to the stage in turn and did fantastic jobs of warming up the crowd. Having seen them both perform on Carl’s comedy live streams from the Tyne Theatre during lockdown, I wasn’t expecting anything less.

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The beautiful Tyne Theatre and Opera House was brought back to life last night

Upon entering the building, everyone was asked to keep their masks on at all times, to use the hand sanitising stations at the entrance, and to wait at their seats until being instructed by a member of staff to leave at the end of the show. The bars were also closed to audience members and we were instead served with a drinks service at our seats. Perhaps the strangest thing of the night was sitting with our hands up to let the staff know we’d like to buy a drink. It almost felt like being back at school, but it was certainly much safer than being three people deep in a queue at the bar. Seating had also been strategically planned so that every other row of seats was unused and groups of two or four from the same household were separated by at least 2 seats between them. Although the venue holds up to 1100 people, there was only a limited capacity of 200 tickets available for last nights performance, which were all sold out.

Despite the smaller than normal numbers, Carl took the stage to a roaring round of applause. He did hilariously forget his microphone as he walked on stage though, and blamed the fact he hasn’t been able to do a live show in months. But it got the set off to a very funny start! Anyone who has seen Carl live before knows that he’s a born comic and a pro on stage. He interacts with the crowd wonderfully and clearly really enjoys playing to his hometown.

Carl’s material was full of hilarious stories and tales about his career and home life. His inspiration coming from anything from relatable arguments with his wife, to hosting BBQ’s, to farting on a train. There wasn’t a dull moment throughout the night and I was doubled over with laughter numerous times. The theatre was truly brought to life again and it was wonderful to be a part of.

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Carl Hutchinson on stage at the Tyne Theatre

Last night was obviously a special show for Carl as he beamed on stage telling jokes. But it became all the more obvious as he got emotional when it was time to leave the stage. He stated ‘we don’t know when we’ll be able to do this again’. There were a few tears in the house, including my own.

We were led out of different exists, depending on where we were seated, and leaving the venue was very stress-free. It is worth noting that all the staff at the Tyne Theatre were brilliant last night, and made sure that all guests had a great night, and were kept safe, regardless of the strange circumstances.

After the leaving the venue, however, something struck me. It hit 10pm as we travelled in a taxi directly through the city centre, which is currently the curfew time set by the government. We watched hundreds of drunk revellers, mainly young students, pour out of the bars and into the streets of Newcastle. We saw four separate people fall over because of how drunk they were. I have nothing against this at all, because when I was younger I certainly did the same. But what we saw at 10pm is just what would have happened 3am in normal times. The Government have encouraged students to come to universities and stay in halls of residents with hundreds of others, but they have done nothing useful at all to support our cultural businesses, including live venues, pubs and bars. The curfew is doing nothing but cut short vital trading hours for these businesses and encouraging drinkers to get drunker earlier in the day. What on Earth did Boris expect when he brought this into play?

The hypocrisy from the government is not just infuriating but also dangerous while we watch cultural venues across the country suffer and staff be made redundant every day. The way the arts in its various forms has been treated during this pandemic by the government has been an utter shambles. All I can hope is that it doesn’t continue for much longer, and believe in the incredible resilience of UK creatives.

Carl Hutchinson thanks the audience and theatre staff at the end of his show

Review: Horticulture

Eating Out in Newcastle

It’s just been announced that Pilgrim Street in Newcastle is about to have a facelift, which will include modernisation of the street and the introduction of new housing, offices and businesses. But there’s one business that has already seen the potential in the area.

Horticulture, one of Newcastle’s most trendy bar and restaurants, opened its doors in summer 2019 and has already made its mark as one of the most specialised cocktail bars in the city. Boasting a drinks menu that features over 50 percolators, there’s something for everyone.

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Cocktails on Horticulture’s first floor

The venue itself was previously Paradiso restaurant on Market Lane, and is made up of 3 separate floors. The owner, Mike Hesketh, has poured his heart and soul into the vision for Horticulture, and has crafted a beautiful setting. A mixture of modern street art, 70’s disco balls and outdoor/indoor vibes with greenery flourishing around the building, it’s unlike any other venue in the city.

Not to mention, their restaurant offers an incredibly unique menu. Featuring a wide selection of small plates, basically like tapas but not Spanish, they focus on organic, environmentally friendly and locally sourced ingredients. Chef Peter Breckon proudly presents seasonal dishes that have been lovingly and creatively crafted, described by Horticulture themselves as “modern British cuisine with international flavours”.

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Barbeque tiger prawns at Horticulture

To make sure we sampled as much of the food as possible, my partner and I chose the ‘Earth, Land and Sea’ option, which was a collection of set dishes at £20 per person. We also ordered the scallops and halloumi fries from the main menu as they sounded too good to pass on.

