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More Than Just Some Hills and a Shopping Centre.
Attractions in Gateshead in general
Member Name: michaelhudson
Attractions in Gateshead in general
Date: 01/09/01, updated on 01/09/01 (61 review reads)
Advantages: Close to Newcastle and the beautiful countryside of Northumberland, some really impressive arts projects
Disadvantages: Hills and sprawling housing estates outside the town centre
It has always been Gateshead's misfortune to be compared to Newcastle, its northern neighbour just across the Tyne. Indeed, aside from the old legend that Defoe wrote 'Robinson Crusoe' while briefly residing in Gateshead, if you'd asked me a mere five years ago to sum up its attractions and main claims to fame I would have struggled to name anything but the MetroCentre and the International Stadium. However, after undertaking some impressive flagship projects in the last few years, the town has now submitted a joint bid with Newcastle to be the European City of Culture in 2008. Many dismiss the bid, and deride Gateshead Council as being guilty of 'Pharaohism'(an ideology that measures success merely by the number of spectacular projects you undertake). Others point to the shining example of the Angel of the North.
The council's excellent website-www.gateshead.gov.uk-details the history of the Angel and offers advice on how to get there. Initially derided as a waste of money, an eyesore and a threat to property prices, the Angel was sculpted by Antony Gormley unveiled in early 1998. The largest sculpture in Britain(20 metres high and weighing 200 tonnes, with a wingspan of 54 metres), its site on a hill adjacent to the A1 means it's viewed by around thirty-three million people every year. The sculpture soon won over the vast majority of the doubters(the odd miserable NIMBY aside), and gave Gateshead a national profile which helped the town win Lottery funding for the Gateshead Quays development.
The Gateshead Quays have always suffered by comparison with Newcastle. A few factories and a floating nightclub aside, the dominant landmark as you look over at Gateshead has been the old multi-story carpark which so memorably featured in 'Get Carter'. Movie connections notwithstanding, the carpark has degenerated into an seldom used eyesore which constantly tops newspaper polls for the building most residents would li
ke to see demolished(along with the hideous Swan House in central Newcastle). Recently, however, the southern bank of the river has been a hub of activity with the construction of the Baltic Flour Mills contemporary visual arts centre. Converting a disused grain warehouse into one of the biggest temporary art spaces in Europe has cost upwards of 45 million pounds, however this ambitious project(which is due to open in March,2002) acted as a catalyst for the adjacent Music Centre Gateshead(which has a design a little reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House and will serve as the home of the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra and Folkworks, an agency which promotes traditional music) and the Millennium Bridge-a stunning river crossing which opened last year. Nicely compemented by the Riverside Sculpture Park(featuring work by renowned sculptors like Richard Harris and Sally Matthews),more details on the Gateshead Quays development can be found at www.gateshead-quays.com.
I certainly wouldn't recommend a long stay in Gateshead-the town is mostly made up of a series of ageing housing estates linked by never ending hills. However, if you're ever in Newcastle, or merely driving up the A1 en route to Edinburgh, you could do a lot worse than give the place a few hours of your time.
Gateshead may still be in the shadows, but it seems to be slowly emerging into the light.