AFTER-dark fairy tales, striking light projections, illuminating art-mobiles and a touch of exterior design from Yoko Ono will ensure Tyneside is bathed in a warm glow throughout December.
Yesterday saw the official launch of the fifth Newcastle Gateshead Winter Festival, and if all goes to plan, the organisers have more than served the assumption that you have to aim for better than what has gone before.
I was on maternity leave last year and missed all the festivities. But I have it on good authority that the 2007 event was pretty damn good.
So this year’s festival, which forms part of Newcastle Gateshead’s world-class programme developed by culture¹º, had a lot to live up to.
First up is the return of Enchanted Parks which delighted thousands of people from the confines of Leazes and Saltwell parks last year. This year the activity has been focused on Gateshead’s Saltwell Park and is themed around winter stories and adventures. More than a dozen installations will combine to create a magical setting for an after-dark walk for all the family.
An ice queen’s melting heart, a snow globe, a magical garden and Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees are among the attractions which will shine a light on the park from December 4 to 14. It is one of three outdoor elements being contributed by artist and musician Ono. Her part in the festival makes up a slice of the largest exhibition to date of her works from 1961 to the present date at the Baltic in Gateshead. A Morse code message which will spell out I Love You to the Castle Keep from Baltic and back, and a projection of her 1968 film which records a single smile of John Lennon over the course of 51 minutes also make up part of the Winter Festival proceedings.
Next up on the menu is Glow which will quite literally throw the spotlight on Newcastle’s rich heritage by using architectural light projections to illuminate the medieval town walls.
Described as a “visual exercise in Geordie Geography”, the projections will incorporate black and white images drawn from historic sources, such as 19th-century maps and Thomas Bewick engravings. Glow will be illuminating: the West Walls at Gallowgate, Morden Tower, and The House of Recovery; and the Sallyport Tower on Tower Street, from December 11 to 15.
The closing climax to the Festival will see the return of the Glowmobiles which thrilled all who saw them last New Year’s Eve. This year (on the same night) 20 artistically-transformed vehicles will be stationed at the Baltic and Grey’s Monument before proceeding to Newcastle Civic Centre for a firework finale.
Three new art cars, including a pedal-powered rickshaw lightship and an Edvard Munch-inspired I-Scream Van (get it?) have been commissioned for the occasion. Liz Pugh, producer, said: “Glowmobiles will be a cavalcade of wheeled and pedalled delights, offering an interactive and playful combination of costumed characters, illuminated vehicles transformed and adorned by some of the UK’s leading artists, and a stunning finale at Newcastle Civic Centre.”
For a full programme and more information, visit www.visitnewcastlegateshead.com.
Enchanted Parks is a free, but ticketed. Call (0191) 230-5151 or collect tickets in person at the Northern Stage box office. Early booking is recommended.