North East England Xpedition

The North East has a distinctive culture and a rich history. Following Roman Britain the Kingdom of Northumbria became a major focus of Christian scholarship centred on the monastery of Lindisfarne. During the industrial revolution the region became a world leader in steel production, shipbuilding, railways, mining and heavy engineering. Whilst engineering remains important, its decline in the last half of the twentieth century led to massive social change and the advent of a new economy led by the service industries and an emerging ‘knowledge economy’ based on the five Universities in the region.

The region is home to two world heritage sites in Durham Cathedral and Hadrian’s wall. Major centres of population are Newcastle/Gateshead, Middlesborough, Durham and Sunderland.

Quick facts:
Population 2.6 million, 4% of UK total
Land Area 4% of UK total
Economic output 3% of UK total

Newcastle upon Tyne

The Regional capital, Newcastle/Gateshead is a thriving cultural hub, has a renowned popular nightlife and is the home of Newcastle United FC. Cultural venues include the superb Norman Foster designed Sage Gateshead concert hall, Theatre Royal and Live Theatre and the Baltic and Laing Art Galleries. Shopping centres such as Eldon Square and the Gateshead Metro Centre are complemented by a magnificent Georgian city centre known as Graingertown .

Quick facts:
Population 280,000, seventh biggest city in the UK
Home of the Geordie dialect
The ‘New’ castle built in 1080
Average temperature in March – high 9.5° low 2.3 °
Average rainy days 10

Middlesbrough

In 1801 Middlesbrough had a population of only 25 people, but the nineteenth century saw the city experience a population explosion with the discovery and exploitation of iron ore and coal to create a world leading steel industry giving it the nickname Ironopolis. The world’s first public railway to use steam locomotives led to the development of Middlesbrough as a coal port. Shipbuilding and the chemical industry followed and the giant former ICI works dominated the landscape. The city is home to mima (the Middlesbrough institute of modern art) Middlesbrough FC, and the unique Transporter Bridge pictured here.

Quick facts:
Population 175,000
Home to Teeside University
Sydney Harbour Bridge was built here

South East Northumberland

The three main towns of South East Northumberland are Ashington, formerly a coal mining community, Blyth a small seaport, and Cramlington new town. The district also has many fine castles including the place where Harry Potter’s Hogwarts was filmed, Alnwick Castle (pictured) The seaside town of Newbiggin-by-the sea was once an important port, shipping grain and coal, and also has a small fishing industry. The area has the innovative Woodhorn Museum, which is home to the Northumberland County archives and features the original Woodhorn Colliery buildings.

Quick facts:
Population:
Blyth 36,000
Ashington 28,000
Newbiggin-by-the-sea 7,000
Newbiggen is the site of the first ‘offshore sculpture’ in the UK Couple by Sean Henry (pictured)

More information about South East Northumberland
South East Northumberland is an area that has received little or no benefit from the cultural renaissance that much of north east England has enjoyed over the last 10 years. Unsurprisingly therefore, the current levels of arts participation are very low.

The area is made up of a number of small to medium sized towns, each with a distinct identity and history. These include:

– Ashington (population 28,000) – Once the largest pit village in Europe and home to the Ashington Group of Pitmen Painters and Woodhorn.
– Blyth (population 36,000) – Traditionally an important port and shipbuilding town and now a centre for environmental technologies and sustainable energy.
– Newbiggin (population 7,000) – A Victorian seaside resort and fishing village with a thriving voluntary arts community and the recently opened Maritime Centre.
– Cramlington (population 40,000) – A 1960s ‘new town’.
– Bedlington (population 15,000) – A significant population cluster but with little or no arts activity taking place.
– A number of other small villages – Choppington, Stakeford, Guide Post, Ellington, Lynemouth, Linton and Cambois.

The industrial decline that followed the demise of the coal mining industry was swift and devastating. Worklessness is currently at 12% of the working age population with youth unemployment a particular problem. The communities are not very mobile and travel little outside of their immediate geographic area meaning that very few people experience the high quality cultural offer on Tyneside.

There are large numbers of people who lack basic skills and numbers taking up opportunities to go into further and higher education are lower than in other similar communities around the UK. The percentage of 16-18 yr olds in Blyth who are currently not in education, employment or training (NEET) is 13.2% against a countywide average of 7%.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of life in South East Northumberland is the poor health that people experience. Levels of child and adult obesity are way above the national average, as are levels of teenage pregnancy, heart disease and diabetes. Life expectancy is 10 years lower than in West Northumberland.

Young people have a particularly hard time in South East Northumberland with rates of unemployment, substance and alcohol misuse, offending and teenage pregnancy much higher than the national average.

However, there are also a number of positive factors. The area is defined by its history, its natural environment and the character of its people. The success of Woodhorn, the mining museum, contemporary gallery spaces and archive centre just outside of Ashington, is testament to the pride that local people have in their heritage. It reflects their desire to take part in high quality cultural experiences that are relevant to them and have genuinely grown out of the community. For this reason, museum visits in the area are higher than the national average and provide a real strength to build on.

Woodhorn has established itself as a major cultural organisation within the region and is seen nationally as a leader in engaging people (particularly young people) with their heritage. Other heritage-led initiatives such as Newbiggin Maritime Centre and the National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall have breathed new life into the cultural offer of the area and provide new venues for work.

More information about Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough is situated on the north-east coast of England, at the centre of the Tees Valley conurbation built around the River Tees. The borough comprises the town of Middlesbrough and the surrounding villages of Nunthorpe, Coulby Newham, Stainton, Thornton, Hemlington, Acklam, Linthorpe, Marton and North Ormesby.

With some 59,000 households and a population of 179,000 within an area of 54.5km2, Middlesbrough is the most urbanised and densely populated local authority area in the Tees Valley. It is bounded by the River Tees to the north.

The town developed to service the rapid growth of the wider Tees Valley economy from the industrial revolution of the 19th century onwards, with the river bank and the surrounding areas providing the major source of local employment in the iron and steel, shipbuilding, heavy engineering and
petrochemical industries.

The rapid decline of traditional industries in the latter half of the 20th century had a major impact on Middlesbrough, leaving a legacy of deprivation, particularly in the east and north of the borough. Middlesbrough and the wider Tees Valley area continue to perform poorly against key economic indicators and associated indicators of well-being. The Indices of Deprivation 2007 identified Middlesbrough as the ninth most deprived local authority area in England, with 13 of the town’s 23 wards within the 10% most deprived nationally across a range of factors.

Today Middlesbrough is a major retail, commercial and university town with new business in media, design and e-commerce. At the centre of the Tees Valley, Middlesbrough is the acknowledged subregional capital, with high levels of community identity and growing confidence.

The thriving town centre now provides the majority of local employment and is the main retail centre in the Tees Valley. The mima art gallery and the redesigned Centre Square have provided a new heart to the town. The town’s Teesside University is ranked as one of the top two modern universities in the UK, with world-class teaching and research capacity, particularly in digital media.

Ambitious plans for the education sector and the cultural and academic quarter in the town are founded on the importance of encouraging and retaining home-grown talent. Despite a shortage of quality development land, the area is being visibly transformed by major regeneration and development schemes.

Xpedition Route:

1. Newcastle upon Tyne

The Regional capital, Newcastle/Gateshead is a thriving cultural hub, has a renowned popular nightlife and is the home of Newcastle United FC.

2. Middlesbrough

n 1801 Middlesbrough had a population of only 25 people, but the nineteenth century saw the city experience a population explosion with the discovery and exploitation of iron ore and coal to create a world leading steel industry giving it the nickname Ironopolis.

3. Newbiggin-by-the-sea

Newbiggin-by-the sea was once an important port, shipping grain and coal, and also has a small fishing industry.

Artists that participated on North East England Xpedition:

Latest News:

Final CORNERS Xpedition just started!

From 16th till 30th of March 2015, 23 CORNERS artists will get an insight to the North East of England. The North East has a distinctive culture and a rich history. Following Roman Britain the Kingdom of Northumbria became a …

Read more

Latest Blog posts:

Valeria Simone from North East England Xpedition

So, while we are fixing the last details of our collaborative actions, we can think more deeply about the process of creating works that can involve local communities and connect people at the corners of Europe. The Participation Lab with …

Read more

North East England Xpedition DocuArt posts: