We have been wanting to compile this blog piece for a while but the weather was conspiring against us. However, even though March has been a little temperamental we decided to get out and about and start exploring some of the sculptures in the North East area. All of the works of art featured are accessible to the public with no admission fees and are easy to locate. They are all in places that can form the start of a mini-adventure or day out exploring a place or town you aren’t too familiar with.
Converstion Piece – Little Haven Beach – South Shields (aka The Weebles)
Conversation Piece is made up of 22 bronze figures designed by the Spanish sculptor Juan Munoz in 1999. The artwork can be found on Little Haven beach in South Shields next to the hotel of the same name and sand dunes. The locals nicknamed the bronze sculptures the ‘Weebles’ after the popular toys due to their rounded shape but there is no rocking them over as they are heavy & well planted into the paving slabs!
Parking is aplenty this area of town (charges do apply) and a lovely modern promenade forms a path for a great stroll along the coastline stopping by for fish and chips or an ice cream cone from Minchellas.
The sculptures are arranged in small groups with their faces turned to each other as if in the middle of a private chat. There’s a few on the edge looking in which I imagine is deliberate to give a sense that some people are on the edges of the conversation. Abigail got stuck right in the middle eavesdropping on this one group which definitely mimics real life!
Munoz worked a lot in paper mache and although these sculptures are bronze you can see the influence in the folds of the metal work. The sculptures are not shiny & perfect and their rough texture works so well in the backdrop of the sand dunes and the blue of the North Sea.
The sculptures are 1.5 metres high so now I know how tall Imogen is!
2. Cramlington Spoon (Eat for England) – Northumberland
Now this one is a little bit more of an adventure to find and possibly not
We parked up at the pub The Bay Horse Inn and walked through the underpass by the bus shelter opposite to reach the end of the track. As you can see it was a muddy path!
Reaching the spoon felt like a real achievement and I loved the fact it wasn’t in an obvious place! It definitely added to the adventure.
You have to love a bit of forced perspective!
3. Angel of the North – Gateshead
Not sure we could have compiled this list without a nod to the Angel of the North arguably the most iconic & well know sculpture in the North East. Designed by Antony Gormley in 1998 it was met with some controversy (mainly over the costs!) but it soon became an eye-catching gateway to Gateshead when you arrive from the A1.
The Angel is pretty easy to find with directions from the A1 to the designated free car park. On
The girls had the most fun at this sculpture as the feet of the angel are perfectly shaped and slippy enough to be a make shift slide! I think you don’t get a sense of how large it actually is until you visit up close. How the jokers at Christmas managed to get that Santa hat on is a scary thought!
4. Terra Novalis – Consett – County Durham
This was a sculpture we were totally unfamiliar with & there was little to explain who it was by or what it was at the site (which lies on the Coast to Coast cycle path). After doing a little internet research we found it was sculpted by Tony Cragg, installed in 1996 as part of the national Sustrans cycle paths and actually won the Turner Prize.
You can find Nerra Novalis nestled on the moor above Consett in the Derwent Valley. The sculpture is the site of the former Consett
We loved the detail in this sculpture and thought the story behind the art work was really interesting to make you think about the past and the decline of heavy industries in the North East.
5. Eleven ‘o One (aka Tommy) – Seaham – County Durham
We might be cheating a little by popping two sculptures into our last entry but they are both by the same artist Ray Lonsdale a local artist from Bishop Auckland. His work is distinctive, emotive and beautifully made and we are big fans of “Freddie” another
First up is Eleven ‘o one (known locally as Tommy) a depiction of a world war one soldier sitting on a box of ammunition. The sculpture was originally placed on Seaham sea front as part of a temporary exhibition in 2014 but a subsequent fundraising campaign bought him outright so he will remain here for generations to enjoy.
The knitted poppies were added on with magnets in November 2018 to recognise 100 years since the end of World War 1 by a local knitter! I think they look brilliant.
On the back of Tommy is a poem which was written by the sculptor.
Rememberance Tribute nearby on railings.
While your here it is also worth having a look at the Poppies on the seafront Railings. Easily overlooked as it is tucked behind the parked cars.
It was quite touching to see that a possible relative has added this photograph to the poppy. This made the installation more real as to a visitor, we don’t know much more than their names.
Emily Wilding Davison – Morpeth
Davison was a prominent suffragette and is buried in a local churchyard after she sadly lost her life jumping in front of the King’s horse in 1913. She suffered a great deal at the hands of the state for her protests and the sculpture depicts her tipping food from the bowl to represent the many force feeds she endured.
The plaque notes that she knew a tube force feeding her would come but that only ‘strengthened her conviction’. Wow, I can only imagine how brave she was and how scary this must have been.
Carlisle Park is a brilliant spot for kids and just next to the sculpture is a aviary of rescued birds. Further into the park the paddling pool is a great hit on a summers day.
English Heritage Week
We hope we have inspired you to take a trip to some of the modern public works of art in our North East towns and cities. We could have made this list even longer but thought these represented the diversity of both the different styles of sculpture and the diverse locations. All of the sculptures have somethings in common though in that kids love to pose on them and they get you to think & understand a little more about the world around us.
This week (31st March – 7th April) marks English Tourism week, so we hope we have inspired you to get out and explore our region.
For more North East Top 5’s see more from the list below.
New Girl in Toon – Top 5 North East Walks
Big Stevie Cool – Top 5 Castles in Northumberland
Katie Jane Online – Top 5 Park Runs in the North East
North East Family Fun – 5 North East Family Picnic Spots