A Year Of World-class Events And We're Doing It All Again In 2023

Issue 89

By Ben Whitfield, Director of Communications, NE1 Ltd

2022 was the year that Newcastle bounced back from Covid with a stellar line up of events, from world-class sporting fixtures to home-grown events that helped put the city firmly on the global map and set the bar high for 2023 and beyond.

This year the city has already started as it means to go on with a record-breaking, million pound Newcastle Restaurant Week in January which kick-started the 2023 events programme in style.

Breaking all previous records, January’s NE1 Newcastle Restaurant Week attracted more diners, more participating restaurants, and over £1 million in income for businesses, not to mention the knock-on effect enjoyed by the wider business community.

Restaurant Week is always an important milestone in the city’s calendar and capped a fantastic year of world-class events hosted in 2022. Newcastle bounced back more quickly from the pandemic than most other UK cities with footfall almost back to normal by the summer. The city was poised ready and waiting to welcome back visitors with open arms, and to host some of the UK’s biggest events in the sporting and musical calendar.

Thanks to its reputation for hosting world-class sporting events, Newcastle and St. James’ Park were chosen to host the Rugby League World Cup’s opening game in October. A month earlier, the world’s biggest half-marathon, the Great North Run made its welcome return to the official route from the Tyne Bridge to South Shields.

The whole year was punctuated with events of this calibre, and of major national and international significance. July was a busy month with Newcastle the host venue for national UK Pride, a three-day festival on the Town Moor and a launch parade through the city. Last year held extra significance as it marked the 50th anniversary of UK Pride. Hosting the national anniversary celebrations was a major accolade and fabulous that over 70,000 people got to enjoy it. This year, Northern Pride returns on the 22nd and 23rd July.

The Rugby Super League also rolled into town in July last year, with Magic Weekend returning to its adopted home of St. James’ Park. A record 60,000 fans enjoyed the carnival-style atmosphere both on and off the pitch and it was so successful that the organisers have booked to return again this year on the 3rd and 4th June.

Alongside these milestone events, NE1 expanded its own Summer in the City activity programme. Old Eldon Square was transformed into an amazing familyfriendly event space. Screen on the Green took up residence, offering 84 free movies and screening the Wimbledon Tennis Championships. The area also became the first outdoor location for Play Rebellion, a free and innovative outdoor play space for children of all ages. These events were so successful that over 30,000 people visited Old Eldon Square over the school summer holidays.

NE1’s Summer in the City activities also centred on the Quayside where people enjoyed semi-permanent art installations, large decorative planters and extra seating along a one-mile stretch of the riverside. Yoga, watercolour painting and story-time sessions were among the 110 free classes that brought in the crowds and gave people more reasons to visit the city.

Over the course of one calendar year, all these combined events delivered directly by NE1, or supported by us, attracted more than 257,000 visitors to the city, enough to fill St James’ Park 5 times over. The success of these events is measured not just in tangible footfall figures, and economic impact, but in the atmosphere and buzz created in the city and the feelgood factor they leave behind. One of the ringing endorsements of our proactive approach to creating, hosting and partnering with other stakeholders is that the city continues to attract national and international events, many of which return to Newcastle again and again.

2023 is already shaping up to be just as successful as last year with many favourites returning to the city including Magic Weekend, Northern Pride, Screen on the Green and Restaurant Week.

Having St. James’ Park in the heart of the city plays a major part in Newcastle’s success. The team’s current success on the pitch is matched by the club’s ability to attract worldclass sporting and musical events. It is a world-class team with a world-class venue and it is fitting that local hero, Sam Fender will be honouring his passion for NUFC by playing two gigs at St. James’ Park in the summer. Equally good news is the announcement that plans are moving forward on the international-grade conference and events centre on Gateshead Quayside. Planned to open in 2025 this development will bring more world-class events to the city and an estimated £42 million economic impact for Newcastle. The hope is also that Newcastle will be named as one of the ten host venues for Great Britain and Ireland’s Euro 2028 BID which will be another major coup for the city, decisions that are expected later this year.

Events bring vibrancy, visitors, the media spotlight, and more benefits to the city.

Newcastle and the wider region needs to be relentlessly ambitious and set its sights high on what its annual events programme might look like in the future. There is a huge opportunity if we are confident and bold enough to grasp it.

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