The Journal Tyne Theatre Westgate Road
Some years ago – it might be longer than I wish to recall – the idea came to Sir John Hall to re-invigorate what was by that date a very run down part of the inner west part of Newcastle city centre. Despite neglect and after a wave of seediness had passed over it, there remained a kind of beauty here. In an area roughly defined by the line of the Westgate Road (itself following the course of Hadrian's Wall) and the Scotswood Road to the south was a group of fine old buildings centred on the then Stoll Theatre. Sir John's idea was simple. Using the name 'Theatre Village' to change perceptions and enhance development prospects for a run down part of town. Some people had already been at work, however; North British Housing had taken on part of Grainger Street West (designed by John Dobson 1787-1865) and built what were ground breaking apartment flats. In the 70s this must have represented the first significant inward investment in the district for many, many, years.
Somehow the 'Theatre Village' scheme ran out of steam. Perhaps Sir John's interests went off in other directions (for a time Sir John owned Newcastle United Football Club, and so on). But it is an idea which still has got 'legs' in my view. Essential to the success, as such, of this initiative has been cultural investment (yet again!). Apart from the Journal Tyne Theatre and the Tyne and Wear Museums Service Discovery Museum, there is Dance City, an independent organisation devoted to all forms of dance, housed in a prominent position in a new fashionably retro-chic building. Around these have grown various housing developments, compact office buildings and Sir Terry Farrell's 'International Centre for Life', rapidly a centre of renown in the world of human biology.
The area presents even on a rainy day something of the unique attraction of a big city, and an old one at that. Lanes zig-zag across or behind the busy streets. Businesses mix themselves together, promiscuously. New buildings come on one suddenly, turning a corner. Older ones are restored with a face lift. History waits patiently to be recognised.
Pink Lane looking north west
SLIDESHOW: Descriptions for slides are to be found on this sites flickr feed.