As each dish was served it was obvious we’d made a great choice! The sweet potato curry and chicken thigh tangine were our favourite’s from the sharing menu and the scallops and halloumi fries were absolutely incredible. The assortment of flavours that packed every individual dish were amazing and clearly very articulately put together. The only downside was that our table was a bit small for the amount of food that we’d ordered! I did ask to swap the dessert on the set menu from strawberries and yoghurt to the chocolate creameux with black cherry gel, which the staff were more than accommodating about. Having a big sweet tooth, I think it may have been my favourite part of the meal.

Delicious small dishes at Horticulture

We ended the night with a couple of cocktails on the first floor bar and soaked up the surroundings. Having such an extensive drinks list it can be hard to choose which to go for, so we’ll definitely be back sooner rather than later. But next time we might have to visit for brunch too!

To view Horticulture’s full menu and make a booking, visit: http://www.horticultureuk.co.uk

Review: Zucchini Pasta Bar

Eating Out in Newcastle

In the heart of Newcastle is the iconic Swan House roundabout. A well known structure in the cities landscape. But what’s on that roundabout has changed numerous times since it was built in 1967. If you’ve been there recently, you’ll have noticed a small restaurant nestled underneath Metro Radio’s headquarters called Zucchini.

Zucchini Pasta Bar is exactly what its name describes. They pride themselves on serving “hand rolled fresh egg pasta to the beautiful people of Newcastle”. Their pasta is lovingly created every day using free-range eggs from Northumberland and they are the first dedicated pasta bar bringing an authentic Italian experience to the region.

Zucchini’s ciabatta garlic bread with pizza sauce

The restaurant is designed with a simple interior and relaxed atmosphere. It’s also placed in the ideal location to people watch through the floor to ceiling windows. As soon as we stepped through the door we were greeted by friendly staff and given our choice of tables. Luckily we arrived just before the lunchtime rush so we picked our favourite spot.

Having visited before, we already knew how great Zucchini’s ciabatta garlic bread is, so this was a no brainier. But we both chose pasta dishes for our mains that we hadn’t tried before, and we were both very glad that we did!

I opted for the taglierini with smoked salmon, leek & crayfish tails and, I have to say, this is the best dish I tried here so far. The tangy sauce was absolutely delicious and the fish worked wonderfully with the taglierini pasta (which I would describe as a skinny tagliatelle). My partner chose the fettuccine spicy sausage and loved the subtle spiciness of the meat and crispy sourdough crumbs dusted on top of the pasta. I couldn’t finish my dish as the portions are very generous, but if I had a larger stomach I certainly would have!

Fresh pasta dishes at Zucchini Pasta Bar

The desserts looked too good to pass up though, so we couldn’t leave without a sugar fix. As tasty as the pasta was, the tiramisu was absolutely my favourite part of the meal. It’s probably the best tiramisu I’ve ever had, and it’s one of my favourite desserts so that’s saying a lot! It was a perfect combination of creamy with a hit of alcoholic flavour. Andy had the cinnamon sugared pasta snaps with Nutella & salted caramel dips, which were super sweet and completely unique.

Tiramisu at Zucchini Pasta Bar

Overall, as with our previous visits, the service was excellent and the food was hearty and incredible. It’s a firm favourite of mine in Newcastle’s foody scene and somewhere we’re lucky to have on our doorstep.

Zucchini Pasta Bar, Newcastle

To find out more or make a booking, visit: http://www.zucchinipastabar.co.uk

Local Comedian Matt Reed Releases Artwork To Help Save The Stand Comedy Club

Everything Else, Show and Gig Reviews, Uncategorized

Local funny lad and regular comic on the North East comedy scene Matt Reed has designed his very own artwork to help The Stand to survive.

Due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown of all entertainment venues across the UK since 22nd March, our local comedy club The Stand is currently struggling to survive. Having played host to thousands of comedians since 2011, from brand new up and comers to the biggest names in comedy, it truly is one of the most loved venues in our city centre. However, The Stand (including it’s sister venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow) has not secured any financial support from the government to ensure its survival.

The black and white version of Matt Reed’s artwork

The Stand announced in an email yesterday:

“In a normal trading year The Stand pays out £1m in act fees.

The clubs also helped raise over £100k in that period for local charities through monthly benefit gigs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.  

We have received funding from local authorities to support hospitality businesses and the job retention scheme.

This has helped but it has not bridged the gap. 

Since Covid-19 with no customers through the doors the clubs have a trading loss of 342K and as of yet have received no funding from arts funding bodies Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government need to step up and help before it’s too late.

Without their support there will be no Stand Comedy Club providing a real living wage to it’s employers, Providing revenue for acts and supporting charities.  

There will be no clubs to provide entertainment enriching the culture of the country.”

Matt Reed is a popular regular at The Stand comedy club

To help The Stand in their mission to keep comedy and their venues alive, regular stand up and well known local name Matt Reed has created his very own piece of art to raise money for Newcastle’s venue. The art features a gorgeous portrait of the well known entrance to The Stand on High Bridge, and comes in both colour and black and white.

He stated on social media today:

“The Stand is in trouble, comedy is in trouble. We are all aware the government is not going to help. The stand is a place where some of the weird and wonderful get a chance to do comedy. It’s vital to the city. It’s where I started in 2001 at the Edinburgh club, it’s where some of the biggest names in comedy started. It’s where some of the oddest people in the world got a chance to be themselves. But mainly it’s where thousands of people forgot all their problems while they watched the imbeciles on stage do their best to make them laugh. Some failed but people still left with a story about their night in these amazing clubs. There is nothing as good as a comedy night in a packed room laughing till it hurts. Surrounded by friends or even on your own.
There’s very few comedy clubs as important to the scene as The Stand.”


Through his love of Newcastle’s comedy scene he has decided to sell prints of his artwork through his Instagram page to raise money. To purchase one for yourself and donate to help save The Stand, you can find Matts work on Instagram at @mattreedillustration – he says you just need to drop him a message to place an order. Both the colour and black and white designs cost £15 each, plus postage of £1.50. That’s a bargain you just can’t argue with, for an incredible cause.

The colour version of Matt Reed’s artwork

Please visit The Stand’s website at: http://www.thestand.co.uk for further information on how you can help them. You can also sign this open letter to Save Live Comedy:

https://savelivecomedy.co.uk/open-letter/

My Top 10 Madonna Singles

Everything Else, pop culture

Madonna is undoubtably one of the biggest powerhouses in the music industry, and has been since she released her debut single back in 1982. Since then she has continuously reinvented herself, experimented in style and pumped out a collection of incredible studio albums. Her insatiable determination to dominate popular music has seen her become one of the worlds biggest icons of pop history, fashion, Hollywood and radio stations.

August 16th saw Madonna celebrate her 62nd birthday, so it only feels right to take a walk down memory lane and bask in the glory of some of her hits. So here are my top 10 Madonna singles;

10. Ghosttown- Rebel Heart

In my opinion, Ghosttown didn’t get the attention it deserved upon its release in 2015. It’s certainly one of Madonna’s less commercially renowned singles, but this doesn’t reflect on the quality of the song. The production and vocal delivery behind the track are marvellous and the music itself sounds like a modern and well crafted ballad. Demonstrably coming from a more technically matured Madonna since her Like A Virgin days. It’s cinematic music video fits perfectly with the track and shows a dystopian Madonna surviving through a post apocalyptic world and eventually dancing through the wreckage in a stunning dance sequence. An underrated gem.

9. Express Yourself – Like A Prayer

This upbeat song comes from Madonna’s Like A Prayer album and encouraged women everywhere to never settle for second best. It was also the opening song to her famous Blond Ambition tour, as she appeared on stage shouting “Do you believe in love?” to the audience, while donning her notorious ‘cone bra’ corset. The single is a deep funk and pop creation and it’s lyrics celebrate female empowerment. It’s thought to have inspired many of today’s female music artists with its feminist message.

8. Music – Music

If I think back to the year 2000, this song perfectly sums up my pre-teen years. Getting home from school, the video to this song was on TV and turning on the radio meant listening to Music on repeat. It was also the only CD single I wanted to buy in HMV to go in my discman. Madonna had reinvented her image once again to release this dance record and it immediately became one of the sounds of the early noughties. The video of course featured (a then pregnant) Madonna living it up heading to clubs in a gold limousine, driven by Ali G, while dressed in a white fur coat and a cowboy hat. As you do.

7. Material Girl – Like A Virgin

Material Girl’s video saw Madonna strutting her stuff in a Marilyn Monroe influenced role. Draped in diamonds and a fancy pink dress, she could have any man she wanted – and his money. Material Girl was a stamp of power in Madonna’s career and was one of the songs that established her as the icon she is today. The electronic sounding vocals and synth arrangement of the track still give it a futuristic feel, even though it was released over 35 years ago. The song is a pinnacle of pop music and continues to have a strong influence on the genre today.

6. Like A Prayer – Like A Prayer

“When you call my name it’s like a little prayer”. Madonna certainly had us down on our knees as she took us there. Like A Prayer is one of M’s best known songs and received critical acclaim across the globe after its release in 1989. Unlike some of her other releases, this single speaks of her relationship with God as she praises him as, well, Godly. Of course, the song could have other meanings depending on how you listen to it, but it’s rooted in religion. The video for the song caused deep controversy as it featured Madonna steamily kissing a black saint in church and the burning of some Ku Klux Klan-esque crucifixes. All heavy stuff that lead to the Vatican having a big fall out with our Madge.

