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Great Exhibition of the North 2018 set to open today in spectacular style

Great Exhibition of the North’s full programme – including trails, venues, exhibits and installations across NewcastleGateshead – will officially open today (Friday 22 June).

At 1pm, the start of the free, once-in-a-lifetime Exhibition will be marked with a burst of confetti along the Quayside, and a sound installation by artist, Steve Messam, Whistle, which will send the sound of a steam locomotive whistle around the route of Newcastle’s ancient city walls.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said:

“The Great Exhibition of the North is an incredible celebration of the very best of Northern innovation, design and culture. It is a unique showcase that demonstrates the role the North of England is playing in shaping our future.

“Newcastle-Gateshead will put on a fantastic festival for the whole country. It will once more highlight the creative strength of the Northern Powerhouse and how cultural investment can boost economies and inspire communities.”

The day will culminate in a spectacular free, sold-out evening event, which will see the Quayside come to life. With an anticipated live audience of over 20,000, and thousands more via live streaming, crowds will be immersed in an opening spectacular with bands, choirs, dance, animation and street performances.

Event-goers will enjoy a live performance from Mercury prize nominated northern rock band Maximo Park, and an appearance by renowned poet, Lemn Sissay introducing his newly created Anthem of the North.

Visitors will witness the UK’s largest water sculpture, measuring 80m in length. After dark, the water sculpture will dance to specially commissioned musical collaborations by Maximo Park and Kate Rusby with Royal Northern Sinfonia and Darkstar.

Maximo Park Musician, Paul Smith, said:

“As someone born in the North East, and who has remained here to make music and be part of our artistic community, I’m very proud to be part of the Great Exhibition’s opening event. Playing an open-air concert while floating down the River Tyne will be lots of fun, and I’m excited to see what the water feature will look like when it synchronizes with our newly-commissioned song, ‘North By North East’.

The Opening Event will draw to a close with a UK premiere showcase by Skymagic – a newly launched performance drone joint venture from Leeds-based Newsubstance – who have created a magical drone-led art show that will fill the sky with a mesmerising performance. Developed around music created by Darkstar, and with the North Star as a key motif, the performance drone display explores the notion of ‘home’, drawing on the region’s rich heritage and celebrating its bright future.

Patrick O’Mahony , Creative Director of Newsubstance, said:

“This spectacular show is the UK’s first large scale drone performance and the first by the exciting new joint venture between Newsubstance and Skymagic.  With our roots firmly in the North of England, we are very proud to be part of the Great Exhibition of the North. As one of only a few companies in the world with the resource, expertise and vision to deliver performance drones we are delighted to have the opportunity to perform on home turf.”

Patrick continued: “Autonomously flown, swarm drone performances add a unique element to events, leaving audiences amazed, inspired and with lasting memories. The Great Exhibition of the North supports pioneering spirit and innovation – two pillars that are at the core of what we offer and we are very much looking forward to playing our part.”

The Opening Event line-up:

7pm – Confetti burst and street theatre performances begin to entertain the crowds outside the gates to the ticketed zones on Newcastle Quayside
8pm – Gates open for entry to the ticketed viewing area
9.30pm – Last entry to the ticketed viewing area
9.30pm – Graham Massey and Mr Wilson’s Second Liners perform
10pm – Main event begins
11pm (approx.) – Event closes

In addition to the content throughout the 80-day programme, there will be a series of one-off performances and surprises during the opening weekend. Visitors can enjoy a show about Northern women from stand-up poet, Kate Fox; a musical performance about life in the North with Trailblazing, a trio of choirs; dancers weaving through the city, bringing large groups of people together through impromptu choreography, in ‘MESH’, by Vanessa Grasse; and 105+db, a large-scale sonic artwork which will capture the North’s passion for football.

Carol Bell, Executive Director of Great Exhibition of the North, said:

‘’Today marks the start of an incredible summer and we hope local residents and visitors from far and wide will come and experience the array of amazing exhibits, live performances and displays of innovation we have on offer for free throughout the summer.

“Alongside our contributors, partners and supporters, we have created an Exhibition which captures inspirational stories from the North, from the past to the present day. With the help of Port of Tyne and HMS Calliope we have created a one-of-a-kind Opening Event to celebrate the start of the 80-day Exhibition, with the River Tyne acting as the main stage. We hope visitors to the Opening Event will help to spread the word so we can welcome more visitors to the region, whilst inspiring future generations and ultimately leaving a lasting legacy in the North of England.”

Andrew Moffat, Port of Tyne Chief Executive Officer, said:

“The Port of Tyne is delighted to be a sponsor of this event which is of such importance to the regional economy and to see the River Tyne take centre stage. We’re excited that our work boat the Sir Bobby Robson will be the base for Maximo Park.

“The Port’s responsibility for the safe navigation of the river will also involve marshalling river traffic during the exhibition river events.

“And to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Swing Bridge our engineers have been working around the clock to renovate the bridge, investing £200K in restoration work to help celebrate the Great Exhibition of the North and to act as a lasting legacy.”

The Exhibition will tell the inspiring story of the North of England and how its innovators, businesses, artists and designers have shaped our present and are inspiring our future. Visitors will begin their journey at one of three iconic venues – Great North Museum, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art or Sage Gateshead – before joining three trails through world-class venues and public spaces.

Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council, said:

“Tonight we embark on a spectacular celebration of our creativity and diversity in which the energy of the north is showcased on a global scale.

“Our history has shaped the world, and we continue to be at the cutting edge of innovation and new technologies. Our warm welcome is legendary and our pride and culture has inspired generations. “Tonight is the first chance for people to see the next chapter in our story, and I look forward to welcoming everyone to Newcastle and Gateshead.”

Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, said:

“Gateshead is excited to play a huge part in this exhibition of everything that is innovative and creative about the North. We’re delighted to welcome the many visitors from near and far to NewcastleGateshead to sample our hospitality and the fascinating cultural activities on offer over the summer months.

“Once again we are given the opportunity to really put NewcastleGateshead on the map and we hope one of the many legacies of the Exhibition will be the great memories of this area that people take away with them.”

More details of Great Exhibition of the North can be found here:

More details of the Great Exhibition of the North Opening Event can be found here: