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Plenty of reasons to celebrate arts

WE might not have been picked as the Capital of Culture, but the region clearly has every reason to celebrate a happy new year – and beyond.

2008 promises cultural riches aplenty. Barbara Hodgson looks at just some of the coming highlights.

WE might not have been picked as the Capital of Culture, but the region clearly has every reason to celebrate a happy new year – and beyond.

A high point for many is likely to be Kylie’s return to the North after five Minogue-less years.

And with the pop princess now tagging an extra date onto her two July performances at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, there are set to be smiles all round with what is already tipped to be the biggest concert of the summer.

When Kylie last appeared at the Arena in 2002, she set a new record as its quickest selling female solo artist of all time, as well as the record for largest seated capacity for any concert.

She says her show –- inspired by her new album ?X? – on July 20, 21 and now July 23 – will be a completely different concept from anything she’s done before.

Not to be outdone, The Sage Gateshead has announced its own spectacular coup – a special appearance from José Carreras. The world-famous tenor – seen on our TV screens over Christmas in former concerts with fellow tenors Placido Domingo and the late Luciano Pavarotti – performs there with Northern Sinfonia on February 18.

It’s his only UK performance as part of his worldwide tour, so is not to be missed.

He’ll be singing a selection of favourite songs and arias conducted by Maestro David Giménez, from Carreras’ home town of Barcelona.

For those who missed the sell-out Viva La Diva night at The Sage, featuring Darcey Bussell and Katherine Jenkins, there’s now a chance to catch them in 2008.

The pair have just announced a date at Metro Radio Arena on April 29.

And theatre-wise, there’s as just as tempting a line-up next year.

January 29 sees Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End musical hit Cats head to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, which also hosts Peter Shaffer’s controversial play Equus from March 24, starring Simon Callow and Alfie Allen, brother of Lily.

Gala Theatre in Durham, meanwhile, has secured the rights to produce the first stage version of TV comedy The Likely Lads in June.

Theatre director Simon Stallworthy received the backing of the show’s creators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais to write a play based on episodes of the second series, Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads?

And cinema-goers will be interested to know Amber Films, based on Newcastle quayside, will celebrate its 40th birthday in May; while early in the New Year, Tyneside Cinema will return to its Newcastle home from its temporary base at Gateshead Old Town Hall where it helped to host the Northern Lights Film Festival in November.

Sensitive redevelopment of the popular Grade II-listed city centre premises is creating the UK’s first digital cinema centre. The building’s original Art Deco glory will be restored, while a new extension will house two new screens.

There’ll be festival fun too: East ’08 will launch with the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations on February 10, in celebration of the best of contemporary Eastern culture; and the AV Festival of all things audio-visual takes place in Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Newcastle and Gateshead from February 28 until March 8.

And in the art arena, Yoko Ono will be giving her talents an airing in Gateshead with a big solo show at Baltic.

The Japanese artist, widow of The Beatles’ John Lennon, will be showing some major installations from December in a retrospective look at her work as part of a big European show.

And in Middlesbrough, mima will also be celebrating a special birthday: January marks its first anniversary. Visitors to the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art will still be able to enjoy its Bauhaus exhibition, considered to be the most significant one for 30 years on the post-First World War movement which signalled a new look and new social order in Germany.

Incidentally, if you’re a member of The Journal Culture Club, you can enjoy a look at Bauhaus, plus a behind-the-scenes tour of mima – on January 17. Just e-mail info@thejournalcultureclub.co.uk or, if you’re not a member but want to join, visit www.thejournalcultureclub. co.uk or call (0191) 201-6369.

And don’t forget The Journal Culture Awards take place in March to celebrate the best of 2007 in the North-East.

That’s just a tantalising taste of some of what’s to come but, of course, there are plenty more treats in store – just watch this Culture space for


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
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Newcastle United Editor
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Sports Writer