all art-ed out!

UK’s national cuisine

Just when I thought I’ve had enough of art for the week at Newcastle, I was taken on a tour of a small area called Oesborne Valley where all kinds of arts and cultural activity have been taking root. Aargh, enough!

But it was strangely inspiring.

cinephile christo
A beheaded Christo, since I was taking this photo in secret

I met Christo, a geeky cinephile (is there any other kind of cinephile?) behind the Star and Shadow Cinema – a micro cinema. This is new term I learnt today. A staff at the Baltic Arts Centre, he would take time off to run a cinema (for cinephiles called the “cinecide”) 2 days a week. And since the Oesborne Valley property came up, he formed a partnership with other micro cinemas like the “A side” (artist films), “the other side” (LBG cinema) and an anarchist cinema to take over this old disused building at Oesborne Valley.

Called the Star and Shadow Cinema, it is due to open in 22 July. When we visited it, it was still a really run down place still. We found out from Christo that since he did not have money to renovate it, he had put an ad in the papers and online for “builders” to help one weekend. So everything in that building was actually hand-built by volunteers and himself over the past few week! Impressive! Shy Christo in his migrating geese sweatshirt, tortoise-shell glasses, curly hair and stone-washed black jeans showed us a door/wall – he good-humouredly told us he was especially proud of this piece of pretty makeshift construction, and smiled cheekily. When we left, a group of volunteers had just arrived for a General Meeting.

art works? you don't say...
“The Art Works”, a new gallery renovated using the materials of its original warehouse and run by an artist renting out space to emerging artists with no commission for works sold. Mighty good idea!

The Cinema is next to “The Art Works”, and just down the road is an older establishment called “The Cluny”. Owned by Mike, a theatre practitioner who had bought it in the 70s for close to nothing, it is an an old flax mil by a tributary of the River Tyne. It houses some 40-50 different artists, designers and crafts persons. They run the facility like an artist co-op. Artists decide how it is run, the rent that is charged, and whether a new applicant is accepted. It is, like the cinema, a run down no-frills sort of place dis-used and abandoned by its previous tenants.

the cluny

This is all what is meant by the term “regeneration”, the twin sister of “renaissance”. Renaissance City is what Singapore aspires to (with or without reference to15th C Venice), but regeneration would not be on our minds. Regeneration is for backward, derelict, beat up, crime-infested cities! Regeneration is for cities with old, disused, derelict buildings. Regeneration is for Newcastle, where its 60 coal mines are no longer. Regeneration is for a culture that hates to destroy and would use and re-use. For us, we would rather a rebirth – though from what we never quite know.

Still, I am glad to be home tomorrow. It is where I am daydreaming I would one day set up some kind of gallery and artist studios cum "micro cinema" too.


monk said…
this is almost exactly the sort of thing i dream of someday taking part in, here in paterson.

at the very least, it's thoroughly inspiring from a distance. your post is more than slightly evocative -- of a very compelling and still very vague dream.

thank you.
ampulets said…
Can see that you are really inspired by this trip, the people you met and through experiences they shared. I am amazed, and hope that this dream of yours, ours will come through soon. Maybe it is time soon. - TOHA
ampulets said…
40C - look forward to your gallery/artist studios/whatever some time. Send me an invite to the opening! Somehow I think it may just be easier for you than us here, what with lower rent, more artists and possibly more art lovers. of course this is just our excuse for not acting, and just daydreaming - but i'll make sure the 2 will be reconciled one day!

TOHA - For every "can't do" there is we can think of here, there's a "can do/it's already done" example outside the island. And it's the learning that's inspiring. Of course, the cheap wine and champagne helps!
monk said…
we definitely don't have lower rent, even looking to the outer ring of nyc . . .

in fact, the housing situation here is what makes for greater possibilities -- artists are now almost completely priced out of all five boroughs, no matter what compromises they're willing to take on behalf of space.

what we have in paterson is derelict warehouse space. it's getting snapped up by speculators day by day -- newark is almost locked down, we're sure to follow. and the land of real estate speculators (even speculatively, without further development or action) is the land of the yuppie, not the artist.

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