Warhol in Edinburgh

As per my previous post, I was in Edinburgh this week. Mainly this was to see a show – Cora Bissett’s excellent What Girls Are Made of – but it also provided a great chance to catch up with friends.

My friend A and her husband moved back to Scotland a few years ago, and I hadn’t seen their new place since, so A & I met for drinks and dinner before the show (an OK-but not-stellar chips and halloumi burger at Red Squirrel, mostly because it was handy for the theatre, though it was a perfectly fine stopping point: friendly staff, very decent selection of veggie options). I stayed the night at their gorgeous house, which gave me major home envy: my room (just one of their guest rooms!) had an en suite, and the whole place was just so lovely and elegantly fitted out, I am now planning to secretly move in and see how long till they notice (it’s a big house – could be a while)…

A and I stayed up chatting till the early hours, so I admit I was more than a little hungover when I went back into town the next day to meet my friend D, through from Glasgow. Still, we didn’t let that deter us from taking in some culture, and decided to head to the Scottish National Galleries of Modern Art.

It’s been years since I have been – I’ve never even set foot in Modern Two – but we started there, keen to see I want to be a machine, an exhibition of Andy Warhol and Eduardo Paolozzi pieces that included many of the famous Warhol prints and movie posters. I’m less familiar with Paolozzi, but his work was a fascinating counterpoint, and the exhibit is well laid out across five rooms, with plenty of explanation as to what’s what and why it matters. It’s also free, which is always a bonus.

NOW at Modern One was more of a mixed bag. A selection of works by Monster Chetwynd, Henry Coombes, Moyna Flannigan, Betye Saar, and Wael Shawky, it covered most of the ground floor, and some bits took me more than others, though as again it was free, I was happy to have a mooch.

D and I then had lunch and a wander, before he had to head back to Glasgow, so before my evening train I met A again for a few drinks in a pub off the Royal Mile (we powered bravely through our hangovers). The pub had a sign on the bar that said ‘those that drink langest live langest’ and at this rate A and I will be around till our 80s…

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Da Vinci drawings at Sunderland Museum

Took a trip to Sunderland today to see the Da Vinci drawings – selections of which are on display around the country. It was the first time I had been to the Museum and I was impressed – there were a number of good exhibits, including some drawings from the archives, some LS Lowry and a series of drawings of local pensioners by Andrew Tift called One Day You’ll be Older Too.

The Da Vinci exhibit was astoundingly good value – £2.50 a ticket! – and showcased some beautiful pieces. We rounded off our trip with coffee and a scone in the cafe (also not bad value) and a wander round the winter gardens. Definitely worth a visit.

Alien Invasion at the Centre for Life

Saturday my friend D and I went to The Centre for Life to see the exhibition of costumes and props from alien-related movies and TV shows. Despite the fact I have walked past this place literally hundred of times – my mum lived just up the road – I have never been in, so felt this was a perfect excuse to visit.

The centre isn’t massive, and is obviously geared towards families, so a lot of it I was happy to ignore (a crowded talk on the science of chocolate, featuring experiments on Easter Eggs, was proving popular as we passed). The exhibition itself wasn’t massive – you could walk the whole thing in a few minutes – but both D and I were happy to freak out over the Aliens props, and both of us got a thrill from standing next to a surprisingly louche Stormtrooper.

We also took a trip to the Planetarium to see a short film about the moon, and marvelled at the giant version of the same suspended just outside it (a touring artwork by Luke Jerram). Although not a cheap experience – our tickets, which gave access to the whole centre, were £11 – it’s definitely worth a visit if you have kids, as they put on lots of activities.

Bonus points for having a cafe that doesn’t gouge a captive audience on prices (the nice staff even gave me another token for the coffee machine when I wasted my first by not being able to figure out how it worked – what can I say, I really needed that coffee!) and for having disabled toilets clearly labelled with the message ‘not all disabilities are visible’ – which I think is a tactic more places should employ.

And I got to see a Stormtrooper!

The Biscuit Factory

Went for a birthday brunch to The Factory Kitchen at the Biscuit Factory, in the newly revitalised Ouseburn. I have been to the gallery before, and liked it, but never eaten at any of the eateries. The Factory Kitchen is, I think, the most affordable, and I will definitely be going back: the grilled cheese sandwich was one of the best I have ever had, and my companion was equally taken with her eggs Benedict. The only downside was it was so filling that even after we took a break to walk around the art and enjoy a pop up jewellery shop (the main gallery also sells some lustworthy pieces), we were still so full that her plan to buy me a slice of cake was thwarted and we had to settle for another coffee instead…

Baltic Mill

One of the most iconic symbols of Gateshead regeneration, the Baltic is a stunning building put to good use. My friend S & I wandered down after our delicious brunch at Backyard Bike Shop, past all the preparations for the Great North Run at the weekend.

From the viewing box at the top that has one of the best views in the city, we worked our way down from floor to floor. Most of the place was dominated by pieces for the Great Exhibition of the North, my favourite of which was a photography show done in collaboration with the Side, Women by Women, featuring black and white pictures taken in the region. (And it’s all free!)

A slightly dry cheese scone and a cup of coffee in the cafe and a mooch around the fabulous gift shop completed our visit, and we were ready to head for a beer…

The Side Gallery: About the North

Getting my culture on, I popped into The Side Gallery today to catch their exhibition About The North: Imagined Dialogues before it closed. I have long loved the Side. It’s free, holds interesting events that manage to be both locally focused and grounded without being parochial, and it’s small enough that you can take in a whole exhibition before your feet start to hurt.

About the North was a gorgeous show: a mix of photographers, some I had heard of but had no idea had ever set foot in the North East (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Bill Brandt), some known for their Northern-focused fare (Martin Parr) and some I was unfamiliar with. Much of the older photography was focused on poverty – indeed, some of it was from projects that had been commissioned specially to illustrate things like housing issues – but it was presented with a warmth and humanity that stopped me feeling like I was gawking.

The exhibition only runs till Sep 9: catch it if you can!