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!

Lady Gaga And Ariana Grande Released Their Anticipated Collab And I Have Thoughts

pop culture

There’s nothing I enjoy more than pop queens coming together to release an unarguable bop. So a few weeks ago when Lady Gaga first revealed the song list for her sixth studio album, Chromatica, myself and millions of other pop loving fans screeched with joy as we realised that Gaga was collaborating in a song with none other than Ariana Grande.

Rain on Me artwork

The song, titled Rain on Me, was released yesterday, the 22nd May. Which, of course, was also the third anniversary of the tragic Manchester Arena bombing, as one of Ariana Grande’s concerts ended. This didn’t escape me, as I was inside Manchester Arena when the bombing occurred, and it is still something that I, and many others that were at Ariana’s concert that night, still deal with today. The anniversary is a strange and sad day, and it seemed particularly poignant this year as the UK is still in lockdown, and learning to cope with a new way of life. So, I was particularly eager to hear the song, and I knew this wasn’t something that Ariana Grande wouldn’t take lightly.

I played the song on Tidal yesterday as soon as I woke up, and was really relieved by what I heard. For Gaga, the song very much takes me back to her Just Dance days, enjoying pop music for what it is and her debut elaborate fashion and makeup that first introduced us to her. It was also really nice to see Lady Gaga just being Gaga.

She hasn’t hidden her struggle with a medical condition called Fibromyalgia, which causes chronic pain, over the last few years. She also spoke to Zane Lowe in a recent interview and said “… this song ‘Rain On Me,’ the lyrics that I wrote right here in this studio, ‘I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive. Rain on me.’ This is about an analog of tears being the rain. And you know what it’s also a metaphor for, is the amount of drinking that I was doing to numb myself. I’d rather be dry. I’d rather not be drinking, but I haven’t died yet. I’m still alive. Rain on me. Okay, I’m going to keep on drinking. This song has many layers”. It’s safe to say that Lady G has had her fair share of struggles that she’s been dealing with. So, it’s cathartic to see her doing what she does best and killing it.

Artwork for Rain on Me

As for Ariana, it felt a little bit more personal for me as I feel like I also share a little bit of my own trauma with her after the Manchester attack. Since then, Ariana has also had to deal with a number of personal upheavals, including the tragic passing of her late partner, Mac Miller. She’s been very open in her struggles with anxiety and her journey with mental health and healing since what happened in Manchester. So, to me, Rain on Me very much reminded me of Ari’s single No Tears Left to Cry, which was the first single she released after the attack and was notably upbeat and inspiring, rather than sad. Ariana has monumentally used music as healing tool for both herself and her fans. This was shown when she organised the One Love Manchester concert to raise money for victims and bring the people of Manchester together, through her whole Sweetener album, and then again on her following album, thank U, next.

Ariana wrote on her Instagram page of her collaboration with Lady Gaga; “…i met a woman who knew pain the way i did… who cried the same way i did, drank as much wine as i did, ate as much pasta as i did and who’s heart was bigger than her whole body. she immediately felt like a sister to me. she then held my hand and invited me into the beautiful world of chromatica and together, we got to express how beautiful and healing it feels to mothafuckinnnn cry ! I hope this makes you all feel as uplifted as it does for us both”.

Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga

Rain on Me includes lyrics such as “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive”, and “I only asked you to show me a real good time, I never asked for the rainfall”. It’s a dance fuelled, pop music celebration of healing after tragedy and heartbreak. It invites Gaga and Grande fans to feel liberated in forgetting their troubles, even if it’s just for three minutes and two seconds, and just enjoy the music and have a good time in the face of adversity.

In terms of the music itself, it’s just what the world needs right now. Two of the planets biggest female stars teaming up for a girl power inspired, high energy, feel good tune. With an incredible music video and learnable dance moves that are also absolutely iconic. Who doesn’t need a little bit of that in their lives right now?

Lady Gaga’s sixth album, Chromatica, will be released on 29th May 2020.

My Weekend Map of Newcastle After Lockdown

Eating Out in Newcastle, Everything Else

Although we are still in a state of lockdown and daydreaming about pints with our mates in the hopefully not too distant future, we’re beginning to see a very faint light at the end of the tunnel. While public safety is indeed the most important aspect in this situation, it’s nice to imagine what we’ll do that first weekend after lockdown has officially come to an end.

