Explore Newcastle Map

Psalt Design were one of the 2013 confessions of a design geek bursary shortlisted designers. Richard Bell, one of the creative directors at Psalt spent 20 years living in Newcastle before he relocated to Sheffield where Psalt are based. He recently took the 2 hour journey back up to Newcastle to take part in this year’s Northern Design Festival where Psalt were showing our latest collection and offered to write an “explore” post for me while he was there. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, so here it is…

“Hiya, y’alreet pet?” Welcome to Newcastle Upon Tyne; home of the ‘Stottie’, the Tyne Bridge and the best accent in Britain!

All too often, the ‘Toon’ gets an unfair rap for being nothing more than a party city and has a notorious reputation for being Britain’s stag and hen do capital. There is however a vibrant art and design culture within, which was firmly established in 2011 when the city played host to the Turner Prize. It was the first time the event had been held outside London, and it broke all previous records for attendance.

Design Event, now in its 8th year, was established to help support designers and makers from the North of England and to help promote the area as a hot bed of design talent. The exhibition took over the city for 10 days and included more than 35 events and exhibitions. Our products were shown alongside the likes of Deadgood, Jessica Hogarth, Daniel Schofield and RASKL in a show which proved to be a great success. The great thing about the design scene in Newcastle is that there is a real sense of community and a lot of collaboration goes on between designers. My favourite design company at the moment is Deadgood. With offices in Newcastle and London, they have developed a great portfolio of products and work alongside some of the country’s leading designers including David Irwin who is also Newcastle-based.

I had to think long and hard to narrow down a shortlist of experiences that I thought would sum up Newcastle. Obviously a trip to the Toon would not be complete without a walk along the Quayside to see the iconic bridges. Starting at Grey’s Monument, with its Georgian Architecture followed by a trip down the beautiful Grey Street, which was recently dubbed ‘Britain’s best street’ so is definitely a must see! Follow this straight down to Dean Street and continue until you find yourself on the Quayside. With its array of bridges head left underneath the Tyne Bridge and take in the breath-taking panorama that gives a great sense of the city’s rich industrial heritage.

The walk along the quayside is beautiful and a visit to the ‘Outsiders Gallery’ (77 Quayside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 3DE) is a real treat. Showcasing urban art, the modest gallery has attracted the likes of Banksy, Invader and JR, it’s an amazing space which always has something exciting to see.

A trip to the Quayside would not be complete without a visit to the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead Quays, South Shore Rd, Gateshead NE8 3BA). Cross over the Millennium Bridge and you can’t miss the converted flour mill which has played host to a huge range of diverse and inspiring exhibitions. Taking in the sights from the viewing tower is a must and the Baltic shop, which stocks a range of great books and gifts, is always worth checking out.


(ONE-Time Pad installation view, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 2013, Courtesy the artist and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, Photo: Colin Davison)

You can always get a great feel for a city by speaking to the locals and what better place to do this than in the market. Retrace your footsteps back up to ‘Grey Street’ and enter one of the many entrances on the left hand side. The Grainger Market, is back up towards the City Centre and has been open for more than 150 years. With a wide range of fresh food, clothing and cafés, there is always a great hustle and bustle, it’s great to stop off for a slice of pizza, a pastry or some fruit at one of the stalls.

If you fancy a sit down and a bit of a break, ‘No.28 Bar & Bistro’ (No.28, 
27-29, Nelson Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne) is a great option. Located just inside the markets entrance on Nelson Street, the bar was voted this years ‘North East bar of the year’. It has a lovely vibe and serves a great menu filled with locally sourced ingredients.

After lunch head right, past Grey’s Monument until you stumble left onto Northumberland Street. This is always good if you are looking for a bit of retail therapy to break up your day. A visit to Fenwicks Department store, especially at Christmas, is a great experience. It is also worth checking out High Bridge Street, a cobbled area with some great vintage shops including Attica and Deep. To find this turn left at the top of Northumberland Street and head down past the Gate. Continue straight on until you find yourself on the Bigg Market. Take a left and you will find High Bridge Street.

Following this route you will pass Tea Sutra (1st Floor, 2 Leazes Park Road 
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4PF), a small, relaxing tea room serving a huge range of teas from around the world that is well worth a visit. With a great atmosphere and a range of vegetarian snacks it is a great place to visit to get a little peace and quiet in the flurry of a major city.

Before heading back to Central Station to make the journey home, why not go via the amazing Sugar Down Bakery (40 Pink Lane, Newcastle, NE1 5DY) to pick up some treats. Head back up the Bigg Market and head down Clayton Street on the left hand side. Just make sure you don’t get too caught up and miss your train home!

If you’ve still got time left, here are my top five ‘off the beaten track’ galleries to visit.

1.The Toffee Factory. (Lower Steenbergs Yard, Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2DF)

2.The National Glass Centre. (Liberty Way, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear SR6 0GL)

3.The Biscuit Factory. (16 Stoddart St, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE2 1AN)

4.The Shipley Art Gallery. (Prince Consort Rd, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE8 4JB)

5.Laing Art Gallery. (New Bridge St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8AG)

Further reading for the especially geeky: