Spider-Man and the Botanist

It was the final day of my friend T’s visit so we decided to have a chill day – she is returning to a packed Edinburgh Fringe schedule. A lazy morning (for me, anyway – she was working on Fringe stuff) was followed by a trip to the Vue in Gateshead to see Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Earlier in the weekend we had watched Into the Spiderverse, which was an utter delight – visually inventive and packed with loads of pleasing comics references and plenty of heart – so I was keen to see how she thought the film compared. Plus I have been dying to try the Vue – since it’s £4.99 a ticket! We both enjoyed it a lot, though I felt a bit like the Marvel Whisperer – having seen it already in Brighton I was on hand to stop patrons leaving before the end scenes, many clearly wondering if Endgame had marked Marvel abandoning their post-credits scenes. (Half the people around me were googling “Far from Home end credits” as the credits themselves were running!)

Afterwards we nipped over the river for a quick drink at The Botanist, as I wanted T to see one of the best interiors in the city, and though I dislike the place when it’s busy – it gets rammed – at 5 on a Sunday it was pretty civilised.

Finally, the night was rounded out by another North East institution: Indian takeaway from Saleem’s, thereby ensuring she returns to Edinburgh full for about a week (as well as being delicious, Saleem’s is not stingy with the portions!)


Art and birds at Baltic

It’s been a little while since I went to Baltic, so having a friend in town provided the perfect excuse.

They have a range of shows on, as always, and something to appeal to most tastes. Survey was a mix of pieces by early career artists and, as ever in these big shows, some buts were more to my taste than others, but having them all in one space was an interesting experience (runs till 29 Sep).

I had to skip John Akomfrah’s Ballasts to Memory – I was recovering from a migraine and one look at the screens felt like it would set me off again – but it looks worth checking out. I was very taken with Ifeoma U. Anyaeji’s Ezuhu ezu – In(complete). A Nigerian artist heavily influenced by the culture of her country, she combines traditional craft methods and modern materials in witty, clever ways, and though I admit I know little to nothing about contemporary sculpture, the show – her first solo piece in the UK – really charmed me. It runs till Sep 22.

Another show that won me over was Mick Peter’s To Me, To You, a 3D installation that felt like walking through a comic strip, in the best way. (Be sure to peak through the window at the end of the show for the ‘punchline’). This is on till 27 October.

Perhaps best of all though was the sight from the 4th floor viewing platform – the kittiwakes! Newcastle’s kittiwake population is unusual for being so inland, and for nesting on urban structures, and to see a row of them lined up so neatly, preening and sleeping, was a genuine treat that my photos don’t do justice.

Entry to Baltic is free – though donations are suggested and you can even text to support the kittiwakes – though good luck getting out without spending some money in the cafe or their fantastic gift shop.

Work and Workers at Side Gallery

The Side Gallery is always worth a visit, and I have been meaning to get to see their new show for ages, so was pleased to be able to finally fit it in. Work & Workers is a curated exhibition of photographs from around the work exploring the theme of work, featuring everything from coal miners to call centres.

Spread across the whole gallery, it’s packed with gorgeous pics, including stunning shots of the Tyne Bridge being built, some of Chris Killip’s amazing ship building pictures (I talked about his Last Ships show at the Laing a while back), and some brutal pictures of the miner’s strike and Orgreave.

It’s unflinching and sometimes bleak, but often strangely beautiful, and always humane – it never loses sight of the fact that at the heart of even the darkest and fieriest industrial hellscape there are people living their lives.

Work & Workers is on till 8 Sep and is free. Go check it out!

Dramatic Cocktails at Lola Jeans

My first time revisiting Lola Jeans in almost a year – and this time I got to try the cocktail that I wanted to try that first visit, but that they had run out of. The Fog on The Tyne features a Newcastle Brown Ale reduction and is delivered in a smoky bell-jar – so looks *very* dramatic. (I was pleased to see it actually just came in a glass, though). My friend had the 5 Shades of Earl Grey, which she also enjoyed (though she envied my glass). I wasn’t keen on their overuse of plastic straws – I think these should always be available, as some people need them, and the ban is ridiculous, but I also think they should be offered, not just supplied with the assumption everyone wants one – but other than that, it was a great stop off for the start of an evening.


Autumn Season at Alphabetti

As I said in my previous post, I was in Northern Stage yesterday meeting Esther Fearn from Alphabetti to talk about their great new season, which is showcased on their shiny new website.