There’s so much about Newcastle that I’ve missed over the last couple of months, so of course I have a huge list of places I want to visit as soon as it’s safe. But how can I fill that first glorious weekend of freedom with as much about what I love in the North East as possible? Well, I made a map to help!

Saturday’s Route

To prepare for a weekend full of adventures you need a good breakfast to get you started. So, on Saturday morning a trip The Naked Deli on Gosforth High Street is a must. I’ll order my favourite from their breakfast menu, a smoked salmon scrambled egg with chives bowl and a peanut butter and banana protein shake. While my sidekick and lovely partner, Andy, always goes for their protein French toast with crispy bacon and maple syrup. A perfect energy boost for the day ahead!

Naked Deli – Gosforth

After breakfast we’ll take a walk through Gosforth and head to Jesmond Dene. As always we’ll take a sneaky look at Jesmond Dene House on the way and talk about how amazing their restaurant must be!

Jesmond Dene

After strolling through the dene and enjoying the gorgeous greenery, we’ll come to an end at Armstrong Bridge and then head towards Ouseburn, past the Biscuit Factory and along Ouseburn’s archways. Our second stop of the day will be at one of the sweetest spots in the city, Dreamworld Cakes, which is nestled in Arch 3. As someone with a huge sweet tooth and a love for local businesses, I really can’t speak highly enough of this cosy little patisserie. I’ve never seen cakes so lovingly and intricately created, and the staff are always fantastic. The cakes taste as wonderful as they look, too.

A short video I made last year of our last visit to Dremworld Cakes – Ouseburn

Afterwards, we’ll pop across the road to one of my most favourite places in Newcastle, Ouseburn Farm. The farm is a particularly special part of the city as it’s an incredibly unique city centre farm, sitting in the middle of Ouseburn’s pubs and creative studios, below Byker Bridge. It’s just a lovely place in Newcastle to see animals and enjoy a small corner of farm life. It’s also completely free to go to, but it does act as a fantastic charity, so of course we won’t forget to leave a donation!

Ouseburn Farm – Ouseburn

After a morning of eating, walking and making friends with Ouseburn farms lambs and cows, it’s time for a drink. As we’re already in Ouseburn, it only makes sense to head to one of the local pubs, The Ship Inn. In an ideal world, the first weekend after lockdown will be nice and sunny, so we’ll sit outside on the deck and enjoy a nice pint in the sun. A pint of cider for me, and a beer for Andy. 

Now that we’re celebrating, there’s a venue in Newcastle that I haven’t visited yet that’s definitely on my to do list. So, we’ll take a quick walk up to Hoults Yard to find Full Circle Brew Co., which I’ve heard nothing but good things about. The venue itself is an active brewery, but also has its own bar to sit down in and enjoy looking into the brewery itself as you try their beer first hand. Being newbies, we’ll ask the owner, Ben, what he recommends;

“I mean, I’d recommend them all but it very much depends on the style of beer you like. We have three cores which have all been designed and developed for over a year with tweaks on each version to maximise the taste for all, they’re our crowd-pleasers. Our Hoop American Pale Ale is designed as a ‘gateway beer’ for the drinkers who are just getting into craft beer. Less hop bitterness and haze but still packing the expected flavours celebrated in an APA. The Repeater Session IPA is built for those who want more than a few in a day, great citrus hop flavour with a light bittering on the background. Now for the flagship, our heavy hitter and our best in my opinion. Our Hazy, Hoppy and Fairly Boozy IPA standing at 6.4%. It has a softening New England water profile and is packed with Citra hops, this is a real star in the making.” – Ben Cleary, Full Circle Brew Co. Owner & Founder

Full Circle Brew Co. – Hoults Yard

After a lovely couple of drinks at Full Circle, we’ll hit the road again and head straight down to the Quayside. It’s a lovely day, so we’re off to enjoy some more drinks and a late lunch at By The River Brew, overlooking the Tyne. This place is great because they have so many different food vendors in their Hawker Market, so there’s something to keep everyone happy. We’ll pig out on an authentic parmo from Parm-O-Rama, and some amazing fries with steak, known as the Steak Supper, from Shanty Town. Of course By The River Brew have their own great selection of home brewed beers too, and the selection sometimes changes. So it’ll be a beer for Andy and a crisp cider for me.

