Host city for 5m Great Exhibition of the North to be revealed – BBC News

<figure class=”media-landscape” has-caption full-width lead”> Image copyright BBC/Steve Partridge/Geograph

Image caption The four shortlisted bidders are (clockwise from top left) Blackpool, Bradford, Newcastle-Gateshead, Sheffield

Four towns and cities in the north of England are waiting to discover which one will win the right to host the 5m Great Exhibition of the North in 2018.

An announcement is due in the coming week to reveal whether Blackpool, Bradford, Sheffield or Newcastle and Gateshead will stage the exhibition.

Former Chancellor George Osborne came up with the idea as part of his Northern Powerhouse package.

As well as the 5m for the exhibition, he pledged 15m for a legacy fund.

This is what the bidding towns and cities are promising to do if they win:


The seaside resort’s Great Exhibition will be in the ornate Winter Gardens, which houses venues including the Opera House (said to have the biggest stage in Europe), Empress Ballroom and Olympia exhibition area.

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The exhibition will be along the theme of Pleasure Palaces, offering the “latest and greatest in UK popular culture for the last 130 years”.

There will be a Digital Palace, a Palace of Invention, a Palace of Earthly Wonders, a Palais De Dance, a Palace of New Realities, a Palace of Industry and a Palace of Dreams.

And a Palace of Popular Art will celebrate creations including northern TV crime dramas, music and light art, to tie in with the Blackpool Illuminations.

They hope to attract at least 400,000 visitors and the exhibition will be used to continue the restoration of the Winter Gardens.


If Bradford is chosen, a 10-week exhibition titled Futurescope, will be “the biggest and most connected exploration of our imagined futures that has ever taken place”, its bid promises.

It will, organisers say, use “great art, design and business innovation, food and drink, culture, and digital technology to bring people together”.

The exhibition could give the National Media Museum – the main venue – a much-needed boost, while other locations will include the City Park, Impressions Gallery and Kala Sangam South Asian Arts centre.

It will include a crowd-sourced exhibition of the 100 most influential objects from the north, a futuristic virtual reality experience and six giant connected sculptures that will be placed in northern cities.

Local heroes will also be celebrated – artist David Hockney has been invited to create a new work and the Bronte sisters will be commemorated on the 200th anniversary of Emily’s birth.

Newcastle and Gateshead

These twin cities will take visitors onto the streets with three themed walking routes guiding people to venues and attractions.

The Arts Circuit, Design Circuit and Innovation Circuit will all start at an exhibition about northern pioneers and trailblazers at the Great North Museum: Hancock.

Visitors will then traverse Newcastle before crossing the River Tyne and converging on the Baltic art gallery, which will invite five northern and five international artists to create work on the exhibition’s themes.

The 77-day exhibition, with the overarching theme of The Blazing World – The Fires of Invention, will begin with an opening ceremony featuring a bridge of illuminated drones.

During the event, 50 writers will be tasked with “rewriting the narratives of the north”, while the organisers promise to “connect artists with scientists and inventors to work closely”.


Sheffield’s exhibition will “confound stereotypes about the north” with a “dynamic and diverse” account encompassing heritage, art, science, manufacturing and city living.

Large neon signs will be located at motorway junctions across the north, pointing the way to the region as part of an installation titled Northern Lights.

Visitors will then find exhibits in venues like the Millennium Gallery, Tudor Square and Site Gallery as well as satellite venues in Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Performance highlights will include the premiere of The Yorkshire Musical, a promenade show inspired by cutlery craftsmen and Song for the North, a collaboration with Manchester’s Halle Orchestra.

And on Devonshire Green, 20 containers will be turned into “test laboratories” to showcase the work of leading researchers in areas from housing to e-health.

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