5. Frozen – Ray of Light

Frozen is in my top 10 Madonna singles because it’s, for want of a better word, a bit weird. It doesn’t sound like anything else and seems like it should have been on the soundtrack to some sort of Sci-Fi film, even though it never was. It makes me think of Madonna as some kind of ice powered super villain, and to be honest I think she’d nail that role! It’s haunting and creepy and the closest thing I can think to compare it to would be ‘Stay’ by Shakespeare’s Sister. It’s peak Madonna giving us a different, spooky, reinvention of herself. The ballad was her first single to debut at number 1 in the UK charts and it’s video features a gothic style Madonna using a black veil to mimic contortionism and shape shifting into a flock of crows. Whew.

4. Miles Away – Hard Candy

Though Miles Away is possibly one of Madonna’s lesser known single releases, at least outside of her dedicated fandom, it’s one of my favourites. It comes from her Hard Candy album and was possibly a bit overshadowed by the highly successful collaboration with Justin Timberlake on their single 4 Minutes, which also features on the same album. Miles Away is much softer and easy to listen to. It’s catchy chorus gives a dreamy vibe and it’s acoustic/electro backing lets it linger gorgeously in my mind for the rest of the day after listening to it. The song is apparently autobiographical and talks about long distance relationships.

3. Secret – Bedtime Stories

Secret is Madonna’s lead 1994 single from her Bedtime Stories album. It was a step away from her more dance influenced early pop tracks and combined sultry melodic vocals with mid tempo accents. It had more of an R&B persuasion then her previous work and gave yet another side to Madonna’s ongoing discography. The chilled out, yet melancholic, song offers a gentler and slightly more vulnerable side to the queen of pop.

2. Papa Don’t Preach – True Blue

The strong opening chords of Papa Don’t Preach and the eclectic mix of acoustic, string and electric instrumentals throughout, have given this moderate tempo single a fresh and original sound since it’s release in 1986. The track and it’s innovative lyrics offer something that I’ve certainly never heard in another pop song. It focusses on a father daughter relationship and tells the story of the daughter finding out that she has become pregnant at a young age, asking her Papa for love and support. “Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep. Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep”. Madonna also famously dedicated this song to Pope John Paul II, after he urged Italian fans to boycott her concerts.

1. Vogue – I’m Breathless

I’ve chosen Vogue as my number one Madonna song because, quite simply, it’s iconic. When you think of Madonna you think of the Vogue dance moves that still storm dance floors and influence modern dance today, as well as the unmistakable “Come on, vogue!” chorus line. Both the choreography and the song were influenced by the Harlem ballroom scene, and it’s said that Madonna wanted to highlight and celebrate this phenomenon, born from the African American and Latino LGBTQ drag community. It was the best selling single of 1990 and has proved timeless in the realm of pop music. The stylish black and music video is one of the most recognisable music videos since MTV launched in the 80s and continues to provide a source of power and inspiration for many within the LGBTQ community today.

*Madonna’s studio albums are available across streaming services now. Please note that I do not own the images used in this article.

Review; The Little Dumpling House

Eating Out in Newcastle

It’s been a strange few months and, during lockdown, my partner and I have both been very strict about only leaving the house for necessities. Even a few weeks ago when bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen again on 4th July we opted to stay well clear. This has partly been down to fear of passing the virus onto anyone unknowingly, and partly due to nerves of once again being in a crowded and possibly dangerous space.

But yesterday we decided to venture a bit further back into ‘normality’ and decided to go for food in Newcastle city centre for the first time since March. I’d noticed a new place that had caught my eye on Instagram called The Little Dumpling House. Chinese style dumplings are one of my favourites so I was excited to give this new small restaurant a go.

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To say the least, I wasn’t disappointed! It’s based on Ridley Place so an excellent location if you’re shopping in town. As you approach it you’ll notice a sign featuring a Chinese symbol sticking out from the building.

The first thing I noted when stepping inside was how clean and simply laid out the place was, making social distancing very easy. There are only two large bench tables and some bar style seating at the window, so I can imagine on a busy day these would get taken up quickly. But all of the food is also available for takeaway, so you can have dumplings on the go. The decor is stylish but minimal with a plant wall and some Chinese lanterns in the window.

As soon as we got there we were warmly greeted from the counter by the host, who went out of his way the whole time we were there to make sure we were enjoying everything (even though he didn’t know I’d be writing a review until I asked for his photo before we left). He took his time in explaining the menu and choices of sauces and just made us feel incredibly welcome with his cheery service and great sense of humour.

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Fantastic service and a friendly face!

