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Life in a Northern Town

22 June 2018 - 9 September 2018

Michaela Cullen // Declan Colquitt // Rene McBrearty // Jill McKnight // Motsonian // Becky Peach // Reet So

The NewBridge Project : Gateshead

Life in a Northern Town
 is a series of three exhibitions and a programme of events featuring work by upcoming and early-career artists living and working in the North of England.

Life in a Northern Town will provide a snapshot of emerging artistic talent in the North right now, featuring new artworks by Michaela Cullen, Declan Colquitt, Rene McBrearty, Jill McKnight, Motsonian, Becky Peach & Reet So.

Life in a Northern Town will explore the history, music, mythology, people and landscapes of the North through three exhibitions of new artworks including; installation, film, sound, sculpture, drawing, performance and writing. A series of responsive events will run alongside each exhibition, featuring artist-led workshops, talks, discussions, performances and live music.

The programme will create a platform for artists to respond to ideas of Northern Identity and how living and working in the region has shaped their artistic practice.

Life in a Northern Town has been developed by The NewBridge Project in partnership with other artist-led spaces and studio collectives from Northern cities, celebrating the ambitious and experimental spirit of organisations with a grassroots, DIY ethos at the heart of what they do.

Partner organisations are; Assembly House (Leeds), Islington Mill (Manchester), Caustic Coastal (Manchester), Bloc Projects (Sheffield) and The Royal Standard (Liverpool).


Motsonian // Conical Earth
Becky Peach // Moving in (un)familiar places

Saturday 23 June – Sunday 15 July
Preview: Fri 22 June, 6-9pm

For the first exhibition of Life in a Northern Town, Motsonian and Becky Peach use sculptural installation to subvert and challenge peoples’ perceptions of, and interactions with space. Motsonian’s work explores the boundary between the physical and virtual worlds, and Peach invites audiences to reinterpret the space around them through wearable sculptures.

Motsonian’s Conical Earth explores the culture surrounding the Kiviõli hillclimb as a compelling metaphor for the post-industrial transformation of the North East of England. The Kiviõli hillclimb is a motocross spectacle that takes place on top of man-made hills created with the ash from oil shale mining. In this new work Motsonian suggests the Kiviõli hillclimb as a way of articulating a comparable identification with the North East of England: from historical traces of landscape and industry to the transformation of Newcastle into a leisure city, and Gateshead into a cultural hub.

In Moving in (un)familiar places, Becky Peach draws from aspects of child’s play to create intimate sensory experiences, that re-evaluate the familiar, and provoke dissonance between space and action. Taking inspiration from sensory rooms, Peach invites audiences to explore their spatial awareness through tactile interactions with shapes and textures that relate to the local surroundings.

This exhibition has been curated in partnership with The Royal Standard, Liverpool.


Declan Colquitt // Michaela Cullen
Double Dropping on a Phantom Island

Saturday 21 July – Sunday 12 August
Preview: Friday 20 July

For a new collaborative work, artists Michaela Cullen and Declan Colquitt explore ideas of recollection and the slippage of time through themes of Irish pilgrimage and Northern dance music. The artists will create a new installation ranging across different media including sculpture, sound and film.

Alongside on-site, purpose built bleachers, Cullen will present a new film work. Described as a ‘sardonic sitcom pilgrimage’, this disorientating psychotropic story tries to understand friendship, upbringing and geographical landing. The film is set in Hy-Brasil, a phantom island said to lie in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland. Irish myths described it as cloaked in mist except for one day every seven years, when it became visible but still could not be reached.

Working closely with Cullen, Colquitt’s soundtrack is a visceral navigation of 00’s Northern dance culture. Through the use of early camera phones that were popular at the time, and were also instrumental in the dissemination of the music via infrared and bluetooth technologies, the artist creates a lo-fi digital soundscape which pulls in and out of Cullen’s narrative.

As part of the exhibition, the artists will release a two-part publication which will be available in the gallery and NewBridge Books.

This exhibition has been curated by Bloc Projects, Sheffield and Caustic Coastal, Manchester.


Rene McBrearty // How to Remove a Single Strand Knot
Jill McKnight// The Many-Limbed Machine of my Ancestral Makers

Saturday 18 August – Sunday 9 September
Preview: Friday 17 August


For the final exhibition of Life in a Northern Town, Rene McBrearty and Jill McKnight reveal hidden histories of female work and labour through the collective experiences of their families and their own individual experience. The work explores themes of identity, memory, family, women and gesture.

How to Remove a Single Strand Knot is a new sculptural installation including the first moving image work by Rene McBrearty. A single strand knot is found in afro hair and sometimes difficult to remove. Within the exhibition removing the knot becomes a metaphor for processing daily micro-aggressions and practicing self-care. The installation references the hidden labour carried out by women of colour and the importance of sisterhood and community in the North East. A zine made for the exhibition is available for visitors to take away.

The Many-Limbed Machine of my Ancestral Makersis a new sculptural installation by Jill McKnight. The work considers unseen experiences of Northern working class women, within a reinterpreted collective history of the North. Materials reference manufacturing machinery and disembodied figurative elements that interact with artefact-like sculptures. A spoken text explores the narratives behind them, alongside McKnight’s experiences as an artist in West Yorkshire with regular visits to family in the Northeast.

This exhibition has been curated in partnership with Assembly House, Leeds.


Reet So
The Foundation for Ergonomic Play Adaptation

Saturday 23 June – Sunday 9 September
Preview: Friday 22 June, 6-9pm

At The NewBridge Project : Gateshead and The NewBridge Project : Carliol House

The Foundation for Ergonomic Play Adaptation F.E.P.A is a research group that puts the study of the individuals’ efficacy in the workplace at the core of their organisation.

The F.E.P.A will exhibit their latest showroom presenting the application of design strategies found in playground ergonomics to the office environment. In a world where we strive for maximum efficiency and productivity, where new technologies promise to reduce our work-load and improve work-life balance, the institute’s aim is to pioneer a perfect work-play environment.

The F.E.P.A invites you to be an Emplayee and trial these new adaptations before their launch. We hope to maximise on playtime to bring you to a new frontier of work-life balance.

F.E.P.A is presented by artist collective Reet So. It is an interactive, fun and family friendly artwork that will be presented in the Co-Work space at The NewBridge Project : Gateshead for the duration of the Great Exhibition of the North throughout each of the 3 exhibitions. Reet So will also present work on the façade of The NewBridge Project : Newcastle at Carliol House.



Life in a Northern Townincludes an exciting programme of events running alongside the exhibitions, including live events, workshops and performances that will open a creative and active space for visitors.

The programme includes a Live Event programme curated by Islington Mill (Manchester). Islington Mill houses a mix of artists of all disciplines, from music to makers to visual artists, and is host to a variety of programmes, residencies and exhibitions. To highlight the Mill’s signature mix of music and visual arts, as well as their emphasis on collaboration and artist development, Stina Puotinen, Studio & Programme Manager at the Mill has teamed up with Emma Thompson of Fat Outmusic promotion & Samarbeta music residencyfame to curate a weekend of collaboration across cities and medium. They’ve invited visual and sound artists from the Mill and paired them with musicians & performers from cities featured in the “Life in a Northern Town” programme – Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle. Over the course of two days we’ll be celebrating the end of the summer’s events with a weekend of workshops, performance and parties.



During Life in a Northern Town, NewBridge Books will have an eclectic mix of stock by early-career and upcoming artists and makers from across the North, selected by Life in a Northern Town partners.

NewBridge Books provides a platform for independent publishers and artists, and during the Great Exhibition of the North, it will offer a selection of diverse, original and hard to find publications, with a variety of artists’ books, zines, writing & magazines, as well as unique artworks such as T-Shirts, Jewellery and prints.




Life in a Northern Town has been developed by The NewBridge Project in partnership with other artist-led organisations and studio collectives from Northern cities, including; Assembly House (Leeds), Islington Mill and Caustic Coastal (Manchester), Bloc Projects (Sheffield) and The Royal Standard (Liverpool). 

Assembly House

Assembly House is an artist-led organisation based in Leeds. Across 2 sites they are home to over 40 studio-holders and 2 project spaces. The organisation was founded by graduates in Leeds in 2013, with the aim of creating affordable workspaces and opportunities for emerging creatives, and of championing a broad spectrum of creativity, including painting, illustration, sculpture, design, photography, performance, digital media, music, dance and much more.

Assembly House Studios is situated in a Victorian textiles mill, along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, and hosts our flagship project space and 17 large open-plan studio spaces. Lady Beck occupies a three-story space on Mabgate, with a project space and a range of open plan and self-enclosed studio spaces. Across both sites they host a monthly programme of exhibitions and events, as well as an annual graduate residency.

Bloc Projects

Established in 2002, Bloc Projects is an artist-led contemporary arts organisation occupying a former industrial building in the centre of Sheffield. They provide a platform for early to mid career artists to develop new work in dialogue with audiences and partners in the city and beyond. They welcome a large and diverse annual audience into our space through exhibitions, screenings, performances, publicly sited works, talks, education activities and professional development opportunities. In this way we aim to further the development of contemporary art in the city of Sheffield for the benefit of artists and the public.

Caustic Coastal

Caustic Coastal is an independent Art Label based in Salford working as a curatorial platform for artists. Currently based in a warehouse that houses 3 distinct gallery spaces and 18 studios they develop site specific productions, exhibitions, events and spectacles.

Islington Mill

Islington Mill is home to over 100 artists and 50 creative businesses. Since 2000, the Mill has been an ever-evolving creative space, arts venue and creative community. The Mill is at the heart of Salford’s creative community, situated between the University of Salford and the city of Manchester.

They are a vibrant resourceful creative network; a space where conversations lead to connections and collaboration. They create opportunities for artists through a DIY ethos, building a platform for future emerging artists. Operating outside a commercial, profit-led agenda, we are a genuinely independent arts organisation that places nurturing, supporting and inspiring creativity at the heart of everything they do.

Islington Mill is a celebration of the unconventional; of radical and subversive thinking – it is a place where anything feels possible. Their flexibility and fluid structure is a catalyst for creativity, allowing artists, residents and tenants to challenge accepted notions of what arts and culture can do, and who can be involved. They treasure our independence to explore and to create.

Their abiding ethos is to enable people to live and work as freely and creatively as possible.

The Royal Standard

The Royal Standard (TRS) is an artist-led gallery, studio complex and registered charity based in Liverpool. They are dedicated to fostering opportunities for the most outstanding recent graduates and emerging artists through providing affordable studio space, free public exhibitions, events and training. They support 45 artists, as well as 5 project spaces and its own dedicated gallery based in Northern Lights, Cains Brewery Village L8.

They have worked with over 350 artists and delivered over 80 unique exhibitions and events. They deliver a public programme and monthly workshop programme for their membership simultaneously. They work with cross sector partners across the North West with long standing relationships with Bluecoat, Liverpool Biennial, FACT, New Contemporaries, The NewBridge Project, Liverpool John Moores University, and critical writing journal, The Double Negative. All of this has established TRS as a dynamic hub for contemporary artistic practice in the North West providing an important ‘middle ground’ for the artist community ecology.


Life in a Northern Town is part of The Great Exhibition of the North 2018.



Mon - Sun, 10am - 6pm