It was in 2007 that The Late Shows first exerted its irresistible pull on the region’s culture vultures – and it is back in May for the ninth time with a longer list of places to visit.
In come some intriguing new attractions – actually old and new – to join regulars such as the Victoria Tunnel and Discovery Museum.
In all, more than 60 arts, science and heritage venues in Newcastle and Gateshead are signed up this year, testament to the willingness of North East folk to drag themselves away from the evening telly.
Project manager Bill Griffiths says: “The Late Shows has grown incredibly since the first event in 2007 and this year’s line-up, our biggest yet, continues to showcase the diversity of NewcastleGateshead’s cultural scene.
“New additions such as Dunston Staiths, Bessie Surtees House and The Core add to the mix of heritage, science and arts that our visitors have come to expect on their Late Shows journey.
“It is a special weekend in the Tyneside calendar with people coming together to try their hand at new skills, see new places and experience the thrill of museums at night.
“The Late Shows is like a cultural tapas and the line-up a menu – make sure to try as much as you can on May 15 and 16.”
With that in mind, let me cast an eye over the delicacies on offer – bearing in mind that most Late Shows participants lay on special events for the occasion – and pick out 10:
Mushroom Works (St Lawrence Road, Ouseburn Valley, NE6 1AR):
Here they will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland in partnership with Seven Stories. Artists and designers in the studio complex will be entering into the spirit of the occasion with Muddy Fingers Pottery running a Mad Hatter’s teapot-making class on the Friday night.
St Dominic’s Priory (Crawhall Road, Newcastle, NE12):
There will be organ music, an art installation by Katharine Wiseman, Emma Oliver and Charli Hardcastle-Foster, stories and poetry from Bill McCumisky and a performance by the Eliot Smith Dance Company. At this venue, the evening ends with the service of Night Prayer.
Victoria Tunnel (Stepney Bank to the Tyne):
The perennial favourite since people love to venture underground in search of Newcastle’s rich industrial past. Visitors will get to experience the sounds of an air raid – the tunnel was used as a shelter in the Second World War – and see what an underground colliery waggonway looks like. These tours have to be booked. Tel. 0191 261 6596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bensham Grove (Sidney Grove, Bensham, Gateshead):
The Grade II-listed building, which is dedicated to adult education, boasts beautiful stained glass, ceramics, metal work and embroidery. Tutors will be on hand to give visitors a chance to etch a small piece of heritage glass or try jewellery making. You might also see a dance performance from FRESH North East.
Dunston Staiths (Dunston, Gateshead NE11 9LF):
The dramatic wooden structure opened in 1893 to enable trains to load coal onto boats. Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust now owns it and plan to make it a visitor attraction. Visit during The Late Shows to assess the potential and hear Dunston Silver Band.
Bessie Surtees House (Sandhill, Newcastle NE1 3JF):
Explore a Tudor merchant’s house on Newcastle Quayside and find out about its famous 18th Century love story. While there, have a peek at Historic England’s new gallery which is due to open in the summer.
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas (St Nicholas Square, NE1 1PF):
The building will be open for exploration. Take in the view of Newcastle and Gateshead from the iconic Lantern Tower, if you are physically fit and over eight years old. At 10pm the ancient night service of Compline will be sung by the Cathedral Choir.
The Core (Science Central, Bath Lane, NE4 5TF):
This building didn’t exist when the first Late Shows event took place. Join artists Victoria Bradbury and Mark Hursty as they install an illuminated inflatable sculpture called Pepezi Tulivu and get a feel for a building which has a part to play in shaping the future of the city.
Discovery Museum (Blandford Square, NE1 4JA):
For The Late Shows it becomes Deep Space Tyne as Newcastle College animation and games students offer a journey into projection mapping, working with North East motion graphics company Novak. There will also be karaoke.
Hatton Gallery (King’s Road, Newcastle University, NE1):
The gallery becomes a laboratory of experimentation and a meeting place between the utopian visions of the 1960s and the 1980s. See retro footage of artists dancing on the ceiling, experiment with modernist constructions and enjoy live synth DJ sets.
And there is much, much more than this. The Late Shows warms up in the Ouseburn Valley on Friday, May 15 while the main event takes place on May 16 (Gateshead venues open at 6pm, an hour earlier than Newcastle ones, to enable people to see as much as possible).
The Late Shows, supported by Arts Council England, managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and sponsored by Port of Tyne, is free to attend and a free bus service will be available. The full line-up can be seen at www.thelateshows.org.uk