The menu is great for authentic Chinese food, specialising of course in traditional Chinese dumplings. We chose a selection of six chicken and mushroom dumplings, six pork and Chinese leaf dumplings, and two slow cooked pork in steamed buns. They were out of the burger buns when we arrived so we went for baos instead. All of this with a drink came to under £13, which is incredible value for money!

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The interior and food at The Little Dumpling House

The food is cooked fresh and served hot in bamboo steamers, giving the meal an even more authentic feel. There isn’t really a word I can use to sum up the food from The Little Dumpling House thats any better than – YUM! Everything we ordered was delicious and we were absolutely stuffed by the time we’d finished. You can choose which sauce you’d like at a cost of 10p each, so I went for soy sauce while my partner chose the homemade chilli oil. I’m not one for spicy food but my boyfriend assured me that if you like a bit of heat with your food then it would be a great compliment to your meal.

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It’s impossible to choose a favourite between the chicken and mushroom or pork and Chinese leaf dumplings because both fillings were so good. But we’ll definitely be trying a couple more of the options next time we go, and we absolutely can’t wait to eat here again!

Given that The Little Dumpling House only opened on 18th May 2020, it’s a brave time to have opened a new foodie venture – but I’m sure glad they did. This small restaurant/ takeaway is a fantastic new addition to Newcastle’s vast food scene and I hope it’s around for a very long time. Honestly, I can’t rave enough about this brilliant little place. Great service, lovely interior and fantastic food.

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The Little Dumpling House, Ridley Place, Newcastle

You can follow The Little Dumpling House on Instagram @ the_little_dumpling_house and also find them on Facebook, here; https://m.facebook.com/thelittledumplinghouse

They are also on Deliveroo for delivery, here; https://deliveroo.co.uk/menu/newcastle/newcastle-city-centre/the-little-dumpling-house-t-a-mannaza

What Does Christmas 2020 Mean For Panto In The North East?

Everything Else, Show and Gig Reviews

It has been announced by the government that UK theatres will be allowed to open again for live productions from 1st August, on a trial basis with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

For many theatres, this offers a glimmer of hope, but they are far from out of the woods. Without being able to sell tickets at full capacity, most theatres will not see a profit from any performances, or worse, could even lose money. Theatres in Sheffield and York are also the latest to announce that they may have to make a number of redundancies if they are to survive following lockdown.

Beauty and the Beast, Theatre Royal Newcastle, 2019 (image taken from the Theatre Royal’s Facebook page)

Due to the last few months of uncertainty and lack of generated income, this leaves the Christmas season of 2020 for UK theatres questionable. In the North East, some of our venues are hopeful that panto season can still go ahead this year. However, sadly, the People’s Theatre in Heaton have already stated that their 2020 panto has been cancelled. They released a statement back in June noting; “Although December feels a long way off, our preparations have already begun. We would usually start rehearsing soon after the summer, and we don’t see that being possible this year.”

The Customs House in South Shields also has Christmas productions planned from 25th November. But Executive Director, Ray Spencer MBE, has recently stated; “As each week goes by, a bigger question mark is placed over this year’s pantomime Rapunzel and we will make an announcement in August based on the best available guidance for your continued safety and protection”.

The Theatre Royal has yet to make a full statement regarding their annual Christmas panto, which is usually a huge hit with regulars. However, following their announcement of 44 redundancies and definite cancellation of all performances up until the end of November, it may unfortunately have an affect on their Humpty Dumpty pantomime, due to be taking place this winter. Playhouse Whitley Bay are also yet to make a statement regarding their production of Snow White, however it looks like it currently is still planned to go ahead at their venue from 5th December.

Jack & the Beanstalk at Playhouse Whitley Bay, 2019 (image taken from Playhouse Whitley Bay’s Facebook page)

The Ambassador Theatre Group, operators of the Sunderland Empire, announced earlier this month that all productions until 20th September were being suspended. So, there may be hope that their Christmas production could still go ahead from 12th December as planned, but possibly at a reduced capacity depending on government guidelines.

There is also no official word from the Tyne Theatre and Opera House regarding their panto this year as yet, which has become another firm favourite with pantomime lovers in the region in recent years. However staff from the venue are hopeful that the production of Sleeping Beauty will still go ahead from 4th December as anticipated.