By the River Brew – Quayside

After enjoying the awesome scenes on the riverside, it’s time to head up into the city for some cocktails. And where’s best to go for a fine quality cocktail in town? Horticulture, of course! While it’s one of Newcastle’s newest additions to the bar and restaurant scene, Horticulture has already made it’s mark by specialising in an incredible selection of cocktails and percolators, as well an impressively creative kitchen. The drinks menu there is so boundless that I always have difficulty choosing which to order, so I’ll ask the bar owner, Mike, what he’d recommend;

“I would work your way through one of our world record amount of espresso martini flavours, or personally some of our signature cocktails are mind-blowing. My personal favourite is Wham Bam Rhubarb Jam which we use Rhubarb grown from our allotment, real tasty” – Mike Hesketh, Horticulture Owner & Founder

One Wham Bam Rhubarb Jam for me it is then, along with an Old Fashioned for Andy who likes his cocktails strong. A trip to Horticulture on a nice day also means sitting out on the gorgeous sun terrace, which is the perfect little sun trap in the city centre.

Horticulture – Market Lane

Once we’ve had our fill of drinking in the sunshine, in my ideal world, we’ll be off to see a show at The Tyne Theatre. Now, obviously there aren’t any shows lined up for the immediate future, but this is my perfect after lockdown weekend, so I’m going to pretend that Klub Kids are hosting a show starring some of the RuPauls Drag Race Queens. It’ll be a great night of entertainment and comedy and it means that we’ll get to spend the evening in one of Newcastle’s most enchanting buildings, as well as catch up with some of my friends working there.

Bob the Drag Queen and Monét Exchange performing arts The Tyne Theatre, hosted by Klub Kids in February 2020

Sunday’s Route

Now after Saturday’s day drinking we’re likely feeling a little bit fragile today. So, what better way to freshen up than by taking a trip on the metro to Tynemouth? As it’s a Sunday, the famous Tynemouth Market will be in full swing as we get there, and it’s the perfect time for a bit of shopping and rummaging around antiques. I absolutely love the random mixture of things you find there, from stunning artwork to homemade candles to eclectic bric-a-brac.

Tynemouth Market – Tynemouth Metro Station

After we’ve made our way around the market, we’ll head to King Edwards Bay for some fresh air by the sea and sandy toes, before heading back up the hill to the well known Marshall’s fish & chip shop for lunch. Their scampi & chips is a perfect hangover cure!

King Edwards Bay & Marshall’s Fish & Chips – Tynemouth

After picking up some chocolate from Gareth James Chocolatier (did I mention I had a sweet tooth?) and a quick look into Raspberry Bazaar, we’ll get the metro again and head to Monument. Now that we’re a bit more bright eyed and bushy tailed, we’ll grab a milkshake each from Shakeaholic. My favourite flavour is Black Jacks, sounds strange but it works, and Andy’s is a Milky Way. Shakeaholic has only just been renovated too, so the shop is all nice and shiny.

Shakeaholic – Eldon Square

After getting our milkshake fix, we’ll make our way to Dog and Scone just off the Bigg Market, for a sit down with a coffee and some cuddles with the cafe’s lovely collection of friendly dogs. What could make a Sunday even more perfect then some quality puppy petting?

Dog and Scone – Pudding Chare

Next, we’ll pop up the road again for a movie at the historical Tyneside Cinema. Hopefully they’ll be playing some old cinematic favourites and we can watch a classic like Breakfast at Tiffany’s or Some Like It Hot on a Sunday afternoon. Watching a film like this in the Tyneside Cinema’s beautiful auditorium isn’t like any other cinema experience in the North East, and it’s the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday.

Tyneside Cinema – Pilgrim Street

Top finish up a wonderful weekend, we’ll indeed be going for some more fantastic food. Seeing as we’re being indulgent, we’ll obviously be visiting Lola Jeans on Market Street for some of the best burgers in town. Now, as delicious as their burgers are, one of my favourite things to order at Lola Jeans is their Philly Cheese Steak Spring Rolls starter. It’s amazing! But for our mains, it’ll be a California burger for Andy, and a Clancy Wiggum for me!

Lola Jeans – Market Street

Before rolling home to our bed, there’s just enough time for us to walk off some of the excess calories from the weekend with a stroll across the Millennium Bridge to take in the views on the way back to our flat in Gateshead.

An Interview With La Chocolatrice

Eating Out in Newcastle, Interviews

Hi Zoë!

Thank you so much for joining Tickets in Newcastle for an interview about your amazing chocolaterie in Newcastle City Centre, La Chocolatrice. 

As we’re in lockdown at the moment we are doing this interview via email, but I can’t wait to visit your shop once it’s open again! 


Making chocolate sounds like an incredible job. Could you please tell us how you got started as an artisan chocolate maker? Where did your passion come from? 

I have always loved chocolate. For as long as I can remember it has been my favourite treat. Whether I was being given chocolate by grandparents, or saving my pocket money to buy two vanilla truffles from Thornton’s each Saturday, it was always part of my childhood. 

When I was 18 I moved to Avallon, a small town in the centre of France. While there I worked as an au pair and one of my jobs was to make the afternoon snack. I’ve always liked cooking but this was where my chocolate love story really came into its own. Over the course of the year, the afternoon snack became bigger and more complicated, and I’d often visit the local patisserie for ideas and inspiration. I also spent a lot of time sampling the delicious treats at the local patisserie, which I enjoyed immensely!

I moved to Paris a couple of years later, and took every opportunity to improve my baking and patisserie skills. I attended quite a few courses while I lived there, but the one thing that stood out to me was chocolate! I will never forget the first time I made an Easter egg – it was so much fun! I started experimenting with chocolate and different chocolate recipes, and upon returning to the UK, I began working part time for a chocolatier in Leeds, while studying at University.

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You recently opened your own premises on Westgate Road called La Chocolatrice. What made you decide to open your own shop and is there a story behind it?

Until June 2019, I had been working for a few years in the North East, as a French and Spanish teacher. Owning my own chocolate shop has always been my dream, and although I loved my job, I knew that if I didn’t do it now, I never would.

After handing in my notice, I spent the whole summer making plans, but the one thing I couldn’t decide upon was the name.  I was on holiday with a friend, and I’d told her the problem that I had.  She spent the whole week making suggestions (some of them okay, some of the ridiculous), and it was on the last night, we were in bed and it was dark and she whispered, “What about La Chocolatrice?” and we both loved it. We had lived in France together, and studied together at University, and in French, a lot of professions have a masculine and a feminine title. Chocolatier didn’t so she made one up, La Chocolatrice. 


Could you tell us a bit about what you offer at La Chocolatrice? 

La Chocolatrice is the only independent chocolate shop in the centre of Newcastle.  We stock a range of handmade chocolate bars and other chocolatey treats, and we also teach Chocolate Making Workshops.

During a Chocolate Truffle Making Workshop, you will learn how to make delicious chocolate truffles, chocolate flakes, and chocolate crisps, experimenting with flavours and techniques. Workshops are all very hands-on and you take home everything that you make – lots of delicious chocolates! Each workshop lasts from between 90 minutes to two hours and is the perfect way to celebrate any special occasion, or just have fun!

I am currently working on some new workshops which I will be releasing soon, such as a chocolate bar making workshop and an Easter Egg making workshop next year.

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What’s it like running the chocolate making workshops and do you have loads of fun doing them?

I love running workshops. I always say that I have managed to create myself my dream job. I have combined my love of teaching with my love of chocolate, and I get to chat to people while making delicious treats.

No two workshops are ever the same and I meet so many lovely people every day. I feel really lucky to be doing something that I love.


What kind of feedback have you received from the good people of Newcastle about your products? 

People seem to be really enjoying both the chocolate and the workshops, which is lovely! In the shop I have my regular customers, some who have been coming since my very first day.  It’s lovely because you get to know people. I was worried, leaving teaching, that I wouldn’t like working by myself but I meet new, interesting people every day.



What is your favourite type of chocolate and why? 

I always find this question really hard because the honest answer is that I love it all!  I think I have a different favourite for every occasion. I love really good quality dark chocolate. One of my favourite things that I’ve done recently was a chocolate tasting, and we tasted lots of different single origin chocolate. There was a variety of chocolate, made from beans grown all around the world. It was amazing to taste the difference between chocolate made from beans grown in Ecuador, and chocolate made from beans grown in Tanzania. They were both delicious, but completely different flavours! 

My current favourite bar from my range is the caramel filled milk chocolate bar. I made it as a one off, but I enjoyed eating it so much that it is now a permanent addition to my range. I think enjoying chocolate is about more than just the taste. Obviously you want a fantastic flavour, but it is the whole experience that makes a great chocolate bar. The appearance, the snap, the smell, and more all have to be amazing to make it just right.

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What are your plans for yourself and for La Chocolatrice once we are safely out of lockdown?

During lockdown I have been working on developing the range of chocolate I stock at La Chocolatrice. I have also been running Friday Night Chocolate sales. At 7pm every Friday I open my online chocolate shop, and each week I sell a different chocolate treat box. Treat boxes contain three bars of chocolate and a pack of delicious chocolate buttons, and the flavours change each week. This has been going really well. I’m really enjoying this project, but I’m also very new to selling online.

After lockdown, I’d like to continue working on my Online Chocolate Shop, as I find it really exciting sending my chocolate all around the country.  Really though, I can’t wait to reopen La Chocolatrice, start running workshops again, and welcome back all of my lovely customers! 

You can find out more about La Chocolatrice as well as purchase Zoë’s workshops and chocolate on her website, here;

https://www.lachocolatrice.co.uk/

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My Gift To Newcastle’s Live Venues

Everything Else, Music blog, Show and Gig Reviews

Without wanting to dwell on negatives too much, the last two months have been a strange, difficult and worrying time, not least for the arts and culture sector. 

In Newcastle, it’s been both great and hard to see lots of our wonderful live performance venues coming up with inventive ways to stay engaged with theatre and music lovers, as well as developing initiatives to raise money while needing to remain closed. You’re hard work has been incredible. 

Live music and theatre is part of the heart and soul of the North East. I can’t wait until shows can go ahead again for that wonderful stage magic and the buzz of an amazing gig. We may have to wait a bit before that can happen, but when it does and we can walk back through the doors of our favourite venues, it will be unbeatable. 

So, to raise a glass, to applaud and to celebrate our incredible venues, their dedicated staff and the fantastic creatives we’re lucky enough to have right here in Newcastle, this piece of art is for you. Designed by my very talented friend, Amy Hall, this artwork is a gift to all of the live venues in the city, as well as everyone who enjoys them. It symbolises that this isn’t a time of sadness but a time of hope and strength in the face of adversity. 

“We Will Be Back After This Short Interval”

With love, hope and excitement,

Tickets in Newcastle 

How To Find Out If Your Show Has Been Postponed

Everything Else

In the last two months theatres, concert venues and music halls have been forced to postpone or cancel all of their immediate shows, due to Covid 19.

Of course, this has left many people who had purchased tickets for events unsure of what will happen next. It’s also been a very difficult time for the venues themselves as they try to navigate through this period of uncertainty. Many of them are also only able to operate with skeleton staff at the moment.

However, customer bookings are a priority to live performance venues, and from what I have seen so far, I know that a lot of venues here in the North East have been working their hardest to make sure that customers with tickets to any cancelled performances are helped as soon as possible.

But, the staff at these venues are only human and can only sift through each of their bookings personally at a certain speed. This has led to a number of these venues being inundated with queries from clients who want to find out what to do with their tickets. Staff from relevant ticket sellers should be in touch with you either by email or over the phone, to let you know of any changes to your booking, but there may be a delay in this if there’s a backlog. It’s also worth noting that if you have purchased tickets through a website such as Ticketmaster or Eventim, then they should be sending out emails to bookers with further information too.

However, to try to help the situation, I’ve put together some information of where to find details of postponed or cancelled shows for a collection of venues in the North East.

O2 City Hall, Newcastle

Utilita Arena;

The arena’s ticketing partner for their events is Ticketmaster, so information regarding events should come from them. But to make things as easy as possible, the Utilita Arena have curated an easy to use guide specifying which of their events have been cancelled or moved. This webpage is also being updated as and when necessary with any updates;

https://www.utilitaarena.co.uk/news/view/coronavirus-covid-19-update-and-event-information/

They have also stated on this page that; “If an event is not listed below we currently do not have any information to provide so please keep checking for updates”. So, if you have tickets for an event that is not currently on this list, then they likely won’t be able to give any further information on it at this time.

You can also view all upcoming shows at Utilita Arena to purchase tickets, here;

https://www.utilitaarena.co.uk/events/all/

Theatre Royal;

The Theatre Royal in Newcastle have recently issued the following statement;

“We are working hard to contact all customers who are awaiting refunds as quickly as possible. We are aware some customers have been waiting for a few weeks and we are extremely grateful for your patience.

We are also working hard to contact customers who have tickets for upcoming performances with more details regarding cancellations. We are trying to reschedule as many performances as possible so you don’t miss out on the excellent shows we had planned; depending on our progress with this not all show cancellations will necessarily be announced and processed in chronological order. Please rest assured that we will contact you in due course.

