I’m back after a few days in the arctic North East, namely Durham and Newcastle, and have nearly thawed out. We went up there mainly for a reunion dinner at our old college. Quite surreal, to be sitting in the same bar I sat in three decades ago, talking to the some of the same people I used to talk to then. I had to keep morphing their faces from present to past, and no doubt they were doing the same for mine.
The rest of the time was spent exploring, starting with the imposing Durham Cathedral. We happened to visit while a school choir happened to be rehearsing this beautiful piece of music, which they performed beautifully. In Newcastle, we discovered wonderful places like the Seven Stories centre for children’s literature in the regenerated area of Byker. I have a love of children’s picture books, and this place is just fantastic. The top floor is designed for storytelling, and features the most magnificent storytelling chair and illustrations by Oliver Jeffers. Two of the other floors are given over to exhibitions of particular authors’ and illustrators’ work – at the moment, the spotlight is on Cressida Cowell and Julia Donaldson. It was lovely to be able to see some of the original artwork up close.
From there, we went via Northern Print (with gallery of work and workshop facilities for printmaking classes and courses) to The Biscuit Factory – a spacious gallery of contemporary art (and a café which serves delicious food). On Sunday we visited the Laing Gallery in the centre of Newcastle, and on Monday, popped in to the Durham studio of Anja Percival, whose evocative etchings had caught our eye in the Biscuit Factory gallery. So, despite the plummeting temperatures and snow, I found plenty of inspiration over the long weekend.
As the Newcastle football team is usually known as ‘The Magpies’ because of their black and white team kit, I felt a magpie painting was in order this morning. I love this part of the UK – it was great to revisit old haunts and discover new places.