Follow the glowsticks for nighttime culture in Newcastle: Culture24 on the road for Museums at Night 2009

By Ben Miller in Newcastle | 17 May 2009
a photo of three smiling people with glow sticks round their necks

(above) Nighttime revellers on the trail of culture for Museums at Night 2009 © Ben Miller / Culture24

Culture24 reporters have been hitting the road this weekend to report on Museums at Night events right across the UK. Here Ben Miller speeds around Newcastle trying to keep up with a dizzying array of museum events as the city shows us how to really celebrate Museums at Night 2009.

From the immense volume of attractions to choose from in Newcastle for Museums at Night 2009, you could have picked anything from underground tunnels to clay making and pottery to getting intimate with Premier League footballers.

a photo of a young woman holding a Museum Lates programme

Where to now? A Museums at Night visitor armed with a programme and glowstick. © Ben Miller /

Realising this fact, most of the visitors seemed to have taken the wise choice to consume a couple of stiff drinks before surveying the map and letting a certain degree of chance take hold on their cultural route through the city, a tactic particularly handy when boarding the psychedelically-coloured buses which took neon glowstick holders from place to place.

Of all the tours on offer, the one of Newcastle United's imperious St James' Park stadium was perhaps the most breathtaking. The Magpies' depressing defeat earlier in the day had left them in serious jeopardy of being relegated from the top flight of English football, but it hardly detracted a jot from the awe with which groups of fans took to the lofty stands and dugout.

a photo of people in one of th stands at St James' Park

One of the popular events for Museums at Night 2009, St James' Park. © Ben Miller /

"Imagine we've just beaten Sunderland 5-0," someone ambitiously hypothesised as the tunnel and changing room were besieged.

Further down the hill, there was live music in the form of Last Orders at the Discovery Museum, a fledgling band who were winners of a Radio 2 Folk Award in 2007 and played a merry accompaniment to the multiple floors of Tyneside history on offer.

a photo of a folk band seated on chairs

Last Orders at The Discovery Museum. Photo © Ben Miller /

In the Archives which are part of the building, bygone films explained clothing manufacture methods in ancient factories, solemnly and unintentionally hilariously declaring that "women love making clothes, even for men."

Nearby pub, The Black Swan, converted a room in the garden into a makeshift cinder, full of beautiful pottery and urns at which guests gleefully covered themselves in clay to the sound of smooth jazz.

a photo of a crowded romm with a young woman sat at a potter's wheel

Throwing pots at the Black Swan. © Ben Miller /

At the Lit and Phil, near the city railway station, a local group of poetic filmmakers filled a decadent theatre space to the rafters on Friday and Saturday night with haunting and mesmerising takes on the concepts of film and the messages it can provide.

Beatnik club World Headquarters, was the scene for some serious jiving to reggae, hip-hop and soul classics, including the rare appearance of a Museums at Night record sleeve behind the DJ.

The Victoria Tunnel saw would-be participants locked out due to popularity, and the Hatton Gallery was popular due to the free wine available. In a packed programme, though, Geordies seemed to need little persuasion to sample the cultural delights of their city.

Feedback - how was it for you?

a photo of a smiling young woman

Dani, 30, Newcastle: “I really liked the booth bits. It's my first time in here, it's gorgeous. I liked the poetry, it sounds really good when people haven't done it before or thought it through. We found out in a local listings magazine. I'd like to see more performance art and dramatization next year. I love it and I'd like to see more of it rather than reading. Yesterday some of the art galleries had real potential - the spaces were being used really well, but more could have been done.”

a photo of two smiling men

Fernando, 32, Mexico and Fred, 32, France: “We checked the websites and checked out everything we wanted to do, although we didn't get to see everything we wanted to in the end. We wanted to do the Discovery Museum and the Victoria Tunnel. We didn't know about those before we saw Museums at Night. There's a lot to do in a very small space of time, it would be good to extend it to maybe Thursday to Monday, all through the night from 6am to early morning.”

a photo of a smiling couple

Paul, 27, Hexham, Jessica, 23, Dundee: “We've always been interested in arts and architecture, so there were all sorts of things that we wanted to see, and we worked out what things we were trying to get round between us, having read about it online. I've enjoyed seeing these galleries selling things to a different market. I think it should be extended over a long weekend, maybe a Bank Holiday, more than two days. It's done really well and been brilliant, you see people with the glowsticks and find your way around.”

Over 150 museums and galleries across the UK took part in Museums at Night 2009, which ran from May 15 - May 17. We hope next year's event will be even bigger and better, so watch out for news of Museums at Night 2010 on Culture24!

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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