Night at the museum

Among propositions for the weekend, "Fancy a night at the museum?" has never figured in the North-East.

Tom Bramald with his laser mapped image

Among propositions for the weekend, "Fancy a night at the museum?" has never figured in the North-East. Why would it? Museums close at tea time.

But that will change tonight when 13 museums and galleries on Tyneside will be open from 7-11pm in an initiative called The Late Shows.

Venues including Newcastle's Discovery Museum and children's book centre Seven Stories, and Gateshead's Baltic and Shipley Art Gallery, are to break the tradition of daytime only opening.

Bill Griffiths of Tyne & Wear Museums, who has been coordinating The Late Shows, said there had been an enthusiastic response from venues who were all asked to lay on something special for the occasion.

There had also been "huge support" from NewcastleGateshead Initiative which incorporated The Late Shows into its Culture 10 programme of world class events and festivals, providing money for promotion and for some of the special activities.

"The reason we think this will work is that we have got this huge critical mass in NewcastleGateshead now in terms of all sorts of cultural activity," said Mr Griffiths.

"There is so much great stuff going on in this region, probably more so than anywhere else, and this is a great chance to show it off. It has been exciting for me because it has brought a lot of people together. But there are still a lot of people who aren't aware of what is going on inside our museums and galleries because they close during the evenings. This is an opportunity to attract a different sort of audience."

Tomorrow's late opening coincides with Museums and Galleries Month but also with La Nuit de Musee (The Night of the Museums), a well established European festival which sees crowds of people on the continent taking advantage of late opening.

Mr Griffiths, manager of the North-East Regional Museums Hub, said venues had been responsible for their own staffing arrangements tomorrow night but volunteers would also be helping out.

"We have a regional volunteer programme run through Tyne & Wear Museums but we would like to develop with Culture 10 a team of cultural volunteers to support things like this in future. It is a way of getting more people engaged in what's going on. Manchester did it when they hosted the Commonwealth Games and it worked well."

Nobody knows exactly what the response will be tomorrow night but Mr Griffiths said a repeat of the exercise next year would depend on attendance figures. "There has already been a lot of interest expressed and we do think people will come out in droves," he said.

So where will he be tomorrow night? "Everywhere. I'll be dashing around to see what's going on and to see people enjoying themselves."

Buses will run between the venues tomorrow and the organisers hope people will try to see as much as possible. For full details, visit www.thelateshows.org.uk

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Been anywhere good lately?

* Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle: Folk musician Jed Grimes will sing songs relating to the current exhibition, Work, Rest and Play.

* Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead: View new exhibition Seeing Dragons in the Clouds: The Art of the Imagination and try your hand at making art out of appealing `junk'.

* The Centre for Life, Newcastle: Stand Up Science, a scientific version of stand up comedy, is a live show explaining the chemistry of cocktails.

* Hatton Gallery, Newcastle: Take part in two mapping experiments derived from the work of artist Jamie Shovlin, Ordnance Survey and Newcastle University's geomatics department.

* Biscuit Factory, Newcastle: Meet some of the artists whose work features in the commercial art gallery's Spring Show.

* Alt.gallery, Newcastle: Phil and Cath Tyler will perform folk music in this tiny gallery at the back of the alt.vinyl record shop (next to Tilley's Bar, Westgate Road) inspired by The Anthology of American Folk Music.

* Baltic, Gateshead: This Ain't Vegas will be performing a special set of songs to celebrate a host of new exhibitions.

* Gallery North, Northumbria University, Newcastle: See performances and screenings inspired by the eight and a half minutes it takes light to travel to Earth from the Sun.

* Discovery Museum, Newcastle: See the vast collection chronicling Newcastle history and watch feature film Night at the Museum in the Great Hall at 7.30pm.

* Tyne & Wear Archives Service at the Discovery Museum: Footage of the derby match between Newcastle and Sunderland in 1913 will feature in a programme of rare film.

* Waygood's Little Jewel Cinema, High Bridge, Newcastle: Artist Alison Knowles will perform and sew together garments in the shop window. Take clothing and soft objects for her to sew.

* Vane Gallery, Forth Banks, Newcastle: Explore Simon Le Ruez's exhibition, When the Quarry Calls, which allows you to glimpse a disquieting world.

* Seven Stories, Newcastle: Open from 5pm with free entry and spooky storytelling from 7pm - 8pm. To book, tel. 0845 271-0777.

* The Art Works Galleries, Stepney Banks, Newcastle: Artists including gallery owner Matt Forster will give demonstrations through the evening.

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