There’s an array of great shows (I was excited to FINALLY manage to book tickets to Bonnie and the Bonnettes, whom I had started to think I was fated never to see as I always seem to be away when they are performing (I’m missing their new show at Northern Stage, which sounds fab). But they are doing a Halloween show at Alphabetti that I can actually go to, so I nabbed tickets (The BonBon’s Cabaret: The Haunted House of Lovetix here.)

As well as the regular events (Shakespeare Speakeasy, Film Nite, Write Faster, Comedy Night that Passes the Bechdel Test), they have some real treats lined up. I’m a bit gutted I will miss the first of these, Three Shorts – which is basically what it says on the tin, three short plays – but other promising shows include Steve, a pleasingly bonkers sounding show about a dead robot, The Art of Cuddling and Other Things (a show I reviewed when it was being developed, and which showed a lot of promise), Camisado Club’s Bluebeard, which has one of the best blurb’s I’ve read (“Camisado Club take aim at patriarchy and power structures in a colourful, glitter-splattered cocktail of high art and low morals”) and Awkward Conversations with Animals I’ve F*cked [asterisk theirs], which definitely sounds… interesting. I’m also really keen to see Isolation, which got rave reviews when it was staged at Customs House.

Many of the shows are pay-what-you-feel, and all of them are on the cheap side compared to what most theatres charge, so it’s definitely worth checking out what’s coming. If nothing else, get yourself along to the bar – you might see the theatre’s resident dog!


This is Byker at Northern Stage

Yesterday was a very theatre day: I met someone from Alphabetti for coffee to talk about their exciting new season (somewhat ironically at Northern Stage – though not really, as in my experience all the theatre folk in Newcastle are very supportive of their competitors!). I was then off to Byker to chat to Northern Stage (and Common Wealth) folk about one of their upcoming shows, I have Met the Enemy (And the Enemy is Us) – before dashing off to meet my friend and fellow reviewer T off the train, as she is in town to have a short break from reviewing duty at Edinburgh Fringe! So, a LOT of theatre chat. I also picked up my membership pack – so started getting my drinks discount right away (honestly, I suspect they’ll lose money on this deal…)

I’ll be talking more nearer the time about Enemy, as it sounds a fascinating project – a co-production between Northern Stage and renowned working class theatre company Common Wealth, it examines Britain’s role in the arms trade through the lived experience of a Palestinian man, a former British solider and a female painter still based in the Middle East, as well as looking at how art can be a transformative power in people’s lives. It will be staged in Byker Community Centre, which I’m not familiar with, but, based on my visit yesterday, seems a vibrant community hub (when I was there, there seemed to be lots of activities going on, including arts and crafts activities for kids with it being the school holidays, and a ‘pay what you can’ produce market, that sells donated produce that would be otherwise be going to landfill, thereby cutting down food waste.) The Common Wealth project has been developed with input from local residents and will feature a community cast (and reduced ticket prices of £2 for residents), and is part of Northern Stage’s ongoing engagement with the Byker community. (You can also go along early for some performances for a walking tour of the estate, or a lecture about its history as one of the country’s most famous examples of social housing – you can find details on how to sign up or buy tickets on the Northern Stage website.)

Part of this engagement was on show in the theatre itself, with their new exhibition This is Byker. My photos don’t do it justice – the light downstairs is hard on photos! – but it’s a series of beautifully intricate and delicate drawings of the Byker estate by long-term resident Steve Sheraton. This exhibition (which is on till 24th September) is part of a wider This is Byker project, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of what is now an iconic estate, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

Dark Dates charms

I mentioned yesterday that my Reading In Heels box arrived the same day as an empty envelope from a friend, the goods within missing. So although it was slightly ‘here’s what you could have won*’, I did ask my friend – Jo from the great craft store Stella My Star – what she’d sent, and it turns out it was this lovely gift, a specially made Dark Dates charm bracelet! Wah! Wonderful human that she is, she’s sending me another – this time with a lot more sellotape on the envelope.

(If you want to check out the full range of gorgeously geeky themed jewellery she does – which includes necklaces and bracelets inspired by such shows as Good Omens, Game of Thrones, Veronica Mars, Doctor Who and Stranger Things) – her website is here.


*showing my age here. Remember Bullseye? (The TV show, not the Marvel character)