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The Late Shows return to Tyneside

A late and great highlight of the year is returning to open doors to cultural hot spots across the region and, says Jenny Chambers, you really don't want to be the one to miss it

Previous activities at The Late Shows
Previous activities at The Late Shows

After dark, art is set to transform hidden spaces inside the Tyne Bridge Tower while live music will lighten the atmosphere within the medieval walls of the Castle Keep.

These are just two of the upcoming treats in store as part of The Late Shows when the falling of twilight on May 16 will signal the start of a party spirit, which will extend to the furthest and most unusual reaches of venues across Newcastle and Gateshead.

That date is the big weekend night out of the annual event, which each year sees organisers think up fresh ways to build on past successes.

The free two-nighter, which ties in with the UK-wide Museums at Night, encourages as many venues as possible, including art galleries, museums and tourist attractions, to open up at a time they’re normally locked up – and as many of us as possible to visit after-hours.

Regulars to The Late Shows, which begins on the Friday night with events focused around the Ouseburn, will know it can be a mad scramble to get around whichever circuit they’ve picked from the programme, but the free open-top red bus which stops off at main locations certainly makes things easier.

And this year, to ensure there’s a bit more time to get through your tick-list, the Gateshead venues will be opening an hour earlier than usual, at 6pm.

These include Shipley Art Gallery where, besides the chance to see the current exhibitions, there’s always a different theme and this year the night will be all Latin American.

Bill Griffiths, project manager for The Late Shows, said: “People keep telling us that there isn’t time to see it all so we are having a Gateshead ‘Happy Hour’, with venues there opening one hour earlier on the Saturday so people have more opportunity to get round as many venues as possible.”

In total, there will be 50 venues open until 11pm, and among the newcomers will be Tyne Bridge Tower, which will host a sound and light installation by artist Ed Carter.

Bill added: “Ed has been working with the Northern Institute of Cancer Research to make a really exciting artwork using light and sound, inside this amazing hidden space.

“This is the eighth year that The Late Shows has taken place and we’re really excited about the line-up.

“There are also some venues in this year’s event which are old favourites, like the David Fry Pottery Studio, which is always popular as people get to have a go on the potter’s wheel.”

Other arty-minded visitors might like to try their hand at print-making or portrait-painting, as these activities will be on offer at Northern Print and The Biscuit Factory, two of the Ouseburn venues which will be open from 7pm on both the Friday and Saturday.

Others include the Victoria Tunnel, where tours can be booked; The Holy Biscuit, which will be hosting an urban-themed Toon Nights with the help of Northumbria University students, and which includes ice cream served in china teacups and games to tie in with its current Urban Fictions exhibition which reveals diverse visions of Tyneside; Mushroom Works, which will be going all magical – think fairy cakes and fairy cocktails – to mark the 420th anniversary of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and Ouseburn Farm where there will be fresh veg for sale, artwork to see and animals to meet (but they will be going to bed at 10pm).

The highlights of the main night on Saturday will in­­clude live music in Newcastle’s medieval Castle Keep and an intergalactic-theme event at Laing Art Gallery.

Visitors to Castle Keep will be given a tour up to the top to take in the spectacular view of the bridges and cityscape, while the The Cherry Pickers will be providing entertainment with the help of all sorts of instruments, including banjolele, fiddle, bass, kazoo and spoons. Back at the Tyne Bridge, Inhibitor is the name of Ed Carter’s audiovisual piece, combining fluorescent images of cancer cells with a new musical composition, while across at Laing Art Gallery artist Kelly Richardson’s intergalactic adventure, Mariner 9, will present a giant panoramic vision of the planet Mars set 200 years in the future.

And The Mining Institute will offer the opportunity to ex­­plore all three floors of the adjacent Neville Hall for the first time, including a domed skylight which has been hidden for generations, and a private bomb shelter dating from 1938.

There’s much more in the programme and the full line-up can be seen at www.thelateshows.org.uk

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