Bridie Jackson is a singer, songwriter, and – as will become apparent – an excellent writer. She was featured on ANBAD a while ago, too. She hails from the North-East of England, and, in the article below, provides a fascinating insight into the music scene of a part of the UK that is sometimes considered remote, or backward, or – worse – both. It’s an excellent, and refreshingly positive, read…
The North-East gets a bad rep. The national belief that its grim up North combined with a few too many harrowing BBC two dramas, featuring sallow faced minors and scenes of parochial, small minded vigilantes has done nothing to help with the belief that Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and all its counterparts, are places to be escaped from at the first possible opportunity.
But recently Newcastle, previously known only for mining strikes and the enduring charm of the Stottie, has evolved into a thriving and wonderfully unique city.
Despite years of being patronisingly viewed as the underdog, the place has gone stoically about its business with enviable diligence, creating a powerful grass root movement that feeds into a rich and diverse cultural backdrop of art, theatre, dance, and of course, music.
You only have to walk down Northumberland Street to be inundated with music of every genre, thanks to the cities vibrant busking culture. This began back in 2008, when a free thinking arts exec, in a bid to improve the chance of winning the highly coveted City of Culture prize, lifted the requirement for a licence to busk to in an attempt to liven up the streets of the city.
Although cruelly robbed of the title (we were pipped to the post by Liverpool) the decision has left a fascinating legacy and the City centre, especially Monument and Northumberland street heave with buskers of every quirk and trend, including duelling accordionists, a tuneless but enthusiastic panpipe troupe and a resident contortionist to mention but a few.
With an ever growing number of venues and promoters, you can attend a gig every night of the week and whatever your niche, you’re bound to find something worth seeing.
Slap bang in the centre of the city Centre is the Head of Steam, the heaving epicentre of the music scene, and the place everyone ends up at the end of the night, thanks to its late licence.
Famed for its basement venue, Northern soul soundtrack and sticky floors, this is also the perfect place to go if you are hankering after the authentic celebrity sighting, as regulars include Maximo Park, the Futureheads, Beth Jeans Houghton and Field Music to name but a few.
For the more esoteric listener we have the Jazz Club, found on former red light district, Pink Lane. Revered for its high quality music, erratic opening times, free ‘Jazz Burgers’ upon entry, and fearsome, heavily bearded owner, this is the place to go if you want an abrasive, uncensored experience.
As well as your standard pubs and venues, there’s several astounding, unique venues in the city, such as Morden tower, a turret built in the 12th century in the walls of the city, All Saints church and The Castle Keep, that all host infrequent, but utterly unique gigs and concerts.
Just outside the City Centre is the Ouseburn valley where, perched amongst a gritty industrial backdrop, are a stream of fantastic pubs and venues, most notably, The Cluny, The Cumberland and the Tyne Bar, famed for its all dayers, where bands play on the outdoor stage from midday day til late at night.
Also in the Ouseburn Valley, you can find The Star and Shadow, a venue run entirely by a team of committed volunteers and featuring a cinema, gallery, bar and stage. The venue has hosted some amazing gigs over the last few years, including sell out performances by a range of artists, including Alasdair Roberts, The Unthanks, The Slits, and Katherine Williams, to name but a few.
So, to round up, Visit Newcastle. Its mint.