travel: guide to newcastle

For I produced a Down The Street Guide to my hometown of Newcastle Upon-Tyne

We’re off to Newcastle this month, where Ella Scott reveals there’s more to the city than Magpies, Gazza and Ant ‘n’ Dec…

When somebody from Manchester or Liverpool claims they’re from ‘The North’, we laugh into our bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale and stottie sandwiches brimming with ham and peasepudding. Newcastle Upon-Tyne – the most northern city in England – has played host to some of the biggest names in music (Arctic Monkeys regularly take up residence in the Metro Radio Arena) and holds various spectacular music celebrations, such as the iconic ShinDig and Evolution Festival (headlined in 2011 by the legendary Iggy & The Stooges). It boasts the twentieth top ranked university in the UK, Newcastle University, and most importantly of all, it’s responsible for the ‘highly entertaining’ MTV award-winning show Geordie Shore… For which I apologise.


Sometimes, Newcastle scores a place on a top-notch band’s tour schedule; the city will see both The Horrors and Glastonbury headliners Kasabian gracing its venues before the end of 2014. Other times, the rowdy, music-loving fans of Newcastle have been left utterly disappointed when the nearest cities an artist plays are Leeds or Edinburgh. You win the majority: you still manage to lose plenty.

However, one place that remains a favourite among established acts is the 2000 people capacity O2 Academy Newcastle. As the saying goes, “If you’ve been to one O2 Academy, you’ve been to them all”, and with an unreserved balcony seating area (scenes are not always pretty up there) and three bars for the raging alcoholic in all of us, this place is a wonderful environment. The Academy has seen a gigantic range of acts swagger onto the stage, from Ian Brown to Jake Bugg and Babyshambles (Pete Doherty actuallyshowed up) to Azealia Banks.

Ian Brown

Although the Academy is as generic as a music venue gets, tucked away in the heart of Byker (20 minute walk from Newcastle city centre) is an infamous club/bar called The Cluny, which serves up food by day and sees acts delivering intimate, mouth-watering performances by night. The quirky rawness of The Cluny is what makes it so unique; there’s take-what-you-like photographs hanging from the walls and the inevitability of gaining awkward eye-contact with the up-and-coming superstar on the stage. The Cluny also has a strict 18+ tag attached, meaning there are no 13 year olds downing blue WKD from their hipflasks at the back either.

Back to the centre of Newcastle. Since the city is world-renowned for being claustrophobically buzzing with students, it’s only right that Newcastle University’s Students’ Union is a top-notch venue for live acts. Up-close-and-personal encounters with other sweaty students, feeling the bass pulsing through your veins and being within touching distance of the love of your life your favourite band member – what could be better? Both Ella Eyre and man-of-the-moment George Ezra are planning on hitting the Students’ Union this year.

If you’re not an avid gig-goer from The Toon and you’ve got a ticket to see Benjamin Booker at Think Tank? @ Digital in September and Band of Skulls at Think Tank? @ Riverside in November, you’re in for a real treat when you experience these widely diverse venues. Think Tank? @ Digital operates in Digital Nightclub (a favourite amongst the underage) situated in Newcastle’s Pink Triangle. (If you’re ever looking for a crazy night out, Newcastle’s Pink Triangle, the infamous gay scene, is the place to be.) Think Tank? @ Riverside, however, operates on the luscious, heavily-contested, always-rammed Newcastle Quayside. Both of these cherished music venues have a radiating, warm atmosphere, making trips to both Digital and Riverside for gigs an unforgettable experience. Everyone’s memories of a gig are individually special, so with Think Tank? bringing you into the heart of the action, it’s no wonder the likes of Wolf Alice, 2013’s indie darlings Peace and Dundee’s The View have all made their mark in Think Thank?’s history book.



Although Newcastle plays host to some spectacular record stores (RPM Music, JG Windows and Beatdown Records) my personal record store of choice from The Toon is Reflex Records (23 Nun Street) tucked away on Nun Street, near Grey’s Monument. Reflex is a small, friendly business with a passion for music at its heart. Overflowing with the latest releases, obscurities and some quite spectacular hidden gems, this independent record shop is the best place to get your quick, vinyl fix. Earlier this year, as Record Store Day 2014 hit Newcastle, Reflex Records staged some staggering performances from an array of local bands in Newcastle, the highlight being the mesmerising performance from the coincidently named Vinyl Jacket.

Small Change (Stepney Bank) is a mere fifteen minute walk from overpriced chain stores such as Topshop, and the stroll from Hollister to Byker isn’t far to go for high-quality, low-priced fashion, is it?  No city would be complete without a fantastic vintage store, and Small Change is just the ticket..

With over 900+ Guitars in stock, looping pedals galore and running a part-exchange system; it’s no wonder that GuitarGuitar (27 Grainger Street) is Newcastle’s most-loved music shop. A must for any budding young musician or experienced old-timer, the two floors of GuitarGuitar are flooded with a rainbow of musical tech, which is protected by the friendliest, supportive know-it-all staff in Geordie Land, who are always happy to supervise you strumming a Fender you’ll probably never be able to afford.

“Grab a fistful of Mexican flavours” shouts the official Facebook page for Zapatista Burrito Bar (28 Ridley Place), and surprisingly enough, that’s exactly what the entire Newcastle student population is doing. With a pulled pork or spicy beef burrito filled with the works being less than ten quid, it’s no wonder why the city is buzzing about Zapatista. Burrito and a Desperado for lunch anybody?



MONDAY – Digital Mondays @ Digital: With four rammed rooms blasting the finest dance floor fillers and £1 drinks before midnight, it’s not surprising that Newcastle turns out in force to wave goodbye to their Monday blues at the city’s longest-running Monday night shindig.

TUESDAYIll Behaviour @ Cosmic Ballroom: Sporting the best electronic music in the city in a venue called the ‘Cosmic Ballroom’, with £1.50 Jagerbombs and encouraging ‘Ill Behaviour’, you’d be lying if you said you weren’t sold already.

WEDNESDAYPinup @ Floritas: Famous Floritas plays host to ‘Pinup’; a night inspired by iconic pinup girls and fierce females of the past. Pinup nights include: a candy cart, a candy floss machine, current club classics, and more importantly, pinup girl ‘inspired’ cocktails. Wednesdays have never been so sassy.

THURSDAYPop Culture With The Wheel @ Powerhouse: Spun every thirty minutes, the Pop Wheel decides what drink offer will send the clubbers in this iconic gay club swarming to the bar: will it be 69p shots or 90p bottles? Pop Culture with a hint of filthy house: sign yourself UP.

FRIDAYJukebox @ The Other Rooms: Don’t expect the usual pop pap and overplayed crap – think The Stone Roses, The Smiths, ‘50s through to ‘00s, and more importantly, don’t think about dancing along to another remix of Pharell’s ‘Happy’.

SATURDAYCCTV @ Newcastle Student’s Union: Want your drunken mistakes live streamed publicly across the internet? Better yet, do you want your forgotten Saturday night turned into a mash-up of ‘I remember that!’ bloopers available for when you wake up? Well, CCTV at Newcastle Student’s Union will be right up your street.

SUNDAYMiMo Bar: MiMo, short for ‘Miami Moment’, is the perfect way to spend your Sunday night before work grudgingly calls you up on Monday morning. Serving up rum-based ‘Tiki cocktails’ in a beach inspired setting, Mimo Bar is the ultimate place to wind-down, chill-out, or better yet, get so drunk you become temporarily blind… Whatever floats your boat.



“Areet me’ hinny? That dead jammy radgie gadgie from the boozah who deek’s the dabs of Wor Jackie said he’s ganna giz is a couple a quid if the Toon win the neet! Cushdie Belta! Hawway the lads!” Regardless of how many years I have lived in Geordie Land, there’s always something someone says that makes me crack up and question what they’re rambling on about. If you’re planning to travel to Newcastle, you’ll need to know your nebs from your nettys and your Bizzys from your Bugles. There’s always something new to learn, but if you’re looking for a quick fix to pick up some Geordie, I suggest checking out some laugh-out-loud Buzzcocks Video Diaries (not the band but the ‘entertainer’) or even putting yourself through an episode or two of Geordie Shore (not recommended).



Now, it may only be a local myth with no truth to it at all, but I’ve heard and read from a vast array of North-East sources that the one and only rock legend Jimi Hendrix once took to the pavements of Heaton to perform. Imagine, forty years ago you were walking down Chillingham Road and on your left is the soon-to-be rock god Jimi Hendrix busking. Something I know for a fact to be true, though (courtesy of my lucky mother and father) is the very early Oasis playing at the tiny Whitley-Bay Ice Rink. Whitley Bay isn’t exactlyNewcastle, but apparently Liam Gallagher swaggered on stage, pretended to flick shit off his shoe and shout “That’s what I think of you Newcastle”.

If you haven’t realised by now, Newcastle Upon-Tyne is one of the liveliest cities in the UK; there’s never a dull moment, never a time to rest and above all there’s never a period in the day where music can’t be heard blasting from a pub, a shop, a gig or a club.  Wey-aye Newcastle, you’re areet really!

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