The Red House, Monkwearmouth
ON YOUR DOORSTEP
Regular nightshifters will know that, during the period when my blogpostings were mostly ‘in abeyance’, we started a new weekly slot on The Nightshift called On Your Doorstep (OYD). I say ‘we’. The whole idea can be laid squarely at the not inconsiderable feet of Lawrence Hepple, previously known only for either his renowned skills as a piano-tuner or his almost equally well-known enthusiasm for, and advocacy of, Berwick Bandits speedway team.
To both of those cap feathers can now be added that of an increasingly astute and thoughtful radio producer and researcher. Over the last 3 months or so, Lawrence has not only decided which subjects - animal, vegetable or mineral - should be covered each week on OYD; he has also done all the necessary accompanying research and scripting. It would, after all, be profoundly unwise to enter the arena of a Nightshift grilling inadequately prepared!
But his production talent doesn’t stop there. He has also taken it upon himself to book a few musical acts onto The Nightshift as well. You have already heard two of them - Paul Liddell and the youthful Leonard Brown, the jaw-droppingly skilled accordionist. Their studio performances have ensured that both of them will be paying us another visit in the not too distant future.
The particularly galling aspect of all this is that OYD garners at least as much nightshifter reaction as any other item on the programme. I’m not entirely joking when I suggest that Producer Hepple is ‘up to something’. He even brought his son Daniel into the Pink Palace last week on some ludicrous pretext or other, for Heaven’s sake.
So - seriously - for your contributions to The Nightshift way beyond the call of conventional listenerhood ......
Lawrence: TAKE A BOW.
Okay okay that’s enough of the limelight for now......
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND
Last weekend my old friend Brian, whom you may have heard me mention over the years, came up to Newcastle to visit me. He’s one of those jetsetters - he’s a balletmaster and teaches all over the world - who has been to Tierra del Fuego, Inner Mongolia and Cape Horn but who’s never been to Edinburgh. Naturally, I criticise him roundly and often for this and last weekend decided to actually do something about it. So, instead of sitting around the flat getting not-so-quietly sloshed on red wine and lighter fuel, we went out on a couple of trips. Admittedly, one of them was only as far as Newcastle city centre but the other more than made up for the shortfall.....
Firstly, we called at Tynemouth Station Sunday Market. What an exhilarating pleasure!! I’m ashamed to say that it’s quite a few years since I’d been and I found it as exciting and unpredictable last weekend as I had the first time I went. What a great venue for a market like that. Covered, with easy access by public transport and with plenty of refreshments available; Brian was delighted and I, for my part - as part of my list of things to do while I’m 60 - determined to visit it at least once a month.
We then went a little way up the coast to St Mary’s Island, where it was (shall we say) cold (specially for London-dwellers like Brian). Thus forced to retreat by what was - for me, at any rate - a mildly chilly sea-breeze but what to Brian was the beginnings of the next veritable Arctic ice-age, we drove to Sunderland so that Brian could visit the National Glass Centre.
If you’ve been there this close to Christmas, you’ll know that they produce and sell some stunningly beautiful Christmas Tree glass decorations. I have a feeling that Brian’s tree will look particularly striking this year!
A little way along the north bank of the river at this point brings you to one of my favourite pieces of north-east public art: The Red House. It's described (in Public Sculpture of North-East England) as...
'...a large sculpture which represents the ground floor of a house, left open to the elements. Large blocks of red sandstone are carved into features such as a fireplace, a coat hanging behind a door and a table. A rug on the floor has 'WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND' carved around its edges. There are also books, tools and a secretaire. Scattered beyond the walls are other fragments of sandstone, one with a letter inscribed into it. The colour of the sandstone reflects that of the new brick houses behind, and the whole is sited within a planted area beside the riverside pathway. That description is static; but Colin Wilbourn (its originator) makes narrative sculpture; he feels that there's always a story buried within it, even if he doesn't necessarily know what that story is....'
I love it. It’s astonishing. It’s as if the house has been blown apart somehow - or turned inside out. To me, it justifies the comparatively modest amounts of money spent on public art in the north-east at least as much as any other works which have benefitted, including the Angel.
Sunderland, I think, should boast a little more about its public art and open spaces and (perhaps) a little less about its football team....
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text 07786 200954 (while the programme is on-air)
call (between about 0545 and 0630 Monday to Friday) 0191 232 6565
Ian Robinson, The Nightshift, BBC Radio Newcastle, Spital Tongues, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE99 1RN
Please bear in mind that the views expressed in this blog are my own and NOT the views of the BBC.