Now Newcastle’s foremost creative enclave, the Ouseburn has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent times, from an industrial wasteland to an area of cultural regeneration, home to artists, musicians and creative businesses.
Two-hundred years ago the area was at the forefront of the Tyneside’s industrial revolution, with craft industries such as lead works, corn mills, iron foundries and tanners taking residence in the water-power mills that were built on the Ouseburn River.
The decline of heavy industry saw the area fall to its knees, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that it re-emerged, with community-driven enterprises that have prompted the area’s cultural renaissance. Its formerly derelict factories and Victorian red brick warehouses have been re-imagined as vibrant artist studios, like the Mushroom Works, and live music venues. But there are reminders of its industrial heritage everywhere – the old flax chimney outside The Cluny,
The Glasshouse Bridge and Ouseburn Railway viaduct rub shoulders with creative startups, some housed in shipping containers. The architectural juxtaposition works, though, and its relaxed riverside setting, cradled underneath three soaring bridges, makes for perfect for pedestrianised meanderings.
Read + Farm
Taking pride of place on arguably The Ouseburn’s most artistic address, Lime Street, Seven Stories is one of the North East’s real successes. Housed in a Grade 2 listed, former Victorian flour mill, The National Centre For Children’s Books is much more than a glorified children’s library. Here the wonder of literature is brought to life across seven floors of innovative exhibitions, a multimedia story lab and a vast library of over 35,000 books – with plenty of cosy and creative nooks for kids to read, write, draw and play. Look out for original artwork and manuscripts from some of Britain’s most beloved authors and illustrators, including Quentin Blake, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo (author of Warhorse), who recently donated his entire archive to the museum. Enid Blyton fans, meanwhile, can geek out over the single largest collection of her work in the world.
Lime Street, Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
| 0845-271-0777 | seven-stories.org.uk
In the Area ( Two Minutes Walk )
A green oasis occupying the site of a former lead works, the community-led and environmentally sustainable
urban farm is perfect for entertaining little ones.
Ouseburn Farm, Ouseburn Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PA , 0191 232 3698, byker-bridge.org.uk
Buy + Create
THE BISCUIT FACTORY
Designated the UK’s largest commercial art, design and craft space, the perennially popular Biscuit Factory has been central to the regeneration of Newcastle’s Shieldfield and Ouseburn areas. A marvel of restoration, its exposed red brick walls and large factory windows house everything from sculpture to photography, ceramics to prints, jewellery to textiles – crafted by both emerging and established artists, including Damien Hirst, Beryl Cook and local talents, Alexander Miller and Malcolm Teasdale. Whether you’re a serious buyer or serial browser, the beauty of this 3,000 square metre art space is you can pick up something for US$25 or US$25,000 – affordable art for all is the mantra here. Be sure to head to the basement’s open studios to talk art and enjoy some northern banter with local working artists, and pay your respects to the building’s industrial past by dunking your biscuit in a brew at the gallery’s Factory Kitchen.
16 Stoddart St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1AN | thebiscuitfactory.com
In The Area ( Four Minute Cab Ride )
Drop in for a contemporary printmaking class or learn the fine art of wood-making at this pottery-turned-cosy gallery and studio space.
Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2NP, northernprint.org.uk
Cafe + Coffee
Take two converted 12-metre-long shipping containers, an architect-turned-food blogger, heaps of homegrown produce and you have the Ouseburn’s newest (and coolest) kid on the block: Cook House. The brainchild of self-taught chef and pop-up extraordinaire Anna Hedworth, the cafe by day, supper club venue by night has a homely and informal vibe, with a cosy wood-burning stove, open kitchen and communal tables. Anna’s daily changing menu, featuring salad sourced from the adjoining garden, fish from Latimers in Whitburn, beans from Ouseburn Coffee Company and vegetables from Ouseburn Farm, includes gems like whipped feta on toast and wild garlic and spinach soup. And if you’re after something stronger than a glass of homemade cloudy lemonade, you can BYO. Nocturnal activities include guest chef nights, book launch events and wine tastings.
Ouse Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PF | cookhouse.org
In The Area ( Five Minute Walk )
OUSEBURN COFFEE COMPANY
The city’s first independent roastery is a no-frills cafe serving cups of ethically sourced Indonesian and Brazilian blends.
Foundry Lane Studios, Foundry Ln, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 1LH, ouseburncoffee.co.uk
Words and Images: SARAH FREEMAN