For the last eleven years, for one weekend in May, attractions across Newcastle and Gateshead have opened their doors after hours for the public to visit creative spaces, watch shows and get involved themselves in all sorts of fantastic cultural adventures. This fabulous after-hours programme, known as The Late Shows, offered over 60 different venues this year, showcasing a range of arts, culture and heritage experiences.
So Saturday night saw nine of us friends joining with the other intrepid explorers of The Late Shows, armed with booklets and glow sticks, to venture out on the streets of Newcastle after dark in search of excitement, inspiration and fun.
And I loved it! Absolutely loved it! And here are ten reasons why:-
- The booklet
These Late Shows booklets are like gold dust! Or maybe we just don’t frequent the right places. We struggled to get our hands on one. We had a planning meeting on the Monday before the event – yes, seriously, it had to be done! About fifteen minutes in, there was a knock on the door and a friend appeared with a booklet she’d picked up at the local library for us. She saved the day! I love a trail, a map with numbers, descriptions of magical-sounding events…I was hooked.
2. The glow stick
The Late Shows glow sticks are also hard to come by and yet the evening would not be complete without one. As we walked up Grey Street, we recognised fellow culture crawlers by the glow sticks around their necks. We greeted total strangers like long lost friends. We were all in this together.
3. The opportunity to dress up
When we set our hearts on ending up at Kommunity for a George Michael Tribute Evening, it didn’t take long for us to order a job lot of CHOOSE LIFE T shirts. So we may have looked like a Hen Party and one of our party may have looked like the hen, but we were happy. We had our dress code. And what I loved was that we all had the T shirt, but we all did the look completely differently. We expressed ourselves.
4. The opportunity to try new moves
Trying new stuff is exhilarating. Whatever it is, I love to have a go. So we started at Dance City with a Salsa class. I don’t know that we would ever all have done that together under any other circumstances, but this was the Late Shows. This was what the event was all about. We were here to leap out of our comfort zones and leap we certainly did!
5. The opportunity for local artists to showcase their skills
We queued to get into the Happiness Project at 13 Grey Street – and this venue just proved that happiness means different things to different people. This house divided us. Some of us loved it and could have stayed there all night. Others really didn’t get it and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I was in awe – each room had a different theme and activity and was so well thought out. It felt like I was wandering around inside my own brain, moving from experience to experience.
6. Embracing difference and being ourselves
There were nine of us in our group – nine completely different individuals. Some wanted to eat; others did not. Some drank alcohol; others did not. Some wanted to join in; others wanted to observe. We tried to cater for each individual taste in the activities we planned to attend. Some were huge George Michael fans; others not so much. But we all felt able to be ourselves without judgement or teasing. If we wanted to sit out, we sat out. We felt that freedom and sense of security with each other.
7. The vibe
Everywhere we went, everyone was so friendly. We chatted to all sorts of people. It all felt safe and cheerful and positive and just a really cool celebration of art and culture in the city. I felt proud of the North East and all that’s being done here.
8. The laughter
Key to a good night out. We had a really good laugh. That’s what happens when you step beyond the familiar. Curious people, curious places, curious events – curious weird and curious inquisitive.
9. Dancing like we were teenagers again
It was our era. The 80s. The DJ was onto a winner. Every time I went to sit down, the next track started and I was back on my feet again. We sang and danced and sang some more. We felt like we could dance all night – until we couldn’t any more.
10. The photo opportunities
We took a lot of photos and plastered them all over Facebook. We now have some fabulous memories and some photos to back us up. That great night happened. Whenever we catch a glimpse of one of those images, we will smile and remember.
So thank you to the organisers and all those artists involved in the Late Shows. We loved meeting you all.
And we’ll see you all again next year!