Photography of the Great Exhibition of the North opening event

The Great Exhibition of the North opened in Newcastle and Gateshead, in north-east England, on 22 June 2018 and I was there to record it with my photography. The spectacular opening ceremony featured drone and fireworks displays, street entertainers plus music by Maximo Park.

The event is billed as a celebration of arts, innovation, design and culture. It will run for 80 days, until 9 September.

The Great Exhibition of the North

The programme includes exhibitions at museums and galleries in NewcastleGateshead, culture trails, and installations.

The Get North Water Sculpture in the River Tyne, under the Sage Gateshead, on the opening day of the Great Exhibition of the North.

The Get North Water Sculpture in the River Tyne, under the Sage Gateshead, on the opening day of the Great Exhibition of the North.

More than 20,000 people gathered on Newcastle Quayside on the opening evening, during which poet Lemn Sissay also read a new work, Anthem of the North. Big screens and the public announcement system ensured that people on both sides of the River Tyne could see and hear what was going on.

Grey's Monument, in central Newcastle, adorned with ribbons ahead of the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Grey’s Monument, in central Newcastle, adorned with ribbons ahead of the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

What was there to see at the opening event?

The United Kingdom’s largest water sculpture has been installed in the River Tyne, between Newcastle Quayside and the Sage Gateshead. Created by Water Sculptures, based in Morecambe, its platform in more than 80 metres long.

The water jets of the Get North Water Sculpture on the River Tyne were choreographed to music during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

The water jets of the Get North Water Sculpture on the River Tyne were choreographed to music during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

It shoots jets of water into the air to roughly the height of the Tyne Bridge. At night the work is illuminated. The water jets of the Get North Water Sculpture are synchronised to music.

Street performers on the Quayside

Street performers provided entertainment early in the evening. They included acrobats, what appeared to be a group of old ladies sat on top of shopping baskets, curious flying machines plus a chap dressed as Icarus.

An Icarus figure soars above the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North on the Quayside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

An Icarus figure soars above the crowd at the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North on the Quayside in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

A group of colourfully dressed musicians played upbeat tunes to ramp up the mood before a Confetti burst drew an ‘ooh’ from people around me.

Colourful musical entertainment on the Quayside as crowds gather for the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle.

Colourful musical entertainment on the Quayside as crowds gather for the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle.

Maximo Park on the River Tyne

The opening even featured a upbeat stint by rock band Maximo Park. The group is from Newcastle. They been nominated for the Mercury Prize and are known for albums such as A Certain Trigger and Too Much Information.

Maximo Park performing in front of the Sage Gateshead at the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Maximo Park performing in front of the Sage Gateshead at the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Sailing upriver on the Sir Bobby Robson, they performed on a stage aboard the boat.

Maximo Park performing on the River Tyne aboard the Sir Bobby Robson during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Maximo Park performing on the River Tyne aboard the Sir Bobby Robson during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Drone display at the Great Exhibition of the North opening event

From the perspective of a photographer, I think the highlight of the evening was the drone display in the night sky.

Simply Great! The drone display during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Simply Great! The drone display during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

The clever, visually impressive display saw the drones shift into several patterns, spelling out ‘GREAT’, depicting the form of DNA and representing the Great Exhibition of the North logo.

DNA in the sky above the Sage Gateshead during the drone display at the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

DNA in the sky above the Sage Gateshead during the drone display at the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Fireworks to end the opening ceremony

A firework display concluded the Great Exhibition of the North’s opening event.

Rockets burst in the deep blue summer sky above the Sage Gateshead.

Firework display during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North. Rockets burst into the sky above the Sage Gateshead.

Firework display during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North. Rockets burst into the sky above the Sage Gateshead.

The fireworks came to a big finale and then the crowd dispersed. If you missed the evening, don’t worry — The Great Exhibition of the North’s programme of events continues into the autumn.

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the opening day of the Great Exhibition of the North.

The Gateshead Millennium Bridge on the opening day of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Photos of the Great Exhibition of the North

Want to buy or license any of my copyrighted photographs of the opening evening of the Great Exhibition of the North that you see on this page? Please get in touch to do so. Contact me through this website or call 07947 587136.

Fireworks over the Sage Gateshead during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Fireworks over the Sage Gateshead during the opening ceremony of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Further information

See the Great Exhibition of the North website for information about the programme of events planned until 9 September 2018. To stay in touch with the buzz, follow the #GETNorth2018 hashtag on social media. 

The Newcastle Gateshead website is a good source of information about where to go, what to see and what to do.

If you are visiting Newcastle and Gateshead you may gain inspiration from this post by Go Eat Do, Things to do during a walk in Newcastle.

See the Visit Britain website for ideas about things to do and see elsewhere in northern England.

Why Eye Photography is available for commissions and shoots in the north-east of England and beyond. Want to discuss a project? Please email me or call 07947 587136 to discuss your requirements.

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2 Comments

  1. Sharon 23rd June 2018 at 2:14 pm #

    Fabulous photos, Stuart. We just missed you last night apparently … we bumped into guys from SOS Travel. We made a day of it and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Sharon 🙂

    • Stuart Forster 11th July 2018 at 1:07 pm #

      Wasn’t it a lovely evening. I thought the drone show was the highlight of the evening, though I enjoyed the Maximo Park set.

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