Aladdin at Tyne Theatre and Opera House, 2019 (image taken from Tyne Theatre’s Facebook page)

One of the latest announcements from a local venue comes from Northern Stage – who launched a press release a few days ago to reveal that their Autumn 2020 program will not be going ahead this year. However, they are intending on rescheduling many of their already proposed productions that were due to take place this autumn, including Gatsby and Red Ellen, at later dates. Their planned family friendly Christmas performances of Hey Diddle Diddle Christmas Spectacular and The Sorcerers Apprentice will also be postponed, with The Sorcerers Apprentice already confirmed for winter 2021. Executive Director of Northern Stage, Kate Denby, states; “While the government has announced its first steps to bringing back live performances, there is still some way to go until we can put shows on in the theatre. As a producing theatre, we need to consider how long it takes to make a show from scratch – from writing, through to casting, rehearsing, choreographing, creating the music, building sets and making costumes in our workshops – and that’s all before it even makes it onto the stage when our technical teams work their magic. So we have made the difficult decision to postpone our autumn productions, but we remain absolutely committed to making these shows and look forward to continuing to work with our brilliant creative teams and freelancers to bring them to life.”

BUT – in a positive and innovative move for theatre in the region, Northern Stage has also announced that Associate Director Mark Calvert and their creative teams are on a mission to save Christmas, and are planning “a magical theatre experience for the whole family that can be enjoyed in a safe and socially distanced way”. It won’t look like the type of production we are all used to, and it has not yet been confirmed if the production will be happening inside Northern Stage, but hopefully it will still be a spectacular and inventive show.

Due to the extreme circumstances that 2020 has presented to the theatre and live performance industry, many venues are now unfortunately left in a position that won’t allow them to produce Christmas shows this year. But the creatives behind them are just that, creative, so while the tradition of the Christmas Pantomime may not go ahead for a lot of venues, theatre goers and supporters are likely to see more unusual and unorthodox performances being showcased this year. Whether they are socially distanced, take place in outdoor venues, or even happen online. This year, more than ever, it’s important that the general public keep an open mind as to what Christmas 2020 may look like in theatre land, for the love of our venues.

The Snow Queen, Northern Stage 2019 (image taken from Northern Stages Facebook page)

*Update* – Since this article was published, Customs House have announced that their pantomime will not be going ahead for Christmas 2020. Please visit http://www.customshouse.co.uk for more details.

The Government Is Failing The Arts Sector… Again

Everything Else

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson left theatres and performance venues in an impossible position as he warned the UK to ‘avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues’, but chose not to order these venues to close for a further four days.

This meant that the public were aware that they should not be attending events with mass gatherings, but left venues in limbo of having to choose to close for public safety, but facing uncertainty about what would that would mean for their staff and building. As the government didn’t immediately make it mandatory for cultural venues to close, it meant that they were unable to claim any compensation for cancelled performances. This left venue managers in the turmoil of facing financial loss, trying to keep customers happy as some were against going to shows but others were more than happy to as lockdown hadn’t been brought into affect yet, as well as wanting to keep their own staff safe.

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Newcastle’s Theatre Royal (image taken from their Facebook page)

Eventually when the government did announce that all theatres, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants needed to close back on 20th March, it at least meant that the decision had been taken out of their hands. However, since this occurred there has been absolutely no financial support offered specifically to the arts and culture sector. The furlough scheme has been introduced, however, which does allow many businesses to continue to offer monthly pay to their staff rather than make them redundant. But, within the live performance industry many staff are freelance, which means that they may not receive furlough at all, and also zero hour contract staff who also may not see much benefit of the furlough scheme.

Now, the affects of venues such as theatres having to remain closed for many months, with no reopening date in sight yet, is proving critical. Venues in other areas of the country such as Nuffield Southampton Theatre and Southport Theatre and Convention Centre have already sadly gone into administration. Even the iconic Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London has warned that it faces permanent closure and insolvency as a result of lockdown.

In Newcastle, it has come to light that some of our own venues are struggling too. As theatres and venues rely on ongoing tickets sales and revenue from merchandise and bars to keep going, it’s more than understandable that our venues face insecure futures. In the past week, The Evening Chronicle has broken stories about both the Tyneside Cinema and Newcastle Theatre Royal facing mass staff redundancies, as they are in serious risk of their venues closing indefinitely (links below).

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People’s Theatre in Heaton (image taken from their Facebook page)

It goes without saying that buildings such as these cost a lot of money to maintain, even when they are not in use, and without ongoing performances it is increasingly difficult for venues to continue to exist without making cuts and without being able to rely on income from future shows. As the government is currently unable to offer the cultural sector any information on when live performance venues may be able to reopen, and under what circumstances that may be, it’s also going to become harder for theatres to go ahead with this years panto season. Although pantomimes generally don’t start until the end of November, there is a lot of work and investment that goes into them that usually ramps up in the summer and autumn time to prepare shows. However, lockdown restrictions may continue to put a big halt to these types of productions, leading the People’s Theatre in Heaton to already cancel their panto for 2020. Panto is one of the most crucial income generating times of year for many theatres, so the loss of it will result in a huge financial hit.

The Theatre Royal’s panto is usually a huge success (image taken from their Facebook page)

As people fear the worst for the UK’s theatre and arts sector, petitions and calls on the government demanding further support for the industry are being amplified across the country. As well as providing entertainment and culture for the public, performance venues are instrumental to the economy. They not only provide jobs for thousands of people, but also offer enrichment, charitable experiences and skill building for vulnerable people, and bring in millions of pounds each year in both local spending and tourism. If the arts sector suffers, this will then have an effect on local restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, taxi firms, beauty salons, the list goes on.

But still, the government is failing to offer any direct support to the UK’s arts and culture venues. In a week which has seen the reopening of nonessential shops and zoos, arts venues are still being left out and unsupported. A pattern which perhaps comes unsurprisingly to arts professionals, as arts and culture funding has been gradually and consistently cut since 2010, even before the pandemic began.

While the spirit and passion of arts workers and culture lovers remains strong, support from the countries leaders remains nonexistent.

The Tyneside Cinema (image taken from their Facebook page)

Links;

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/tyneside-cinema-consult-111-staff-18427146

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/theatre-royal-newcastle-jobs-panto-18405534

https://www.change.org/p/the-uk-government-government-need-to-support-arts-organisations-in-c19-recovery

North East Cultural Sector Comes Together To Denounce Racism

Everything Else, Show and Gig Reviews

Over the last two weeks, the Black Lives Matter movement has become incredibly prevalent and at the forefront of worldwide media, following mass protests against police brutality. This follows the tragic death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of US police in Minneapolis, despite him being unarmed.

Rightly so, the black community and those against racism across the globe have had enough of the unfair treatment towards black people from authorities, and the systematic racism that has led to many people of colour being killed and oppressed by police.

In a bid of solidarity, this week has seen people from all over the world share George’s story, sign petitions, donate to charities supporting black families and organisations and raise awareness for black history. This has included many different companies and organisations giving their own messages of support to the Black Lives Matter movement, and actively push for inclusivity.

Today a collective of cultural organisations based in North East of England have publicly ‘Denounced Racism’, in a message and stance that holds their sector very much against racism of any kind.

Organisations, including Northern Stage, Alphabetti Theatre, New Writing North and Gosforth Civic Theatre to name a few, have shared the following message on their social media pages and on their websites;

“We stand to denounce racism in all its forms

The cultural sector of the North East declare that silence is not ok and silence is seen as complicity. Racism has no place in a just and humane society.

Whilst we cannot undo pain and neglect, we are calling on all of us in the arts, cultural, heritage sectors; professional and voluntary to work together to address racism and its deep roots. We must listen, have conversations and most importantly act, we know we need to do better. Everyone is part of the solution – artists, staff, trustees, partners, promoters, audiences and communities.

We want to tackle this together in sharing better understanding and practices. We stand united to bring about change in our thinking and actions as a collective of organisations and individuals.

In the weeks and months to come we will collectively act to build on this statement with concrete steps and actions to demonstrate our commitment to bringing about real change. We ask you to stand with us.”

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The cultural sector has and will continue to play an incredibly important role in spreading awareness of Black Lives Matter, as well as being inclusive and giving a platform to people of colour from many different backgrounds and heritage. As a region, it’s vital that our cultural organisations push the fight for equality.

For more information about Black Lives Matter, or to make a charitable donation, please visit;

https://blacklivesmatter.com

24 Shops That Ruled Newcastle In The 90s & 00s

Everything Else

Newcastle has a been a well known shopping destination for years now, and we’re lucky to have a wide collection of stores to choose from. Although today we have an incredible selection of independent shops mixed in with larger brands, many chain stores, and some of our independents, have been & gone.

If, like me, you experienced shopping in Newcastle in the late 90’s and 00’s, lots of the following shops may take you back to a much simpler time. When Baby Spice made platform shoes popular, flavoured lipgloss was considered super fashionable and your collection of rubber bracelets needed to be longer than your actual arm.

1. Dolcis

Dolcis, old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops

Dolcis was the place to go for trendy shoes. If you were after a new pair of summer sandals or stylish school shoes, you had to head to Dolcis in Eldon Square.

2. Virgin Megastore

Virgin Megastore old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops,

Remember standing in the little music booths in Virgin Megastore on Northumberland Street to listen to the latest chart topping singles, like Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl? It was in direct competition with HMV, which was also just up the street at the time.

3. Kookai

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, Kookai

From what I remember, there was a Kookai concession in Fenwicks, and it also had its own larger store on Market Street, taking up part of what is currently Start Fitness. At the time it was considered high fashion… or at least the high streets version of it.

4. Woolworths

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, Woolworths

Kids today will sadly never experience the greatest pick & mix there ever was. Woolworths on Clayton Street was the go to for sweets, stationary, gifts and toys. *Sigh*, how we miss it…

5. Jane Norman

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, Jane Norman

The best thing about Jane Norman was that you could use their snazzy plastic bags for your PE kit, and look dead cool at school. The clothes were pretty overpriced though, so it was best to go when there was a sale on.

6. Birthdays

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops

Birthdays sat in between Haymarket bus station and Haymarket metro station for years. It was a tiny little card and gift shop which was super handy whenever you’d forgotten it was someone’s birthday.

7. Miss Selfridge

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, Miss Selfridge

Now, although there is still a small Miss Selfridge above Dorothy Perkins in town, there did used to be a much larger version of the shop at the main entrance to Eldon Square. It had a lot more to choose from, and even a photo booth that printed photos as stickers.

8. Early Learning Centre

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, ELC, Early learning centre

Many people around my age, *cough* early thirties *cough*, will remember the absolute joy of going to the Early Learning Centre to buy those amazing plastic toy animals and dinosaurs. It was one of the best shops in Eldon Square that a child could go to.

9. Quicksilver

So, I’ve already mentioned the big Miss Selfridge that used to be next to the main entrance of Eldon Square, Quicksilver took its place afterwards and had a large store in town. Perfect fit you wanted to look cool and athletic.

10. The Disney Store

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, Disney Store

A lot of Newcastle’s regular shoppers will know that Disney had a shop in the new posh bit of Eldon Square recently, but years ago they had a dedicated Disney Store, close to John Lewis. It was either where Clinton Cards or Lakeland is now, but I’m not sure which.

11. Our Price

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, our price

Now this is really testing my memory, but I’m pretty sure that Our Price used to be next to one of the entrances to the Green Market, where the new food quarter is now. It was SO cheap you couldn’t not come away with loads of random CD’s.

12. La Senza

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, La senza

La Senza was the lingerie shop that every girl bought their first (uncomfortable) push up bra from. No matter the season, La Senza was always stockpiled with underwear and flowery bras in every colour.

13. Gadget Shop

Remember the Gadget Shop? It was full of pointless gadgets that you never needed but always wanted. It was also a fantastic store to buy Christmas presents, or just waste half a day playing with stuff you didn’t buy.

14. Adams

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, Adams childrenswear

I don’t remember going into Adams when I was a kid, but I may well have done. It was one of Eldon Squares few shops dedicated to just children’s clothing.

15. Morgan

Morgan was another girls clothes shop that had fantastic shopping bags for PE Kits. They also sold large zip up tote bags and black & white t-shirts with just ‘Morgan’ written on them, which to be honest is the only thing I think I ever bought there.

16. Bay

Bay, or Bay Trading Co., was another clothes shop gone before it’s time. I had a pair of baby pink corduroy jeans that I absolutely loved from Bay, and I’ll never forget them.

17. BHS

old Newcastle shops, Eldon Square, closed newcastle shops, bhs

There used to be a massive British Home Stores on Northumberland Street. Eventually Outfit took over the large high street shop, which has also, er, sadly now closed too.

18. Kathmandu

(Not my own image)

Kathmandu is the odd one out here, as it’s the only small local/ independent shop in this list. But credit where credits due, it was a fantastic goth shop if you were into that kind of thing. Remember how busy hippy green on Old Eldon Square used to get? It certainly made Newcastle more interesting.

19. MK One

MK One was always full of bargain clothes. I think I was probably even wearing a top from MK One the first time I ever went drinking at Kiss in the Bigg Market when I was 16.

20. Green Market

(Not my image – further images available from the owner, here; www. newcastlephotos.blogspot.com)

I’ve already mentioned the Green Market very briefly, but I don’t feel like I can leave it out of this list as it feels so nostalgic. It was full of fruit stalls, a computer games shop, an ear piercing shop and a Greggs among others.

21. Tammy Girl

Tammy Girl was a young lasses glow up from children’s wear to FASHIONISTA. Their trendy t-shirts and funky accessories were all the rage, and you knew you were cool if you were wearing a Tammy Girl outfit.

22. Etam

Etam was slightly more grown up than Tammy Girl, and where you’d start shopping once you knew you were becoming a more elegant young lady. It was great for school trousers too.

23. Internacionale/ Au Naturale

Cast you minds back to a time when Eldon Square was home to a superstore that had both Intercionale clothes shop AND Au Naturale interiors. What a dream, what a time to be alive, you’ve never seen so many jelly candles in your life. Quite sure it was where Holland & Barrett is now?

24. Rebel Rebel

Who could forget Rebel Rebel? They had £10 trousers in every colour and every going out top and ridiculously short skirt you could dream of. Even if you didn’t shop there, their sparkly fake Burberry patterned t-shirts were unmistakable.

Have these shops brought back any memories for you? Are there any I’ve missed out that you wish you could step back in time to shop at again? Leave a comment or send me a message!