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.
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.
“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.
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.