Skip to content

Guest Contributor: Matt Boyle, Chair of trustees, Common Room of the Great North

As bosses behind the Common Room of the Great North seek to secure the historic institution’s future, chair of trustees Matt Boyle reflects on its celebrated past and appeals for fresh support to ensure it can be enjoyed by generations to come.

I am writing as chair of The Common Room trustees at Neville Hall, the building which still houses the North East Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, is home to some of the first lectures of Newcastle University and is a historic gem nestled in the heart of Newcastle.

The Common Room stands not only as an inspirational, historically significant physical space, but is testament also to the resilience and spirit of the North East.

As a Glaswegian, I’ve always felt an affinity for the North East and its people. And I was really honoured and excited to get involved with Liz Mayes and the team, now nearly six years ago, to start the restoration project.

Exactly three years ago, we acquired the keys to this magnificent building.

The journey since has been nothing short of miraculous. We weathered the storm of the pandemic, slipping through the cracks in funding, and emerged stronger, only to face the challenges of a cost of living crisis.

Our success thus far has been made possible by the unwavering support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, trusts and foundations, and generous private donors.

However, sustaining The Common Room has become increasingly challenging.

We inherited not reserves, but a mortgage and additional debt, leaving our cashflow vulnerable.

Despite these challenges, our impact has been profound.

Since reopening, we’ve welcomed more than 57,000 visitors, with 20,000 engaging in STEM programmes.

We’ve worked tirelessly alongside the engineering sector, aiming to inspire the next generation of innovators and engineers, leveraging our unique heritage to shape aspirations and perceptions.

Yet, the clock is ticking.

We stand at a tipping point, facing the harsh reality of financial hardship.

The Common Room holds immense potential, not only as a cultural hub but as a catalyst for economic growth and community development in the North East.

We are exploring every avenue for support, from partnerships to public fundraisers.

Engagement with The Common Room is an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in Newcastle and the North East.

Just as the founders of Neville Hall and the Mining Institute did in 1872, we strive to ensure this historic institution can be enjoyed for generations to come.

As I reflect on our journey, I am filled with hope and determination.

The Common Room represents more than just a building; it embodies the resilience, innovation and spirit of the North East.

Together, we can preserve this beacon of heritage and continue to inspire future generations.

Join us in our mission to secure the future of The Common Room.

Together, let’s write the next chapter of its storied history.

March 20, 2024

  • Ideas & Observations

Created by North East Times