Steve Rowell

Regional Spatialities:
Two Tours Around Newcastle-Upon-Tyne

In June 2010, as part of my HaSS fellowship in the Global Urban Research Unit at Newcastle University, I researched and conducted two bus tours that investigated the landscape surrounding the city, covering parts of Northumberland, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, and North Yorkshire. Part performance, part conceptual / contextual / spatial exercise, part pedagogical experiment.

For the Northern tour, entitled Military Landscapes of the North-East, I focused on places that represent the broad range of meaning inherent in the defense-related landscape north and west of the city, ranging from the batteries at Tynemouth and Blyth, to the Otterburn Range, the Borderlands, RAF Spadeadam, and back into the city by way of the historic ship / declining gun and tank building sites along the Tyne. This counter-clockwise, forward and back again, timeline defined the tour route. For the Southern tour, entitled Post-Industrial and Future Landscapes of the North-East, the histories of coal, steel, shipbuilding, chemicals, and even dark matter were investigated. The itinerary began at the end of the shipbuilding era, on Tyneside, over the coastal post-coal-scape to the chemical and steel industries around Teeside, transitioning onto the North York Moors, or what lies beneath - potash and a dark matter research facility. Video programming for this tour included the opening sequence of Blade Runner, in which the viewer slowly levitates through gas flares from monumental petrochemical refineries below, toward a dystopic Los Angeles of 2019. Ridley Scott grew up in Teeside and was deeply affected by the industrial landscape here, the most extensive and visually dominating in all of England.