Tuesday 10th May, 2016

Why I chose to return to Newcastle after two years in the Big Smoke

Project Coordinator Louise Duffell reflects on how the North East is a growing cultural hub.

As brutal as it sounds, there’s a lingering misconception throughout the rest of the UK that the North East is a bit of a cultural wasteland. When I told my parents I wanted to study in Newcastle their reaction summed it up: ‘why would you go there, it’s just miners and mushy peas!’. They couldn’t have been more wrong, and I couldn’t have been happier with my obstinate decision.

After university I followed the inevitable path of my fellow Generation Y graduates and headed to London for work. It’s true, our capital does have a lot going on; there are photography exhibitions, museum late nights, pop-up hipster cafes and design agencies galore. But it wasn’t Newcastle. I missed the friendly North East. I felt like I was in on a great secret as well, that Newcastle has a thriving creative scene and plenty to offer in its own right, without the hideous commute and the overdraft-inducing prices. So after gaining some experience at small publishers I packed up my belongings (again) and headed back to the Toon.

I had my doubts that I would find the right job what with the North East having been hit hard by the cuts, but it turns out the smaller the pond, the more you stand out. And there are plenty of opportunities to join the growing creative sector. Organisations such as Creative North, the BALTIC and Dance City are successfully encouraging young talent and promoting local arts. According to Creative North’s founder, Rob Earnshaw, the North East has the UK’s highest number of start-up businesses in the creative and digital sector outside London. Never mind that the standard of living for a young person is far higher in the north – I can afford both my rent and a car, a total impossibility for most Londoners, and the beautiful Northumberland coast is a mere 10 minute drive away.

Take a walk around Quayside and the Ouseburn and you’ll find just as many business hubs and indie bars as Shoreditch, for example the Toffee Factory and Gardiner Richardson’s own base, Generator Studios. My last few weekends have revolved around free jazz music at the Sage, a night of live drawing and dub music at Bar Loco, and browsing the market stalls in Tynemouth.

Should creatives head north then? It’s a no brainer really. Unless you enjoy sniffing sweaty armpits and being pressed up against tube doors every morning…