Art/Museums/TheatreChallengesMiscThe Pica Pica Project

The Pica Pica Project: Newcastle/Gateshead (Body Worlds, BALTIC and Laing Art Gallery)

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The PICA PICA project
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I don’t recall going to Newcastle, either as an adult or a child, so when I decided to go and see the Body Worlds Animal Inside Out exhibition, I decided to make a real trip of it and stay overnight. I’m glad I did; it was a lovely trip.

Body Worlds at the Science Centre

Animals Inside Out

I arrived in time for lunch after a slight delay on the train and went straight to the Science Centre to get a much needed bite to eat. Then I entered the main exhibitions. The website had warned that there were quite a few school visits and there were a lot of children around but they were very well behaved and it was nice to see lots of people having so much fun. By the time I got to the Animal Inside Out exhibition, it was much quieter and I was able to spend an incredible visit admiring everything from a shark to an ostrich, an elephant to a giraffe, a bull to a gorilla. I’ve been fascinated with the idea of plastination since seeing Dr Gunther von Hagens’ work featured on TV and then visiting Body Worlds at Manchester several years ago. Seeing this exhibition was no less fascinating and, in fact, incredibly humbling. I bought the book that goes alongside and this quote from the back struck me:

Dr Gunther von Hagens

I also enjoyed my visit to the planetarium and the ‘Celestial Cycles’ show, which…

…looks at how our lives are governed by cycles, day, night, seasons, years and asks: Where do these cycles come from?

Having enjoyed a fantastic visit to the Science Centre, I checked into my hotel, the lovely Royal Station Hotel. Right by the station, this was an absolutely gorgeous building and my room was great. I would definitely stay there again if I go back to Newcastle.

Royal Station Hotel
Royal Station Hotel (image courtesy

BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art

In the morning, I had breakfast at the hotel and then walked to the BALTIC: Centre for Contemporary Art. The walk was great and I got to see the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in all its glory long before I crossed it to the gallery.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge

I love that there are lots of rest stops alongside the river, essentially just tables and chairs but placed so you can sit and enjoy a few minutes of rest or a coffee with a great view. They seem very well respected, too. There was no vandalism or litter and people put things back as they found them before moving on.

As I crossed the Millennium Bridge, I was able to take this picture and I believe this is the Tyne Bridge:

Tyne Bridge

Once across the Millennium Bridge, I took another picture of the bridge from this new vantage point:

Gateshead Millennium Bridge

And then it was on to the BALTIC, a striking building which, once you get onto the fifth floor, gives a truly incredible look over the city:


I arrived a little too early for the gallery but not too early for the bookshop, so I was able to pick up a few delights:

Note to self: postcards are cheaper and not as heavy!

(I actually spotted The Sick Rose but didn’t buy it initially. Instead, I returned to pick up a copy before I left.)

The Playground Project exhibition was being put together when I visited so I couldn’t walk round but you could look down on it from the fifth floor and the birds eye view was pretty cool, since it was almost completed. There was also a display of work from Jumana Emil Abboud.

For me, the most striking and evocative part of the visit was viewing Christiana Soulou’s work:

Athens-based Christiana Soulou makes complex drawings that investigate the nature of being human and its many conditions. The expressive lines and expansive re-imagining of forms in her work often derive from literature.

Soulou’s drawings exist in series and often have a familiarity through their recollection of myth and narratives highlighted through this unique presentation that brings together many of the artist’s series for the first time, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Enfants Terribles, The Public and Book of Imaginary Beings after Jorge Luis Borges.

Laing Art Gallery

Then I crossed the river again and walked to the Laing Art Gallery. I had a specific exhibition in mind – Alice in Wonderland – but it was a treat just to visit the gallery generally.

A British Library exhibition with additional loans from the Victoria & Albert Museum especially for the Laing, Alice in Wonderland delves into the world of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Explore the different ways generations of illustrators, artists, musicians, filmmakers and designers over the past 150 years have been inspired by the story of the girl who went ‘down the rabbit hole’.

The exhibition includes illustrations and drawings celebrating Alice in Wonderland by Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Leonard Weisgard, Arthur Rackham, Peter Blake and Salvador Dali.

Then there was time for a (very) late lunch and a meandering walk to the station before it was time to catch the train. I’m aware I could cram more into these trips but I enjoy the chance to take my time and explore a bit as I go from place to place. I don’t think I’d enjoy or appreciate these visits nearly as much if I was just bustling round them and not really seeing anything fully. Plus, this gives me an excuse to return and I did love Newcastle so I hope I will be back again to enjoy a little more of what’s on offer.

Still to come: a return trip to Manchester (actually, at the time of writing this has happened so I’ll write that up next week), plus visits to London, Edinburgh, Liverpool and back to Sheffield, York, Leeds, Wakefield (specifically for the Mental Health Museum). A busy few weeks ahead!

Oh and I also got a new tattoo, something I’ve been thinking about for a while and knew I would probably do this summer. I expected a bird but knew I’d know the design I wanted when I saw it and that was the case. It’s healing nicely, smoothing off a little and I’m really happy with it. My tattoos have often had the real significance more in their timing than specifically the design, though, and this one was no different. Perhaps you can call it a mark of somewhere I never thought I’d be or a reminder that it is possible to keep on keeping on, one day at a time. Maybe it’s a celebration. Maybe it’s a little symbol of defiance. Maybe it’s a bit of everything all rolled into one. Whatever it is, it’s mine. Like everything I’ve experienced, it’s a little part of me and this part I got to choose. I carry it with me and it’s part of the ever changing canvas.

One thing these last few weeks have helped me clarify is I need a major change of pace next year. I’ve made a big decision that I will not try and finish my degree alongside work and my Cert Ed. I want a life. These last few weeks (alongside the #TD16praxis non-conference at Northern College that sort of kickstarted my thinking process) have made me realise that I don’t want to only appreciate and discover things for a few weeks of every year. I want time to appreciate the things around me all through the year. So I’m taking a longer route to finish everything but I’m taking the view that a longer route is sometimes better than a faster route. Like my dawdling museum/gallery visits, isn’t it better to slow down and enjoy something properly, even if it takes that bit longer? I think so. Decision made, I feel 100 times better so that tells me everything I need to know.


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Donna Brown
Avid reader/audiobook listener, fan of podcasts, prone to the odd Netflix binge. Mum to six crazy and incredible rescue cats. Occasional writer of short stories and poetry.

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