Launch of North Shields Cultural Quarter: Creativity takes centre stage

Anthony Lo-Giudice and Brendan Murphy perform at the launch

Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate creativity and culture in North Tyneside, at the official launch of North Shields Cultural Quarter.

It was a chance for people to find out more about plans to develop and support the cultural economy in the area, led by North Tyneside Council.

The Cultural Quarter is a place-based investment scheme, funded by North of Tyne Combined Authority. Howard Street and Saville Street in North Shields form a focal point for the growth of the creative industries in North Tyneside and the wider region.

The newly-refurbished Exchange 1856 theatre, North Tyneside Business Centre, Globe Gallery, Pinwheel and Helix Arts are all located or relocating within the heart of the Cultural Quarter.

The Cultural Quarter is working with artists, creative practitioners and cultural businesses to co-produce a programme of projects and events. This will give residents and visitors the chance to enjoy high-quality artistic experiences.

Skills development activities, including training, workshops, mentoring and 1:1 business support are being delivered in partnership with Generator’s Create:Elevate programme and Artists’ Agency from Helix Arts.

A bursary funding scheme is helping creative practitioners further their professional experience, learn new skills and access opportunities in the cultural and creative sector.

The Cultural Quarter launch on Wednesday January 31st, 2024 was held at the Exchange 1856. An audience of 200 people was given an insight into what the scheme is about and treated to two special performances created in North Shields.

The first was from Linskill Community Choir and the second was a solo performance set to live music by dance artist Anthony Lo-Giudice, featuring moments from his dance theatre production ROMA, working with Brendan Murphy.

There was a speech outlining the importance of the Cultural Quarter from North Tyneside Council’s Director of Regeneration and Economic Development, John Sparkes. And there were presentations from people sharing their experience of working creatively in North Shields and North Tyneside.

Guest speakers included internationally-renowned artist, musician, performer, DJ and label owner Geoff Kirkwood, who recently took over a three-storey Victorian building in North Shields, OneThreeOneSpace, to create studios and workspaces for creatives and artists.

Geoff Kirkwood said: “I left the region because I felt like I needed to for the sake of my music career. A decade later and I’ve come back to a very different place where you can really feel the excitement and energy in the air. There’s nowhere else in the world I would live now.

“People should travel because they want to, not because they have to, and that’s the basis of all the stuff we’re trying to provide locally.

“I’m a pretty ambitious person, but it’s nice to feel like the people around me in North Shields feel the same way. There really does seem to be a shared purpose now and I’m really excited that we get to play our part in that.”

Also speaking at the event was Cheryl Gavin, a director of Helix Arts, an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation working with communities across the North East. Now in its 40th year, its work focuses on arts and health, social inclusion, children and young people, artist development, and criminal justice.

Cheryl said: “I've been part of the early discussions and developments of the North Shields Cultural Quarter, and feel really lucky that Helix Arts and myself have been part of that journey.

“It's meant we could support community and artist development in new ways. I’m really excited about our upcoming move to North Tyneside Business Centre in the heart of the Cultural Quarter. It will help create even more of a cultural buzz and lead to real social change in the area.”

Cllr Carl Johnson, Deputy Mayor for North Tyneside and cabinet member responsible for Regeneration, Economic Development and Culture said: “There’s so much to celebrate in the cultural and creative community here in North Shields.

“We have artists, designers, musicians, writers, dancers, photographers, performers, venues, studio spaces and arts-hungry audiences.

“Our Cultural Quarter scheme is helping those who are established and supporting those who are moving in, we’re working to bring people together. 

“We’re doing that through business support, training and skills development, bursary funding, and a programme of projects and events, working with local artists.

“It will help to grow the town’s economy in a sustainable way, attract visitors and bring benefits to local people.

“It’s part of our ambitious plans to improve North Shields, transforming the town into an attractive, family-friendly destination, with a vibrant, high-quality town centre.”

Elected Mayor of North of Tyne Combined Authority Jamie Driscoll said: “We’ve invested £1.7 million to boost the North Shields economy. Writers, artists, actors, film makers – creatives of all kind can learn, develop and directly grow their businesses with this funding.

“Too often creatives are undervalued - but I’m in no doubt about the huge value they bring to our communities and our economy. Between 2011 and 2020 North East creative industries grew by 68 percent, the fastest growth of any UK region.

“We want year-round jobs in culture and tourism – organising festivals and staging events that don’t depend on summer weather. That means more visitors and more secondary jobs – everything from shops and restaurants to joiners and accountants.

“Culture can be the spark that revitalises communities.”

The project is part funded by the by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and the North of Tyne Combined Authority Investment Fund with the North of Tyne Combined Authority as the lead authority.

North Shields Cultural Quarter is part of the North of Tyne Culture and Creative Zone programme.  More details can be found here.