Low key, cool and interesting would be words I would use to describe the Ouseburn valley area of Newcastle. Located just a twenty minute walk from the city centre and Quayside, it’s a quirky creative part of the city that is worth a visit.
In the Ouseburn you will find Seven Stories (the only dedicated Children’s book gallery in UK), live music venues Cluny and Cluny 2, foodies favourite Ernest, the Art space, The Biscuit factory and Byker City Farm, Stepney Bank Stables as well various creative spaces and workshops. Back in our pre-children days we spent most weekends down here grabbing a drink and checking out a local band, and we have returned over the years to enjoy Seven Stories and the farm with the kids in tow.
The two day Ouseburn festival organised by the ‘East End and Ouseburn Community Association ‘takes place the first weekend of July each year and is definitely worth a visit. It seems that the Sunday is the more child focused day with the Saturday lending itself to more music events. We headed down with my parents Derek and Elizabeth with plans to meet up with some friends in the valley. Alan and Imogen went to Beamish on a geo-caching mission but Abigail and I fancied a more chilled day out with the lure of an al-fresco wine or two.
Parking up just behind Stepney Bank stables, we headed down the bank into the valley following the sound of the music. Just in front of the Ship Inn volunteers handed out event programmes which detailed all of the activities that were happening over the weekend. We didn’t see how the theme ‘Peter Rabbit discovers Ouseburn’ was represented in any part of the festival but maybe we missed something.
After a quick coffee stop at the Ouseburn farm, we noted that the parade was making its way from the Cycle Hub on the river up the valley. Lead by the Bangshees drumming band the parade got people in the carnival mood and the kids who had decorated umbrellas as per the instructions seemed to be loving it. At this point we caught some of the Morris dancers outside of the stage in front of the Cluny and Ship Inn.
The Duck Race
It was time for the Cluny duck race and we found a spot along the banks of the river to see them being released. This Tyne tributary isn’t exactly fast flowing and more of a trickle so a member of the Cluny team donned her waders and was down in the river rescuing marooned ducks on the rocks. The net to catch them in at the end didn’t seem to be working that well too so guessing some might end up taking a trip down the river to the North Sea.
We usually enter a duck into the race but lack of organisation meant we were too late and they had sold out. The money raised was going to the Ouseburn farm this year. Abigail chose a fuchsia pink one to cheer on and my friend Mari was cheering for a batman themed one complete with superhero cape.
On the Ouseburn car park there were a few fairground rides and information stalls. Abigail went on the hook and duck and “won” a pink guitar that features in most of the photos of the day. She now has her sights set on a ukulele so could be the start of a future career in the creative arts.
At this point, I left my parents and friends on the grassy bank and headed into the Seven Stories to check out the new Michael Morpugo exhibit.
Once we came out we popped into the puppet making workshop ran by PuppetShip in the Lime Street gallery. Abigail was chuffed with her pink sparkly peg doll creation and it was interesting to look at the photographs of the boat building and community workshops that the enterprise run.
Outside the Cluny
Back on the grass, a white wine from the Cluny went down well and we soaked in the atmosphere. A punky trio of young lads played their hearts followed by another drumming band and a recital from the children from the Chinese christian church nearby was very sweet. My Dad took Abigail off to do more of the rides and stopped at Stepney Bank stables where she enjoyed grooming one of the ponies.
On the way back to the car, we popped our heads into ‘Protohome‘ which had set up in the car park of the Stepney bank stables. This self-built housing project (with it own wooden car) was from artists Joe Shaw and Dean Crawford and aimed to highlight the problem of homelessness in conjunction with the charity Crisis. The thought provoking display highlighted the fact homelessness is a local as well as international issue.
We really enjoyed our afternoon in the Ouseburn and will be returning next year to see what the organisers have in store.