The Laing Art Gallery sits on the edge of Newcastle’s famed and beautiful Blue Carpet, the open city square laid with a unique pattern of blue tiles (hence the name!) The Blue Carpet draws the buildings which surround it together, unifying both the old and the new, to create an intimate space for relaxing or on occasion, for performance.
The Laing recently claimed the prestigious ‘Large Visitor Attraction of the Year’ prize at the North East England Tourism Awards. It has a superb permanent collection, including works by Henry Moore and paintings by the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood group. The works of local artists, like wood engraver Thomas Berwick, the painters of the Newcastle School of Art, founded in 1843 and more recent artists like Oliver Kilbourn, are a glimpse into the creative, as well as the social history of the city.
At the other end of town, The Discovery Centre sits at the intersection of two busy main roads. It is a large, imposing brick building which looks very much like some grim relic of an early nineteenth century educational institution.
Inside, one exhibition tells the story of the shipping industry and the Tyne which was and still is the life blood of the region. Another traces the history of Newcastle from the Romans to the present day. The “Working Lives” exhibition outlines the “hard graft and ingenuity” that is the story of the Newcastle worker. Finally, DVDs in a little video corner introduces some famous Newcastle inventors like George and Robert Stephenson, of the locomotive fame, Joseph Swan who invented the filament light bulb in 1978, Gladstone Adams, the father of windscreen wipers, Arthur George, the author of the Joystick and a clutch of 21st century corporations like DUK responsible for Biometrics fingerprinting, Global Point Technologies who introduced satellite tracking and Peratech of the Touch Smell Robot.
While an afternoon browse through a gallery and a museum can only really give a summary of a place and its history, the Laing and the Discovery Centre sum up Newcastle, its history and its people most impressively.