Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Discovering The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle

Sometimes I get myself into quite a funk.  I'm the kind of person that, even on a weekend, needs some kind of plan or structure to my day to stop myself falling into a negative frame of mind, whilst most people love to spend a Sunday lounging about in their dressing gown watching rubbish on TV it tends to leave me feeling very low. Despite knowing this about myself sometimes I make the mistake of not getting showered and dressed as soon as I get up and that is where I found myself recently  - sitting under a blanket on the sofa, close to tears for no apparent reason.  I had brunch plans with my friends but had got myself into such a bad place that I felt like I wanted to cancel on them.

If you're like me and find yourself getting into moods like this the number one piece of advice I can give you is to get up off the sofa (as much as you don't want to!), get showered and dressed and head out for a solo adventure somewhere that you find really calming and relaxing.

Discovering The Biscuit Factory, Newcastle

Whilst I usually head off to the coast to chill out, I decided to try something a little bit different this time and instead went off in the direction of Ouseburn (one of my favourite parts of Newcastle for a mooch) and to the Biscuit Factory, the UK's largest independent commercial art gallery. Now I realise that I may have lost some of you at "art gallery" and believe me, I get you!  I'm definitely not the kind of person that spends their free time wandering about looking at art - I'm no expert and if I'm being completely honest a lot of art just leaves me feeling a little baffled and confused.  The Biscuit Factory, however, is unlike any other art gallery I have ever visited and if you're looking for somewhere really peaceful to unwind I highly recommend giving it a try.

Discovering The Biscuit Factory Newcastle

Although I perhaps don't always understand art, I do love a great building and The Biscuit Factory is housed in the most beautiful Victorian warehouse and is the loveliest place for a wander. With stunning red brick walls, huge windows and wooden beams it is a light space with some really lovely contrasting features and I could happily spend hours just wandering about admiring the architecture.  Even if art isn't your thing as soon as you walk through the door I'm pretty sure this will become your new happy place too because it's impossible not to smile as soon as you enter the building.

The Biscuit Factory Newcastle

Unlike a lot of other art galleries The Biscuit Factory has a really small collection of art which is perfect for the beginner like me and there really is something for everyone displayed on their walls. If you love the North East and are passionate about the beauty of our coastline and countryside you will definitely find something to admire in the gallery. There are always some truly beautiful paintings and drawings on display and during my visit I admired some lovely displays of paintings of Newcastle and the Northumberland coast, each one I could happily imagine would look rather lovely in my living room.

The Biscuit Factory - Newcastle

My visit perhaps wasn't best timed as the gallery were busy setting up their Spring launch. With the displays changing every season some of the walls were a little bare ready for new pieces but I guess that just gives me a great excuse to go back really soon.

As champions of original and handmade pieces there are some really inspiring things to look at with a lot of the work being very affordable - I much prefer a gallery that showcases art that's attainable rather than looking at things that are way out of my price range.  When we do eventually get round to buying some forever pieces for our home I will definitely be heading to The Biscuit Factory to start our collection.

My favourite part of the gallery on my visit were the incredible framed pictures by "Light up North", originally featured in the Winter exhibition, you can find them tucked away round a hidden corner in a dimly lit room. The paintings all feature neon slogans and they really are fantastic and well worth checking out. The illuminated art is created in Saltburn and I love how eye catching and cheeky their pieces are.

The Biscuit Factory Newcastle - Light up North

However long you plan to spend mooching around the art it's easy to make a bit of a day trip out of a visit to the Biscuit Factory thanks to fantastic extra offerings. Bookworms will love the addition of "Forum Books", a small yet perfectly formed bookshop which makes for lovely browsing and foodies will definitely want to make their way to the Factory Kitchen.

Even if you have no interest at all in art you really must plan a trip to Biscuit Factory if only to check out their food offering, the beautiful little café creates delicious dishes and has a very good menu filled with lunches, afternoon tea and the kind of cake counter that makes your mouth water. They have some great offerings for special dietary requirements with some delicious vegetarian and vegan options as well as gluten free.

After enjoying a lovely solo stroll round the gallery I met the girls at Factory Kitchen for a late brunch, served all day it's a great weekend treat with a menu so tempting I spent ages trying to pick between four dishes. In the end I went for the Sauteed Mushrooms on Toasted Sourdough (£7.50) and added a poached egg and merguez sausage for an extra £3.75 . If you have the option to leave the car at home it's worth knowing that they also have some incredible sounding brunch cocktails available.

Factory Kitchen - The Biscuit Factory Newcastle

Factory Kitchen is quite the hidden gem in Newcastle and if you're looking for somewhere a little different for a catch up with friends it's a great option. With plenty of seats, the café is really light and decked out in loads of foliage which gives it the loveliest relaxed vibe. I am very keen to go back in the Summer and enjoy an afternoon tea on their sunny roof terrace and the afternoon teas that were being delivered to the tables around us looked really good.

I am so thankful to The Biscuit Factory for pulling me out of my bad mood and giving me somewhere new to call a happy place - they truly make art accessible to everyone and I don't think anyone could leave without a massive smile on their faces.  I can't wait to go back!

The Biscuit Factory Newcastle - Factory Kitchen

Find The Biscuit Factory at:

16 Stoddart Street

0191 261 1103


Wednesday, 4 March 2020

RNS Nights Out at the Sage Gateshead - Music from the Movies

This is an advertisement feature with The Sage Gateshead 

As someone who was forced to listen to Classic FM in the tea room I worked in as a teenager (I used to change the radio station whenever my boss left the room), I can't say that an evening at the Sage in Gateshead has ever been something that I've considered when arranging date night.  I have always presumed that the Sage was a venue for people with a real understanding of classical music and certainly not for someone like me.

So I'm very excited to be able to share our first ever musical experience at the Sage Gateshead and to let you know that not only was I very wrong in my judgements, but I have also found a new shared passion that I can enjoy with my husband - I'm really not exaggerating when I say that our evening at the Sage opened our eyes and quite possibly changed our world!

Although Saturday was our first ever experience of a concert at the Sage, I'm certainly no stranger to the building itself and have enjoyed many an afternoon there admiring the incredible views of the river and Tyne Bridge whilst indulging in a slice of cake and a cup of coffee. I've always loved spending time there, and if you're yet to venture inside the Sage then you are definitely missing out. The Sage is a really community focussed part of our city and even if you don't have tickets for an event you can pop in for some food and, if you're lucky, enjoy some free entertainment.

RNS Nights Out at The Sage Gateshead - Music from the Movies

Unlike a lot of other music venues, the experience of enjoying live music at the Sage Gateshead makes for a really wonderful, relaxing evening from the moment you arrive. We loved that we could easily park at the venue with plenty of spaces available. It cost us £4.80 to park our car for the evening, and the machine in the carpark allowed us to pre pay to save queuing at the end of the night. Once through the doors we couldn't believe the amount of space we had as we waited for doors to open - with themed cocktails at the bar and delicious food available before the show it made the experience that little bit more special and I think next time we'd plan to arrive a little earlier just to give us time for cake.

For our first experience at the Sage we had tickets for an "RNS Night Out" - a regular series of shows that focuses on music from film and the world of pop. If you are yet to experience a night at the Sage and are curious to perhaps give something different a go, this really is a fantastic way to dip your toe in.  The nights all feature Royal Northern Sinfonia ("RNS"), the full-time orchestra at the Sage who were founded in 1958 and have gained themselves a lot of fans through their beautiful performances. The RNS Night Out series have seen some really fantastic nights of entertainment including a Star Wars spectacular, ET in concert and Beatlemania.  For our evening we were going to be immersed in the magic of the movies with "Hollywood Heroes".

My husband has to be the biggest fan of film soundtracks, I'm not talking about "Mamma Mia" style sing alongs here, he's all about the big dramatic movie scores and if you were to take a look at his Spotify playlist you'd find it full of his favourite composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams. He can tell you what film a piece of music is from within one bar and whilst most people run on the treadmill to dance music, Simon sets his pace to the Batman soundtrack (maybe he's training to be a superhero).  To say he was excited about the Hollywood Heroes night would be an understatement.

RNS Nights Out The Sage Gateshead - Music from the Movies

Taking our seats in Sage One for the first time was a pretty special experience, the auditorium was very different to any arena or theatre I have ever been in and I spent a lot of time just gazing around at how incredible it all looked. We were very lucky to find ourselves only a few rows back from the stage and as the orchestra entered and took their seats I was having the greatest time looking at all of the different instruments and the beautiful outfits each of the musicians were wearing. I had no idea exactly how big the Royal Northern Sinfonia would be with over 60 people on stage playing everything from Violin and Cello to Flute, Oboe, Trombone, Harp and Bass Guitar.

Our evening began with conductor Stephen Bell taking to the stage and kicking off the night with John Williams' "Summon the Heroes", a piece of music written for the 1996 Summer Olympics and very fitting for the night ahead. Having never seen a live orchestra before I was fascinated watching all of the musicians and the first thing that struck me was how beautiful the violinists looked, their bows moving in perfect sequence across the strings.

Turning to glance at my husband as the sounds of Hans Zimmer's "Gladiator" filled the room I couldn't believe how huge the smile was on his face. Hearing one of his favourite composers performed live was quite a moment for him and he was on the edge of his seat eagerly listening to every note. I have honestly never seen him so happy at a concert before.

RNS Nights Out The Sage Gateshead

For people like me who are perhaps not quite so familiar with movie soundtracks there were some great crowd pleasers within the set including Alan Silvestri's "The Avengers" and an extract from John Williams score from "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (instantly recognisable!). With plenty of families in the audience these were definitely both moments that the children appreciated too and if you are keen to introduce the younger members of your family to a fantastic live music experience the RNS Nights Out series are a great way to do that.

We were enjoying ourselves so much that the first half passed in what felt like minutes and before we knew it we were heading out of the Auditorium for interval drinks and a very special chance to meet a couple of members of the RNS orchestra.  We had the loveliest chat with violinist, Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo who happily answered all of my "newbie" questions that had left me feeling curious in the first half. I was keen to know more about the role of the conductor and what all of those confusing looking hand signals mean and it was great to have a little bit of insight into life in the RNS. If you are interested in learning more about the RNS then The Sage have recently launched RNS Inside Story sharing all things chamber orchestra and focuses on learning more about the music, musicians and experience including recommended playlists, short reads and Q&As.

Back into Sage One for the second part and Simon's moment of the night arrived with Danny Elfman's "Batman Suite" and John Williams "Superman Love Theme", he was having a real "pinch me" moment at how incredible his favourite pieces of music sounded with a full orchestra. My moment of the show came at the very end listening to the most beautifully haunting music composed by John Williams for "Schindler's List" - with an incredible violin solo performed by Kyra Humphreys which almost moved me to tears. I had goosebumps all over my body and for those few minutes I honestly felt like the only person in the room. It was such an incredible experience.

RNS Nights Out at The Sage Gateshead

Of course you can't be ending a show on a sombre note and the whole audience were delighted with the final piece of music from the set - Michael Giacchno ar. McEwan "The Incredibles". An absolutely incredible moment which seemed to include every instrument on the stage in a giant sound of tuneful chaos which, if you've seen the movie, you know is perfectly fitting.

The whole show was a couple of hours but passed in a flash, we were both so sad when it was over and would have happily sat there for days listening to the incredible RNS orchestra.  We have well and truly caught the bug and now consider ourselves new fans of the RNS. We can't wait to go back and are both keen to try one of the main series of concerts next with the more intimate shows in Sage Two and the live performances at Wylam Brewery looking particularly special.

If you fancy experiencing a RNS Night Out at Sage Gateshead for yourself then the next in the series will take place on Saturday 28 March at 7:30 pm and will celebrate the work of Elton John. "The Music of Elton John: 50 Years of "Your Song"" will see the RNS joined by four stars of the West End in a tribute to one of the greatest songwriters which will include all of his best hits.  Tickets cost from £16.50 and can be purchased here.

We will see you there!

Find The Sage at:

St Mary's Square

0191 443 4666

We received complimentary tickets to the Hollywood Heroes Night at The Sage. 
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