We’re doing our best and appreciate your support.

Stay safe”

The Theatre Royal haven’t issued a specific list of performances that have been cancelled, however they are giving regular updates on their social media as to what’s happening. Understandably, as a lot of the theatre’s performances have long runs at the venue then it may be a more lengthy process for them reschedule shows.

You can view further information from the theatre, here;

https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/performance-cancellation

Tyne Theatre and Opera House;

The Tyne Theatre is currently working very hard to contact each of their customers individually with information on their tickets. They are working with minimal box office staff at the moment so there is currently a delay. The theatre have previously issued information regarding cancellations and refunds, here;

https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/coronavirus-update/

In this, they have stated; “If a show is rescheduled: Tickets will remain valid for the rescheduled date. We do encourage ticket holders to hold onto their tickets where possible in this turbulent time for the events industry – which needs your support now, more than ever. However, If you are unable to attend the rescheduled date, refunds will be available from your point of purchase”.

And; “If a show is cancelled: Refunds will be available from your point of purchase. If you booked through our ticketing agent Eventim, your payment card will be refunded automatically. If you booked via our box office we will be in touch to issue your refund (please bear with us at this busy time). If you booked through another ticketing agent, please contact them with any enquiries regarding your refund”.

A list of their upcoming cancelled and rescheduled events can also be found on their website, here;

https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/whats-on/

Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle

O2 Academy, Newcastle;

The O2 Academy are giving regular updates on their social media pages about which shows are no longer going ahead. You can follow their Twitter account for updates.

They have confirmed on their website that currently all shows at the O2 Academy until at least the 7th May are temporarily postponed. You can view their statement and further information, here;

https://academymusicgroup.com/o2academynewcastle/content/safety-and-security

They have also listed a helpful set of FAQ’s on their website, here;

https://academymusicgroup.com/faq

O2 City Hall;

The City Hall joined forces with O2 last year, and their comms are now very similar to that if the O2 Academy’s. They are also posting regular updates about shows to their Twitter page, and have released further information on their website, here;

https://academymusicgroup.com/o2cityhallnewcastle/content/safety-and-security

All of their current shows up until at least 7th May have been temporarily postponed, and further updates will follow after the Government’s advice after this date. Ticketing staff will be contacting purchasers directly if your tickets have been affected.

The Sage;

The Sage have announced that all shows and other events at their venue will not be going ahead until further notice. They have also said that their box office team are working to contact customers of cancelled and postponed shows directly. For more information you can view their statement in full, here;

https://sagegateshead.com/coronavirus/

This link will also take you to a list of rescheduled performances and further run formation on them individually, further down the page.

Northern Stage;

Northern Stage are another organisation working incredibly hard to contact customers who have been affected by rescheduled performances.

The venue have released the following statement regarding all Covid related cancellations and postponements;

https://www.northernstage.co.uk/news/coronavirus-update-northern-stage

So, currently all performances up until 31st July have been suspended, and the box office team are working very hard to contact all customers in due course. If you have any urgent queries for Northern Stage, then please email them rather than call, and be aware that there may be a delay in response.

People’s Theatre;

The People’s Theatre are a community based theatre and so it’s current closure is difficult for the box office team there.

All performances there have currently been cancelled for the remainder of their Spring/ Summer season. They have assured customers that their box office will be in touch with customers directly and are also regularly updating their Twitter page with news and updates.

You can also visit their website for any further information, here;

https://www.peoplestheatre.co.uk/

If you have any problems at all in reaching out to any of these venues, or any others in the country at the moment for that matter, please be patient. Live venues are are currently dealing with a lot of uncertainty and stress in trying to mange the situation. But their priority is bringing the stage back to life and inviting you all back through their doors as soon and as safely as they can.

Have any further questions? Contact me at Tickets in Newcastle and I’ll help as best I can!

The Sage, Gateshead

10 Reasons Why Beyoncé Should Bring Her Next Tour To Newcastle

Everything Else, pop culture

It’s a strange time in the events industry at the moment, with shows not going ahead for the foreseeable future for obvious reasons.

Venues are closed and concerts, gigs and productions have had to cancel and postpone performances and tours. Huge stars are in no way exempt from this, and even big upcoming tours from artists such as Harry Styles, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift have all been affected.

There were also likely a number of big tours that have needed to be postponed that weren’t even announced yet, and I have a sneaky suspicion that a large scale tour from the Queen Bey herself may have been one of them.

I’m a HUGE Beyoncé fan. I’ve seen her in concert 10 times, and was also lucky enough to see Destiny’s Child live back in 2002. I’ve spent a lot of money on travelling to other cities to see her shows and have even held her hand from a VIP pit (or the Beyhive Pit as her fans will know). I wouldn’t change it for the world as I’m always blown away by her shows and her stage presence, but it would be nice to see Beyoncé play in my hometown of Newcastle again.

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Beyoncé performing live (image from Beyoncé’s Facebook page)

In fact, here’s 10 reasons why Beyoncé should bring her next tour to Newcastle;

1. She Hasn’t Performed In Newcastle Since 2009

Yes, it’s true. The last time Bey graced Newcastle with her presence was all the way back in May 2009, when she performed at the Utilita Arena (then named the Metro Radio Arena). It was part of the UK leg of the I Am tour, which showcased her Sasha Fierce days and Single Ladies dance routine. Of course, Beyoncé did bring her last solo tour, The Formation World Tour, to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in 2016. The show sold out and attracted crowds from all over the North East… but haway man.

2. Geordie Crowds Are One Of The Best In The Country –

It’s absolutely no secret that Geordie’s love a good gig, and we’re not quiet about it! I can’t count the number of concerts I’ve been to here where the performers have been in awe of the audience. The atmosphere that a crowd in Newcastle can bring is like no other. We’re a canny bunch, and an eclectic collection of people. When we get together for a show, the scenes are incredible. Even if there’s a bit of rain, it never puts a dampener on the crowds here, and certainly never stops us from putting on our trendiest outfit and donning our sharpest winged eyeliner. One things for sure, when Beyoncé hits the stage in her Freakum’ Dress, we’ll be right there looking like Diva’s.

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Beyoncé performing live (image from Beyoncé’s Facebook page)

3. Geordie Fans Are Loyal –

A Geordie fan is a fan for life. We love what we love and we’re dear to it. Beyoncé has a lot of devotee’s here in Newcastle, mainly because we’re people of good taste. There’s a big music and fashion scene in the North East too, and Beyoncé is undoubtably a big influence on both of those. As she’s been a big player in the music industry for over 20 years now, her music has also been a popular staple of radio, bars and nightclubs in the UK for a long time, which has created fans spanning various generations. Have you ever been in Mushroom Bar swigging a double vodka and coke when Run the World starts playing? It’s wild.

4. We’ve Got Different Venues To Choose From –

Ok so, granted, we do only have one arena in Newcastle and it is a liiiittle bit smaller than other arenas in the country. But, the arena is an iconic music venue in Newcastle and there’s a lot of love in that building with a good act on stage. Bey could even do more than one date there and they’d all be sellouts. We also have The Sage, which is renown for some of the best acoustics in Europe. The Sage would be perfect if she wanted to host a string of smaller, more intimate, shows in a beautifully artistic venue. However, Beyoncé’s last two tours, The Formation World Tour and On The Run 2 with Jay Z, were both stadium tours. So, how about St James Park? It has a capacity of over 50,000 – so just imagine the amazing show that Beyoncé could hold there.

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Beyoncé performing live with Jay Z (image from Beyoncé’s Facebook page)

5. Easy Travel –

Newcastle City Centre, and each of the three venues I’ve just listed, are very easy to travel to. Newcastle has a great system of metros and busses for local travel, as well as Central Station in the heart of the city and Newcastle Airport for anyone travelling further afield. There’s also an endless amount of taxi ranks in town for if your feet are sore after the show.

6. It Would Be One Of The Most Anticipated Events In The Region Of The Year –

Even if times were more normal at the minute, a Beyoncé concert in Newcastle would be one of the biggest events of the year. The excitement, the local media coverage, the Instagram pics, the mini busses full of lasses buzzing to dance away to Crazy in Love. It would be amazing. And if she was to announce a tour date in Newcastle after the lockdown, the anticipation would be amplified ten fold.

7. It Would Bring Tourism And An Economic Boost To The City –

Beyoncé’s talents are so vast that they include tourist and attractions management. Big concerts attract fans and gig goers from all over, and I should know as I have travelled to Glasgow, London, Manchester and Sydney, Australia, to see Beyoncé live. Gigs are a great excuse for a weekend away, a trip with friends or for die hard fans, like me, to show their dedication. This will bring money to the region from tourists staying in hotels and enjoying Newcastle’s shopping, food and bar scene. It goes without saying that, after the current lockdown, the city would greatly benefit from this sort of financial boost.

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Beyoncé performing live (image from Beyoncé’s Facebook page)

8. We’re A City Of Art and Culture –

In her spare time, when Beyoncé’s not selling out stadiums, having children or winning Grammy Awards, she paints. She’s also a known lover of poetry, photography and art galleries. Thankfully, Newcastle is full of wonderful art and cultural venues such as The Baltic, Laing Art Gallery and The Biscuit Factory. Beyoncé even filmed her music video for Ape Sh!t in the The Louvre Museum when she was in Paris, so, you never know?

9. Newcastle Has Some Of The Best Bars And Restaurants In The Country –

Newcastle has always been known as a party city, but over the last few years the toon has also flourished into a mecca for independent breweries, cocktail bars, coffee shops, café’s and restaurants. Not only are the bars and restaurants in Newcastle perfect for pre concert refreshments, but they’re also fit for a Queen… Bey.

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Beyoncé performing live (image from Beyoncé’s Facebook page)

10. The After Parties Would Be Amazing –

Imagine; you’ve spent the last two hours dancing, screaming and crying to Beyoncé. Actual Beyoncé. On stage in front of you. The Queen has finished her concert and you have been truly blessed to have been in the same room as her and thousands of others living it up. You’re a bit drunk. Drunk in Love, to be exact. And you’re in the toon, surrounded by some of the most banging bars and clubs in the UK. Or, some of the worst if you’d prefer those. You step onto a sticky dance floor in Florita’s with your mates around you and a daiquiri in your hand. You’re ready to dance All Night.

So there we have it, at least 10 reasons why Beyoncé should bring her next tour to Newcastle upon Tyne. Can you think of any others? Let me know!

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Beyoncé performing live (image from Beyoncé’s Facebook page)

Mouth of the Tyne Festival Postponed Until 2021

Everything Else

Music lovers of the North East will likely be well aware of the yearly festival that takes place in the stunning Tynemouth Priory each summer.

The festival has been going since 2005 and in previous years has pulled in huge acts such as Sam Fender, Beverley Knight, James Bay and Billy Ocean.

This year, the festival was due to go ahead on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th July. However, the festivals organisers have announced this morning that due to the current situation surrounding Covid-19, the Mouth of the Tyne Festival will not be going ahead this year.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the festival has managed to postpone their bookings with most of this years artists for July 2021 instead, and the lineup will now be happening between 8th – 11th July next year.

One of their headline performers, Keane, will now be taking to the stage on 8th July 2021, alongside Cattle and Cane and Eliza Shaddad. And the headliners for second part of the festival, Lighthouse Family, will perform on 10th July 2021, joined by PP Arnold and Georgie.

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Mouth of Tyne Festival

The event organisers released the following statement via their social media channels this morning;

“With a heavy heart, we announce that we have decided to reschedule this summer’s Mouth of the Tyne Festival. We will return between 8-11 July 2021. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, as with many other festivals and events across the UK this summer, we’ve decided to take action to protect residents, visitors, artists, suppliers and staff, following the latest government advice.

We are, however, delighted to say that ALL artists have agreed to return to Tynemouth next year. Keane’s rescheduled show will be on Thursday 8 July 2021 and Lighthouse Family’s will be on Saturday 10 July 2021. Newton Faulkner’s show at Playhouse Whitley Bay has been rescheduled for Monday 16 November this year. We’ll provide an update on festival performances from Saving Grace and John Cooper Clarke soon.

This would’ve been the festival’s 16th year. We really are very sad to have to postpone, our team has been working tirelessly to deliver you an amazing festival this summer, and we hate to think of you disappointed. We simply cannot take any chances on public safety in light of the ongoing situation. Thank you to everybody who has purchased tickets so far, all tickets remain valid for 2021, but if you would like a refund, you can get one from your point of purchase. Either Ticketmaster or See Tickets will be in touch with you soon.”

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Sam Fender performing arts the Mouth of Tyne Festival in 2019 (photo from The Chronicle)

So, to confirm, if you already have a ticket and would still like to attend the event next year then your tickets will remain valid. If you already have tickets but are unable to attend the festival in 2021, you will be able to get a refund and your ticket providers should be in touch with you shortly.

For more information about the Mouth of the Tyne Festival, you can visit their website, here;

https://mouthofthetynefestival.com