If you can handle the bracing temperatures, the city of Newcastle is teeming with fun events and activities that will warm the cockles this winter.
A bustling university city on the River Tyne in northeast England, Newcastle buzzes with activity at all times of year, in large part due to its vibrant, youthful population. However, while the locals are renowned for their willingness to embrace the cold winter weather, this period does see most of the action withdraw indoors. If you’re visiting Newcastle over the coming months, below are twelve great options for making the most of the city.
Brave Exhibitions Festival
Live music has been in short supply in recent years due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the Brave Exhibitions Festival is doing its best to make up for lost time. First held back in 2018, as a small-scale, self-funded festival, the event is now at the very forefront of Newcastle’s grassroots music scene, focussing on genres that have been typically marginalised from the mainstream. Featuring an impressive line-up of regional and national acts and drawing over a thousand attendees from across the UK and beyond to The Cluny bar and music venue, the festival has developed a core fan base whilst maintaining the aim to diversify Northeast audiences for alternative music.
The Cluny / 19-21 November 2021
Durham City’s Christmas Festival
Less than 30 minutes by road from Newcastle, Durham city centre will once again host its Christmas festival this year, providing the perfect chance to tick loads of items off your Christmas shopping list. The festival hosts three markets and more than 200 independent traders selling a diverse selection of artwork, handcrafted gifts, decorations, homewares, clothing, and festive food and drink. There’ll also be seasonal entertainment for the whole family including festive music with carollers, bands, buskers, and even an orchestra. Admission is free.
Venues throughout Durham / 3-5 December 2021
‘Eruptions- A Decade of Creation’ exhibition
Indian transmedia artist and activist Poulomi Basu has received widespread plaudits for her efforts in expanding the possibilities of traditional documentary photography through multi-layered narratives. Marking her first major international solo exhibition, this immersive installation of VR, film and photography showcases her acclaimed projects: Blood Speaks: A Ritual Of Exile, Centralia and To Conquer Her Land; which engage with issues of gender, caste and class to expose both the marginalisation and the strength of women and indigenous communities in South Asia. Through her captivating work Basu serves to illuminates contentious complex realities, challenges injustices and advocates for urgent political, social and environmental change.
Side Photographic Gallery, 5-9 Side / Through 6 February 2022
Skating season at Life – it’s ice to be back!
The open-air ice rink at Life Science Centre is back for 2021, offering the chance for skaters of all ages and abilities to glide across the ice with as much elegance (or lack of) they can muster. Popular with families, solo skating and friends meet-ups, the skating experience can be augmented by pre-booking a range of festive refreshments to enjoy afterwards. Tickets are priced at £11.50 for adults, £9 for children aged 5-17 and £4 for kids aged 4 and under.
Life Science Centre / Through 9 January 2022
‘Portrait of an Artist’ exhibition
Among the Laing Art Gallery’s exhibitions running through this winter is Portrait of an Artist, which offers audiences an opportunity to step into the inner world of the artist, shedding light on their personal lives and creative processes. Comprising over 85 oil paintings, drawings and prints by artists spanning the late 19th century to the 1940s, the exhibition records the introspective self-gaze of the artist, portraying intensely emotional moments and transporting the viewer to where the artist’s personal and working environments overlap. Standard tickets are £9 and kids 12 and under go free.
Laing Art Gallery / Through 26 February 2022
Winter Lights at Life
Another eagerly awaited event at the Life Science Centre this year is Winter Lights, featuring an array of hands-on activities, luminous live shows, magical light play and festive experiments. Among them will be a lantern trail that invites guests to see how many lanterns they can find dotted around the centre, a Lumiere live show letting you explore things that sparkle and glow, and a Space Zone in which you can launch your own rocket and even find out how astronauts poo in space. The admission price, which includes access to the entire centre, is £15 for adults and £11 for children aged 5-17, while kids aged 4 and under go free.
Life Science Centre / Through 4 February 2022
Look-A-Like Newcastle Tribute Festival
Bringing together some of the UK’s finest tribute bands, this huge indoor day festival celebrates some of the most cherished and enduringly popular eras of music and culture. Among the iconic bands receiving the tribute treatment for 2021 will be The Beatles, Oasis, Queen and Fleetwood Mac. There’ll also be plenty of street food stalls to keep revellers well satiated. Admission is £16.90 per ticket, and only guests aged 14 and over are permitted.
Riverside / 12 December 2021
Christmas Craft Fayre
Taking place at the Blue Flames Sporting Club on the eastern edge of Newcastle, this festive fair features a wide range of stallholders selling an eclectic mix of craft items, providing the perfect opportunity to pick up some gifts ahead of Christmas. In addition, numerous outdoor street food vendors will be on hand serving up heart-warming seasonal treats including mulled wine. Entrance is £1 to pay at the door.
Blue Flames Sporting Club, Whitley Park / 5 December 2021
Said to be Newcastle’s biggest winter fair, Winter Wonderland is a fun-filled family day out that offers everything from thrilling rides to a visit from the big fella in red – accompanied by one of his trusty reindeers. A wide range of food stalls will cater for everyone’s tastebuds, with visitors able to choose from savoury dishes such as Oriental Chinese Noodles and Yorkshire Pudding Wraps, sweet treats such as churros, crepes and donuts, or festive drinks like cups of warm mulled wine and German beers. Entrance is £3.50 online or £5 on the day.
Newcastle Racecourse / 19 November 2021 – 2 January 2022
‘In Times of Emergency: The Light Dragoons in times of crisis’ exhibition
Featuring in the Discovery Museum’s ‘Charge! The Story of England’s Northern Cavalry’ gallery, this temporary exhibition looks at how The Light Dragoons – a cavalry regiment in the British Army – have been deployed down the years during times of national emergency. Using a mixture of imagery, objects and quotes from serving soldiers, the exhibition covers emergencies like the Fire Brigade Union Strikes of 2002, the flooding in 2015 and 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic. Admission to the museum is free.
Discovery Museum / Through 28 February 2022
Chinese New Year
Centred around the city’s Chinatown District, Newcastle’s Chinese New Year celebrations are famously colourful and fun. Among the highlights each year is an eye-catching parade featuring a traditional dragon and lion dance that starts at Eldon square before processing to the Chinatown arch. There are also workshops where you can learn how to create and decorate your own lanterns, speeches from key representatives of the local Chinese community, a Chinese market and fairground, and an exhibition of Chinese arts and crafts. Entrance is free.
St Andrew’s Street, Newcastle City Centre / January 2022
Christmas at Beamish
For four magical evenings this December, the Beamish Museum will invite visitors to discover an evocative Christmas past. The museum has created its own wormhole that lets you step back in time and see how Christmas was celebrated from the 1820s through to the 1950s. Have a go on the rides at The Fairground, visit the stalls in The 1900s Town for all your Edwardian essentials, and learn about a traditional Georgian Christmas. There’ll also be scrumptious seasonal food to taste, festive music, Punch and Judy Shows, a Santa’s Grotto (£6), a real life reindeer, and the chance to try your hand at Christmas crafts. Entrance is £15 for adults and £10 for kids aged 2-16.
Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, / 9-10 & 16-17 December
By Paul Joseph