Jungle Rooms and Tea Parties as arts centre takes over Old Police House in Gateshead

By Ben Miller | 01 August 2012
A photo of a group of young people holding wallpaper utensils outside an urban building
© Rachel McDonagh / Cassandra Walker
Opening: Old Police House, Gateshead, August 4 2012

A special Jungle Room features a mysterious tree. A Graphatorium is full of graffiti and urban art. A Free Room puts a giant Angel of the North at the centre of a series of cartoon illustrations. And one chamber is simply called The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

A photo of two young people on ladders hanging art on the wall of a rubble-strewn house
The building had been dubbed a "house of rubble"© Barry Pells Photography
The team behind Gateshead’s newest arts centre haven’t done badly considering they started with a derelict police station full of debris, broken furniture, cracked wallpaper and decaying crevasses.

“This is a huge achievement,” says Anna Spencer, who helped eight youngsters, aged between 15 and 18, to get into the unwanted house, left derelict for ten years.

Spencer works for NE-Generation, a project with links to the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012.

“Our first event is important because, as well as being an open house and exhibition of art, we are also asking young people and anyone interested in the arts to come and see the transformation and have their say on how the house could be used in the future to benefit the area and its community.

“We would like to see the house continue as a creative space where young people can express themselves, explore new skills, find out more about the world and each other and channel their energies into art and creativity.”

“Space Invaders is culture-led regeneration in action,” believes programme manager Ben Ayrton, calling it “a fantastic and democratic project”.

“It gives young people a chance to decide how to take something neglected and unwanted, create art from it, involve other young people and ultimately make Gateshead a better place to live.”

Three of the Invaders, from the town’s Joseph Swan Academy, have been rewarded for their commitment with a gallery-hopping trip to London, returning to make new pieces under the tutelage of a furniture maker.

Their fellow members are Graphic Design students from Gateshead College.

  • Old Police House, Swineburne Place, behind Gateshead Old Town Hall. Open August 4-5 12pm-5pm. Visit the project online for full details.

More pictures from the project:

A photo of a room in a dilapidated house covered in bits of paint and chairs
© Barry Pells Photography
A photo of two people in decorating overalls standing by a building window smiling
© Rachel McDonagh / Cassandra Walker
A photo of the inside of a dilapidated building with a white toilet cistern visible
© Rachel McDonagh / Cassandra Walker
A photo of the sparse interior of a room in a dilapidated building with plain white walls
© Rachel McDonagh / Cassandra Walker
A photo of a group of young people holding paint rollers in a mess-covered room
© Barry Pells Photography
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