Gateshead, Tyne and Wear

PUBLISHED: 11:01 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:28 20 February 2013

Superb shopping at the MetroCentre. Picture courtesy of the MetroCentre

Superb shopping at the MetroCentre. Picture courtesy of the MetroCentre

Gateshead now casts iconic shadows across the region and beyond.

In his controversial account of contemporary England in 1934 An English Journey JB Priestley, said of Gateshead that no true civilisation could have produced such a town, adding that it appeared to have been designed by an enemy of the human race.

This was typical of the authors view of industrial towns he visited at that time but what would he have written about the Gateshead of 2010?

The place has changed beyond all recognition since Priestleys visit and any writer today has no difficulty describing its stunning transformation with a welter of superlatives and deserved accolades for what has been achieved.

Having been overshadowed for too long by Newcastle, over the past three decades Gateshead has more than caught up with its cross-river neighbour at the other end of the Tyne Bridge. Gateshead now casts some impressive shadows of its own with the creation of some of the most famous icons in todays North East.

The world now knows of the Angel of the North, the Metrocentre, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, Gateshead International Stadium and BALTIC, as each of these headline-grabbing places has contributed to putting Gateshead firmly on the map.

With the largest piece of public art work in Britain, Europes largest indoor shopping and leisure centre, a unique blinking eye bridge, a world-class athletics venue and the biggest art gallery of its kind in the world, Gateshead is confidently striding forward with a renewed confidence.

The time is right to become a city

Gateshead Council plans to bid for city status in 2012 and Coun Mick Henry, Leader of Gateshead Council says: Over recent years, Gateshead has become one of Europes biggest regeneration success stories and we feel that the time is right to become a city.

Weve already developed a future strategy for even more regeneration across Gateshead and becoming a city will help us compete on a national and global scale. In most of the areas needed to gain city status, such as economic impact, we are already working hard on improvements - so it makes sense to try and become a city in our own right.

Gateshead has always been a forward-looking, ambitious council and our next step is to match that by establishing a buzzing, landmark city that will excite people across the region and the rest of the country.

There is so much to support Gatesheads claim to city status as it is fast becoming one of the biggest cultural quarters in the country. Gateshead has undoubtedly captured the imagination of the world with The Angel of the North - Britains largest sculpture - the Gateshead Millennium Bridge - the worlds first tilting bridge - the BALTIC - the ambitious Centre for Contemporary Art- and the stunning design of The Sage Gateshead - the regional music centre created by internationally-renowned architect Lord Norman Foster.

Gateshead International Stadium hosts top-class athletics events and has recently announced plans for new facilities for athletes and spectators which will enhance events such as the Aviva British Grand Prix, which is set to return to Gateshead in 2010.

World records have tumbled in Gateshead, which also provides a 15 million indoor training and educational facility and is bidding to be a 2012 Olympics training venue. The stadium has also hosted international star concerts including pop legends such as Tina Turner and Bon Jovi.

The Angel of the North links the past, present and future

It is perhaps the Angel of the North that best sums up Gateshead today. Big, bold, and highly evocative, the 208-tonne sculpture links the best of Gatesheads past with the best of its present and its aspirations for tomorrow.

In the form of a human figure based on artist Antony Gormleys own body and standing 20 metres high, the Angel is higher than a five-storey building. Its wings are 54 metres wide - almost the same as a jumbo jet.

Overlooking the A1 at Gateshead since 1998, at least 90,000 motorists a day pass by the sculpture and rail passengers travelling on the East Coast mainline from London to Edinburgh see the Angel as they approach Tyneside.

The hollow sculpture is made of weather resistant steel, containing copper, which forms a patina on the surface that mellows with age. It was built to last for more than 100 years and to withstand winds of more than 100 miles per hour. Standing on a site that was once occupied by a colliery, Gormleys work pays tribute to the industrial heritage of the North East.

The artist has said of his creation: The hill top site is important and has the feeling of being a megalithic mound. When you think of the mining that was done underneath the site, there is a poetic resonance. Men worked beneath the surface in the dark. Now in the light, there is a celebration and visibility of this industry.

BALTIC is a beacon for visual art with an amazing rooftop restaurant

Housed in a landmark former flour mill BALTIC has earned a deserved reputation for its dynamic, diverse and international programme of contemporary visual art. It has no permanent collection but features the best of international, national and local artists in an ever-changing calendar of exhibitions and activities provide a unique and compelling window into contemporary artistic practice - and entry is entirely free.

Opened in July 2002, only the south and north facades of the original 1950s building were retained. The new structure consists of six main floors and three mezzanines containing 3,000sqm of arts space, four galleries and a flexible performance space, artists studios, cinema/lecture space, shop, a library and archive area for the study of contemporary art.

There is an amazing glass viewing box on two levels, giving some of the best views of Tyneside, which are also enjoyed by diners at the fabulous rooftop restaurant SIX. The restaurant serves up great food under the guidance of head chef Richard Sim using the very best in locally sourced produced cooked to perfection.

BALTIC has in only six years welcomed more than three million visitors from all over the world and over one million virtual visitors in the last year through its websites, webcasts, podcasts and cutting edge library and archive facility.

