Taking to the Toon
By Kirsten Sutherland
Newcastle is one of the most vibrant cities in the country, abundant with both daytime and nightlife activities. ‘The Toon’, as Geordies refer to it, was voted the third best party city in Europe last year in a TripAdvisor poll, beaten only by London and Berlin. Newcastle offers a range of world-famous musical and comedy acts, cinematic and theatrical events, and localised entertainment from football matches to small festivals. A short 15 minute train journey away you can find a range of experiences outside of ‘The Durham Bubble’ that it would be a crime to not check out.
Newcastle is a party city at heart. It hosts two universities meaning that cheap student nightlife is a given. There are a number of world-class clubs in Newcastle which each offer slightly different genres of nights, Cosmic Ballroom’s ‘Rub a Dub Dub’ on a Tuesday night plays some of the best dubstep around, where Digital’s classic ‘Born in the 80’s’ night on a Monday has incredibly cheap entry at 80p along with 80p drinks. With over 170 pubs and numerous clubs a big night out is waiting week in and week out.
Aside from Newcastle’s wealth of bars and clubs it is also the only city between Leeds and Edinburgh that hosts many of the bands, DJs, or solo artists touring at any given time. The O2 Academy, The Metro Radio Arena, and Digital are three of the main hosts for musicians with acts including Annie Mac, Tinie Tempah, Scroobius Pip, Arctic Monkeys, Rihanna and The Vaccines being a fraction of what is coming up in the next few months. Smaller venues that host arts events and some more local, lesser known, acts are also scattered around. The Cluny and The Tyne are two that host local DJs, international bands, and even small daytime music festivals. Newcastle is where those in the know go to see everything from internationally acclaimed acts to a more intimate local experience.
In the past ten years Newcastle had undergone a major renaissance developing into one of the most culturally rich cities in the North. It is home to numerous institutions, from the Baltic Contemporary Art Museum, to The Sage, a world class opera house. The Theatre Royal, located in the city’s centre, is a thriving centre of entertainment, housing top acts, West End productions, and regular performances from the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company. Just opposite on Pilgrim Street lies the Tyneside Cinema, one of the country’s leading independent cinemas screening up to date and out of date productions. Each year to boost Christmas morale the cinema screens It’s a Wonderful Life.
Newcastle also prides itself on a diverse shopping landscape and modern entertainment scene. Eldon Square shopping centre and Northumberland Street are the main shopping areas in the city centre, with vintage shops hiding away close to the Bigg Market.
Whilst this all may sound overwhelming, contrary to what you might think, the ‘Toon’ is the ideal place to get lost and relax at the weekend after a long week. Strolling through the diverse cityscape, it’s refreshing to people watch with that rare luxury of being completely anonymous. None of the Durham danger of bumping into someone you could really do without seeing.
Not only does Newcastle provide all a city should and more, it’s important to recognize its place in the lives of its people. Geordies are extremely patriotic; the way a football fan feels when they walk past St James Park is an overwhelming pride, whether the Toon face relegation or not. This pride in their ‘toon’ is similarly obvious as you stroll along the lovingly resurrected Quayside, and take in the towering steel bridges, each having and serving a different purpose. You wonder as you walk past old couples on their Sunday walk, which of them have also proudly watched as they grow in size, complexity and number. One of the most mesmerizing bridges is the new Millenium Bridge, an award winning cantilever bridge, that makes another important join in the gap between Gateshead and Newcastle, both sides of the river overseeing the renaissance of their Quayside.
This is in no way a bid to prove Newcastle’s worth over Durham’s, we all know how great our little city is. What I’m hoping to do however is dispel any myths surrounding Newcastle, and urge you to take that short train journey to experience it for yourself. I guarantee a Geordie smile will greet you. at each turn you take in the ‘Toon’.