Research and Curate | Workshop Challenge

Whenever there is a week that focuses on our location and a need for a ‘new and unique insight’ I start to get a little worried. Mostly because there is a rich culture in Newcastle, widely documented and within the space of a week, it always appears a daunting prospect! Despite this, I started my research by looking at a book about visual culture in Newcastle which is actually a compilation of essays by many of my lecturers from my first time round at university. It focuses on post-war Newcastle upon Tyne and proved to be a good starting point to get some ideas.

I revisited the previous weeks of this course that looked at our location before visiting the local library as it is a wealth of information on not only what is happening around Newcastle but the area’s history. I also consulted with families and friends to see what their thoughts were on the subject. I started picking out themes from these ideas and compiled my findings onto a mood board.

On the face of it there seems to be quite a few options here. Keeping in mind though we will be working on one of the two ideas that we pitch this week for the next three weeks, there are several points to consider going from this week’s resources. There needs to be a hook to the story so that not just myself will be interested in reading about the subject, it needs to reflect a viewpoint and there needs to be enough information gathered to develop the idea into a 3000 word essay. I also need to bear in mind that original imagery needs to be developed for this as well, but that will come later.

Looking at my ideas there does not seem to be any based specifically on graphic design though I did enjoy searching the Baltic archive and a collection of exhibition posters for the Hatton Gallery. Instead the ideas I looked at are concerned with a more broader look at visual culture – this seems to have been something that has occurred to other people on the Ideas Wall and one benefit of this seems to be that there will be greater freedom (so long as it is appropriate) to visualise the topic ourselves.

One common theme that came up with investigating visual culture is the focus of “local” culture – is it on the local communities or is it more influenced by what is happening nationally? There is also the contrasting view of Geordies vs some of the notable people who have left the area to make their mark on the world. These contrasts have informed the two ideas that I would like to develop and pitch.

IDEA ONE.

I found a lot of information on T. Dan Smith and his plans for creating a ‘Brasilia of the North’ out of Sixties Newcastle. Both my parents were here during that time, having moved from a market town and a hamlet in Northumberland and like many, when you mention T. Dan Smith, they immediately voice how he ‘ruined’ the city. His visions for a modern Newcastle meant a lot of classic Georgian and Victorian architecture was bulldozed and although it is well over forty years since he had any position in power, his name still gets associated with much of the contentious Brutalist architecture in the city. In researching information about his vision however, I came across images that I had never seen before which initially I thought were recent creations.

They are actually proposed images for Newcastle as a ‘Linear City’ created by Napper Architects, who worked with T. Dan Smith and city planner Wilfred Burns in the Sixties. They accompanied the publication of the Linear City Manifesto which was published in the July 1965 volume of the Northern Architect journal. Whilst some suggest that this manifesto was more of an inspiration to follow, aspects of it were put into practice and there are still traces to be found across Newcastle in the high rise architecture from that time and many walkways, both finished and unfinished.

Whilst T. Dan Smith’s city planning career ended in disgrace, much of what he and others aspired to in this time, such as improved transportation networks and having specific quarters in Newcastle has actually materialised. Though to my knowledge, neither Le Corbusier or Picasso ever made it to Tyneside.

A lot has been written about T. Dan Smith and his questionable political decisions so I would like to use the Linear City Manifesto as a basis for the 3000 word essay, placing it within the social and historical context of post war Britain and the dying remnants of industrial Newcastle. In turn this would require looking at the dream of the ‘Brasilia of the North’ and present not just the failure and scandal but the intentions behind it how it was received and why it failed. A consideration of how it still has an effect on today’s Newcastle will also be included.

Posting a picture of one of unfinished walkways on the Ideas Wall, both Stuart and Richard commented on it’s potential. I think it would be a great way to frame a fictional story yet it will have to be someone else’s fictional story. As I pointed out many people are unaware of the bigger vision behind the story, a fact that I became aware of through conversations and a brief survey I put together to try and assess whether it was a subject that would have an audience.

Unfortunately I have still been off sick with the flu so was a bit late in sending out my survey however judging from the responses I got, clearly there are some people who are aware of the history but the majority are not so I would like to present a broader picture of this notion of the ‘linear city’ and the reasoning behind some of the city planning in Newcastle in the Sixties.

In terms of format for the article, I really like Stuart’s suggestion of a photographic essay. The subject matter would lend itself to some nice photography (at this point I’m thinking film photography) and I am an avid reader – or should that be viewer? – of the photo essays on The Guardian and there was a good article recently singing the virtues of the photo book.

Ideas for a plan and image. This may well change though as I gather more research.
IDEA TWO.

In looking for evidence of something else entirely, I came across an article on the website of a smaller gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne about Newcastle’s (ultimately failed) bid together with Gateshead for European Capital of Culture in 2008. In closing the article the author makes this comment:

“…it is a culture represented by people rather than things.”

Bill Lancaster, Director of the Centre for Northern Studies at Northumbria University

This caught my interest as, writing in Made in Newcastle visual culture (2007), Chris Wharton asserted that the bid ended up failing because the bid “appeared to be celebrating a consumption culture rather than fostering cultural production from the communities that make up the city” (pp.165) This is not to say that a consumption culture cannot be driven by local people but it led me to think that it would be a good idea to explore the validity of the statement by Lancaster. A quick little poll on Instagram indicated that most people tended to agree with the statement. Well, the people who saw the story at least.

There is not a particular ‘Newcastle style’ which perhaps stems from the city being caught between many influences, both nationally and internationally over the years. I discovered this looking at the typography in the first two weeks of this module and if one considers the architecture of the city for example, there is an eclectic mix. On the other hand however, there are ‘items’ intrinsically linked with Newcastle like certain television shows, or the products of certain industries like coal.

Self-generated photograph taken in the pit village in Beamish. Taken with Lomography Diana F+

Responding to this on the Ideas Wall, both Richard and Syed were keen to highlight that this is potentially quite a far-reaching subject so the essay would require a focus.

In examining this statement, I would research visual culture exploring the focus on people and notable individuals (both residents and visitors) as well as the increasing number of immersive cultural experiences in the city alongside permanent fixtures like the open air ‘living’ museum, Beamish. It is not insignificant either that when one considers people who have made an impact on visual culture from Newcastle, they have usually done so after having left the city – the most famous case of this perhaps being Jony Ive, a graduate from Northumbria University.

Ideas for a plan and image. Again, this may well change though as I gather more research.

Final Outcome.

IDEA ONE: The Linear City

Synopsis:

Despite popular culture at the time projecting an image of Newcastle being very much in post war decline, the Sixties were a time when several modern, almost futuristic, city planning proposals were made. The intention was to make a linear city, a thriving metropolis and yet, due to political scandal and lack of funds many were left unrealised and literally left hanging in mid-air.

Those associated with the projects are now held in considerable disdain yet much of what they were aiming for has now been realised and is serving as inspiration for future city developments.

IDEA TWO: Aal the’ lads and lasses there…

Synopsis:

“If victory were to come it would be deserved – not least because it is a culture represented by people rather than things.”

Written ahead of Newcastle’s ultimately failed bid to become European Capital of Culture in 2008, the validity of this statement requires an exploration of the culture of Newcastle and its relation to people both as purveyors, and participants of culture. Examining the statement in relation to claims that the bid failed to consider local communities, the complications inherent in a culture represented by people are highlighted despite the innate confidence of the North East people.


References

N.B. These are the resources that I accessed so far from the research I gathered on the respective mood boards. Once my topic is chosen, I will focus my time specifically on that topic.
NUMBER ONE.

Cole, T. (2020) ‘Smell the ink and drift away: why I find solace in photobooks’ The Guardian. 24th February. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/24/teju-cole-photobooks-fernweh (Accessed 3rd March 2020)

Fawcett, H (2007) Made in Newcastle visual culture. Newcastle upon Tyne Northumbria University Press.

Misra, T. (2014) ‘Why an Ambitious, Fanciful ‘Linear City’ Failed’ City Lab. Available from https://www.citylab.com/design/2014/11/why-an-ambitious-fanciful-linear-city-failed/382829/ (Accessed 1st March 2020)

Morton, D. (2017) ‘Imagine travelling around Newcastle and to St James’ Park by monorail – it was an idea in the 1960s!’ Chronicle Live. 21st Feb. Available from https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/history/imagine-travelling-around-newcastle-st-12634740 (Accessed 29th Feb 2020)

Something Concrete and Modern (2020) Linear City (Unbuilt) Available from https://www.somethingconcreteandmodern.co.uk/building/linear-city-unbuilt/ (Accessed 29th Feb 2020)

Something Concrete and Modern (2020) Newcastle Central Development Plan Available from https://www.somethingconcreteandmodern.co.uk/building/newcastle-central-development-plan/ (Accessed 29th Feb 2020)

NUMBER TWO.

BBC (2003) ‘Tyneside’s culture dream is over’ BBC NEWS Available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tyne/2961506.stm (Accessed 2nd Mar 2020)

Fawcett, H (2007) Made in Newcastle visual culture. Newcastle upon Tyne Northumbria University Press.

Historic England (2016) 55 Years of Public Art in Newcastle-Gateshead. Available from https://heritagecalling.com/2016/09/07/55-years-of-public-art-in-newcastle-gateshead/ (Accessed 2nd Mar 2020)

Lancaster, B. Newcastle: capital of what? Available from https://vane.org.uk/past-exhibitions/pre-gallery-projects/capital/newcastle-capital-of-what (Accessed 1st Mar 2020)

Pearson, H. (2014) ‘The UK’s best city: in praise of Newcastle upon Tyne’ The Guardian. 22nd Nov. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2014/nov/22/newcastle-travel-best-uk-city-galleries-restaurants (Accessed 1st Mar 2020)

Richards, G. and Marques,L. (2016) “Bidding for Success? Impacts of the European Capital of Culture Bid.” Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism 16.2 p180-95. Available from https://doi.org/10.1080/15022250.2015.1118407 (Accessed 2nd Mar 2020)

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