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Culture Awards Best Event Tyneside finalists: The Late Shows, GNR Million Opening Ceremony and Great North Passion

A world class celebration on the Quayside, a late night culture crawl and a wonderfully memorable Easter which put the North East on the map

This award, supported by Newcastle University, recognises large and small scale events, festivals and exhibitions in Teesside. The winners of each category qualify for the shortlist in the Overall North East Event of the Year award.

GNR Million Opening Ceremony

In September 2014, the Newcastle Gateshead Quayside and the River Tyne was transformed into a huge outdoor arena for an Opening Ceremony, marking the start of the official countdown to the millionth finish of the Bupa Great North Run on Sunday, September 7.

A top drawer creative team and cast of narrators, musicians, artists and volunteers took the audience on an epic journey through time. From the Big Bang right through to the one millionth finish of the event, the ceremony offered visions of Tyneside’s past, present and future, reminding us, in the words of David Almond’s stirring tribute to the indomitable spirit of the Great North Run, “We’re a million runners joined as one”.

Angi Wallace photography The Great North Run Opening Ceremony gave Tyneside an unforgettable experience
The Great North Run Million Opening Ceremony was a sight to behold

Led by artistic director Bradley Hemmings (co-Artistic director of the London 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony) and other members of the London 2012 Opening Ceremonies, the team brought David Almond’s narrative to life along with hundreds of volunteer performers who formed a giant choreographed circuit around the Quayside. The story was narrated by actors Tim Healy and Jill Halfpenny.

There were also music performances from Mark Knopfler, Sting, Jimmy Nail, The Unthanks and Chase and Status.

Oh, and the evening was hosted by national treasures (loaned to the rest of the country by the Geordies, of course) Ant and Dec.

Website: greatnorthrunculture.org/gnr-million

Twitter: @gnrculture

Great North Passion

The Great North Passion was a landmark arts and cultural event which shone a light on the talent and spirit of the North East, and created a national platform for its communities to tell their stories.

It took place in Bents Park, on the seafront in South Shields over the Easter weekend of 2014. The event was a major collaboration between a wide range of North East cultural organisations and the BBC. It told the Easter Passion story through a unique combination of live performance, music, poetry, visual arts and dance in a spectacular pop-up ‘cathedral’ made of shipping containers.

The live event attracted an audience of 3,500 people and it was broadcast live on BBC1 to an audience of 1.3 million people

nationally in one of the BBC’s largest outdoor broadcasts of 2014.

Over the weekend a further 3,000 people visited The Great North Passion exhibition at Bents Park, which featured the work of 12 world-class artists who had worked with communities across the North East to tell their stories.

The containers making up the cross-shaped arena for Great North Passion are assembled in Bents Park, South Shields
The containers making up the cross-shaped arena for Great North Passion are assembled in Bents Park, South Shields

The entire family could find something to inspire them and represent the way they understand the Easter story, though a combination of dance, visual arts, poetry, live performance and music, courtesy of the 500 performers that took part.

The event offered a national platform for the North East’s arts and cultural talent, its heritage, its stories and its wonderful landscapes.

Rebecca Ball, project director, The Cultural Spring, says: “The Great North Passion was created by so many people across the North East working together and that makes the nomination particularly special.

“It was a really exciting partnership with the BBC, massively ambitious and unlike anything any of the team had done before – so we are absolutely thrilled (to be nominated).

“Great North Passion was a community arts project, a live concert and a TV programme all in one. It brought together hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds across the North East to tell their version of the Easter Passion Story. Dozens of artists and arts organisation were involved working right across the region from Teesside to Northumberland.

“It was an epic undertaking and it was broadcast to an audience of over one million people on a beautifully sunny Easter Sunday from Bents Park in South Shields in one of the BBC’s largest live broadcasts of 2014.”

Website: theculturalspring.org.uk/event/the-great-north-passion

Twitter: @cultural_spring

The Late Shows

As the nights got lighter, the entertainment got later when the ever popular Late Shows returned to offer two nights of eclectic after hours enjoyment throughout Newcastle and Gateshead.

Since its inception nearly ten years ago, The Late Shows has gone from strength to strength and is now a cornerstone of the Tyneside cultural calendar.

The 2014 weekend featured more than 50 participating venues, attracting 33,000 visits. Compare this to the 2007 event, which saw 14 venues take part on a single night and it’s not difficult to comprehend how far it has come.

Focused on the region’s arts and culture scene, the long-running festival offered a range of shows which came to life once standard opening hours had passed, successfully aiming at drawing in a younger crowd to local museums and galleries that were encouraged to stage something different to their usual installations.

Artist Ginny Reed lit up the Castle Keep and Gateshead Old Town Hall this weekend as part of The Late Shows
Artist Ginny Reed lit up the Castle Keep and Gateshead Old Town Hall this weekend as part of The Late Shows

All 50 of the venues took this brief to heart and created innovative productions and activities; from the Time Bandits casting their suspicions on Jack the Ripper at Gateshead Old Town Hall and Seven Stories fairy-tale extravaganza - in which much loved characters from jumped from the page to real life - to a speakeasy hosted by Babushka the pig and Elsie the Kitten at Ouseburn Farm and a pub crawl with Toon Nights at The Holy Biscuit.

The whole family stayed up late and indulged in local culture well into the night... and all for free.

Bill Griffiths, head of programmes, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, says: “Scores of people at venues across Newcastle and Gateshead work incredibly hard to make The Late Shows a success and we’d like to thank everyone who has been involved, from organisers and volunteers to our visitors and supporters. This nomination shows what a credit they all are to the region’s thriving cultural scene.

“It’s a free event with transport provided and glow sticks are given out to create a visible community on the night. The friendly, festive atmosphere makes for a very different and enjoyable experience of Tyneside on a Friday and Saturday night.”

Website: www.thelateshows.org.uk/home.html

Twitter: @TheLateShows

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