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Marketing Manchester’s Simon Donohue paid a visit to The Great Exhibition of the North for its launch event...

Northern Pride: that intangible sense of a place where something truly special happens.

Until now.

The Great Exhibition of the North is the living, breathing embodiment of that pride – a place where it can be touched and heard, handled, explored and celebrated.

For 80 days until September 9, the Great Exhibition of the North’s home is NewcastleGateshead, and the biggest event in England this year, backed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the BBC.

I was one of the thousands fortunate to secure a ticket for the curtain raising scene setter - a spectacular launch event on the banks of the River Tyne.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the silvery glass blobitecture of the Sage Gateshead, the event opened with confetti cannons, street theatre and the funk-fused-rave of Mr Wilson’s Second Line, who performed alongside Manchester’s legendary 808 State member Graham Massey.

As darkness descended, it fell to local legends Maximo Park to warm things further before Manchester poet Lemn Sissay provided a stirring debut performance of his new Anthem for the North.

Fireworks lit the sky over Gateshead as the eerie spectacle of choreographed LED drones rendered northern icons in the night sky (open to see a twitter thread from the evening).

We didn’t have too much to explore but what time I did have was spent on a whistle-stop tour of Manchester’s contribution to Great Exhibition of the North.

Here’s some of my favourite discoveries with a Manchester flavour.

- In the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art,  I found exhibits marking Cumbrian rave culture in a vintage news clip from late and great Granada TV newsman Bob Greaves. Not sure who Greaves is? Go ask your mum and dad.

Ceremony, Phil Collins’ film about a return to Manchester of Friedrich Engels in statue form, is on a continuous loop in the Baltic. Captured partly during the closing ceremony for Manchester International Festival, it contrasts Engels’ Manchester with the contemporary city. For those who can’t make the journey to Newcastle, Ceremony is also being shown at HOME in Manchester until August 19.

- At locations across NewcastleGateshead, visitors are invited to #RemakeATake in a famous film. Among the films featured is 24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom’s bio-pic of Tony Wilson and the Factory Records story. Visitors are invited to pick up a pair of imaginary maracas and pretend they’re in the Hacienda.

- Manchester and the surrounding areas feature prominently in the Lego Timeline of Northern Innovation.

- Artist and Marketing Manchester MBassador Stanley Chow has been commissioned by the Great Exhibition of the North to create The North in 100 Songs Exhibition.

- And there’s a chance to preview Stephenson’s Rocket before it travels to Manchester later this year – its first visit in 180 years.

What you need to know if you’re visiting Great Exhibition of the North from Manchester

Great Exhibition of the North is a free, summer-long celebration of the North of England’s pioneering spirit.

It is the biggest event in England this year and runs until September 9 in NewcastleGateshead.

Great Exhibition of the North is expected to reach an audience of three million people, including more than one million visitors from across the UK and overseas.

Newcastle upon Tyne is 143 miles from Manchester, a drive time of around two hours and 45 minutes.

Newcastle is as little 2 hrs 12 mins by train from Manchester’s Victoria Station.

Download the Great Exhibition of the North app here. It’s available for Apple and Android devices and contains interactive routes for three themed Great Exhibition of the North walking trails – design, art and innovation.

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Sage Gateshead and Great North Museum are the main hubs for the exhibition.

Full listings and event details are available from the Great Exhibition of the North website –




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