One place I have been desperate to check out since I moved back is Newcastle’s Lit & Phil – the literary and philosophical society. An old building tucked away just round the corner from Central Station, it’s one of those venues that every time I walk past I think – ooh, must check that out – and, um, don’t. Anyway, since two of my resolutions for the year were ‘go to new venues’ and ‘go to things that aren’t your usual taste’, finding out they were hosting a series of free talks and concerts seemed the perfect excuse.
I arrived early to have a look round, and was glad I did. The library, upstairs, looks like the staff room at Hogwarts – books as far as the eye can see, stuffed animals, olde worlde decor. But while it’s clearly keen to preserve its heritage, it’s also a working library: there was a small children’s library, tons of tables for people to work and read, and stacks of publications. You have to be a member to borrow books but it’s free to go in and use. You can get a cup of coffee and a cake, too, and they sell a small collection of cards and gifts.
Downstairs, the performance venue was serviceable rather than fancy – a room with some chairs, basically – but the hour-long free concert was well-attended, and the venue staff were friendly and welcoming. Personable mezzo-soprano Sarah Bell performed Songs of Love, Loss & Longing, accompanied by David Murray on piano, which featured works by Brahms, Mozart and, um, other people. It wasn’t music that was to my taste, to be honest, but it was well-done and well-received, and if classical music is your thing, it’s definitely worth checking out.
The Lit & Phil hosts a wide range of events, paid and free, featuring everything from musical recitals (classical, jazz and folk all seem well-represented in the programme), to talks on art, nature and science – it even hosts drama and comedy shows, so I am hoping to see more. Membership isn’t super cheap – £133 for full ordinary membership, though student and young people discounts are available – so I admit I settled for buying a tote bag in the gift shop and donating some spare change, but it’s definitely somewhere I will go back to.