The Late Shows 2024 — our guide

A two-night ‘culture crawl’ across Newcastle and Gateshead, The Late Shows is an annual opportunity to experience art, music and more after hours. From open studios and pop-up exhibitions to workshops, performances and heritage buildings normally off-limits, the event is a popular and busy celebration, free and open to all. Browse the full listings — but first read our guide to enable you to plan your way through it this year.

Live music is a constant across venues, from impromptu gigs in back rooms to baroque monkish alt-jazz. You’ll even find plainchant if you know where to look. In one of four commissions created specially for this year’s edition of The Late Shows, celebrated Newcastle-based musicians Jeremy Bradfield, Tim Dalling and Faye MacCalman (of Archipelago, among other projects) tell the history of the city via looped saxophonic soundscapes using traditional Biblical mystery stories in The Ballad of Blackfriars (Saturday 18 May).

In the Ouseburn valley, The Ladies of Midnight Blue get The Toffee Factory moving (Friday 17 May); and The Redheughers Ceilidh Band play at St. Mary’s Heritage Centre (Gateshead Riverside Partnership. A quick change of kilt and you can be across at the Hatton Gallery for boilersuited proto-Soviet electro, where artist Euan Lynn’s Novyi Lef are playing (both Saturday 18 May).

The Late Shows also, like a mini, nocturnal Heritage Open Days, offers the chance to see inside various buildings not open to the public. In some cases this is the purpose of the event, in some it’s more incidental. Of the former, the fantastic Dunston Staiths is always worth visiting; and this year is presumably also the last chance to see inside The Pattern Shop, Robert Stephenson’s locomotive redoubt, before it is converted into offices. Alongside Newcastle Castle and Newcastle’s Anglican cathedral, Pugin’s St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral is open, complete with tours up to the organ loft, and the maxi-fenestrated Bessie Surtees House — including normally off-limits private spaces.

If you like printmaking, you’re in luck, several times over. Try out printmaking techniques at The Biscuit Tin Print Club, The World is Diving at Star & Shadow Cinema, The NewBridge Project, Shieldfield Art Works, Screen printing at Incubate Printmaking and Printmaking at Northern Print.

And you could see some actual art too. Both the NewBridge Project and Vane have worked with students to create special one-night exhibitions. On Friday, first-year BA Fine Art students from Newcastle University present YEOWCH! at The NewBridge Project, while across the water on Saturday, Vane’s one-night exhibition People and Place has been convened by students from Gateshead College and both Newcastle and Northumbria universities.

Artists’ studios are open on Friday at Cobalt Studios, where you can also try out life drawing and have a drink by the fire; Biscuit Tin Studios and 36 Lime Street; and on Saturday, across Orbis Community’s sites at High Street and West Street and at D6, where you’ll get to see new work and chat to artists Kate Sweeney, Nisha Duggal and Paria Goodarzi. Live DJs will soundtrack exhibitions at both Gallagher & Turner and Newcastle Contemporary Art (where you can also tour High Bridge Works’ studios) — and at both Baltic and Farrell Centre, there are creative activities on offer alongside the exhibitions.

What else? Experience a life sized pop-up bookshop made of fungus at The Biscuit Factory; bounce on giant inflatables (you, not the kids) at Great North Museum: Hancock, and meet the masons at Maple Lodge Masonic Hall.

Most events are suitable for children, but check beforehand: the varnish of culture on some is thinner than others, and a few are basically bars. Many venues offer food and drink, from Ouseburn Farm‘s slick barbecue operation to homemade cakes at Bensham Grove Community Centre. ♣︎

The Late Shows 2024, 17 May (Ouseburn) and 18 May (Central Newcastle and Gateshead). See our listings of all events here.

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