BALTIC has exhibited nearly 200 artists from 24 countries many of whom are internationally-acclaimed figures including Anish Kapoor, Sam Taylor-Wood, Antony Gormley, Ed and Nancy Kienholz and Spencer Tunick.

The Riverside Building is a new two-storey structure forming the main entrance into BALTIC, which looks out across a great open-air performance in Baltic Square and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. It is an ideal next-door cultural neighbour for The Sage.

The Sage is an architectural wonder and a centre of musical excellence

The Sage Gateshead is the most amazing venue for live music. It is a modern-day architectural wonder designed by Lord Foster on a landmark waterfront site, consisting of two outstanding performance spaces of acoustic excellence with a small hall for rehearsal and performance, a well-equipped music education centre, four bars, a caf and a brasserie.

All types of music from all over the world is presented and produced by The Sage Gateshead, including classical, contemporary, country, dance, DJ, electronic, folk, jazz, popular, rock and world music.

Artists who have appeared to date include James Brown , Grace Jones , James Blunt, Rob da Bank, Brian Wilson, Soloman Burke, Morrissey , Maximo Park ,Nancy Sinatra, Ry Cooder , Sister Sledge, Nick Cave, Sakari Oramo, Lesley Garrett ,Evelyn Glennie , and the London Symphony Orchestra with Kathryn Tickell.

From its home at The Sage Gateshead, Northern Sinfonia with music director Thomas Zehetmair continues to perform across the North of England and fly the regions flag throughout the United Kingdom and overseas.

As well as providing a fantastic building that is more than a match for the Sidney Opera House with its views of a bridge of similar design, The Sage boasts a spectacular concourse and has river views of the Newcastle Gateshead Quays. Entry to the building is free - up to 14 hours a day.

As well as providing a world-class venue for music The Sage has also established a growing reputation as a major conference and exhibition centre.

Since opening five years ago The Sage Gateshead has provided more than 200,000 music-making sessions and has staged over 2,000 performances. An estimated three million visitors have passed through the doors and over 100,000 conference delegates have attended more than 500 conferences.

MetroCentre is still the biggest and best in Europe

With over 330 stores and 50 restaurants, Gatesheads MetroCentre is still the No1 shopping and leisure centre in the UK and the largest indoor shopping experience in Europe.

MetroCentre is packed with designer outlets, with every major retailer represented and new names opening all the time, as well as top department stores including Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser. It also has its own on-site chaplain.

The MetroCentre has had several additions and refurbishments since it first opened in 1986. The stylish MetroCentre Qube, a brand new leisure and dining area, has just opened in the yellow mall. Qube offers a range of new restaurants, a new family entertainment centre complete with bowling lanes and dodgems and last month a state-of-the-art Odeon Cinema opened featuring IMAX theatre and 3D screen.

Like the rest of the North East, a journey through the Gateshead of 2010 bears little or no resemblance to the place described by JB Priestley in the 1930s and todays visitors cannot fail but to be impressed by its dramatic new skyline and its vibrant places.

Did you know?

The Northern Kites project has seen the successful return of breeding red kites to the Derwent Valley area of Gateshead. These spectacular birds are now spreading further into Durham and Northumberland and may soon be used to re-populate the species to areas of France and Germany.

Gateshead College was rated "Officially Outstanding" by Ofsted in 2009 and is the top college provider in the region for apprenticeships. The college boasts state-of-the-art, industry standard facilities at its Baltic Campus at Gateshead Quays, the Skills Academy for Construction and the Skills Academy for Automotive, Engineering, Manufacturing and Logistics at Team Valley and the Academy for Sport at Gateshead International Stadium.

In 1860, the celebrated stained-glass maker William Wailes designed Saltwell Towers as a fairy-tale palace for himself. The imposing Victorian mansion in its own park with a romantic skyline of turrets and battlements was sold it to Gateshead Corporation in 1876 for use as a public park. After a 10 million pound restoration in 2005 Saltwell Park won a clutch of national awards including Britain's Best Park, Civic Trust Park of the Year Award 2006; Civic Building of the Year (Saltwell Towers)

The old Gateshead Town Hall built in 1870 has been restored to its former glory and is now a cultural hub and centre for performance and the visual arts. After being hidden away for decades and used as office space, the main hall and stage area have been restored to reveal stunning decorative plasterwork, original stained glass windows and a grand Victorian balcony.

Blaydon is renowned for the Geordie anthem `The Blaydon Races', a Victorian Music Hall song written by Gateshead's Geordie Ridley (1835-64). He first performed the song on June 5, 1862, at a testimonial for the great Tyneside rowing hero a Harry Clasper which was held at Balmbra's Music Hall in Newcastle. In 1862 the Blaydon Races were to be held on an island in the middle of the River Tyne at Blaydon but they were called off when a heavy storm prevented the horses crossing to the race course. This storm is recorded in the last verse of the `Blaydon Races' but most of the events referred to in the song actually took place in 1861. The last Blaydon Races were held on the September 2, 1916, but had to be abandoned when a riot broke out following the disqualification of a winning horse.

Tell us why you believe Gateshead should win City Status if it submits a bid in 2012. Does it now deserve to be regarded as a destination that equals Newcastle?

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