Tyne & Wear

Will Great Exhibition of the North hark back to 1929?

Entrance to 1929 exhibition Image copyright Tyne and Wear Archives
Image caption The North East Coast Exhibition ran from May to October 1929

One of the reasons the Great Exhibition of the North was awarded to Newcastle and Gateshead was because of the "ambition" of organisers.

However, the 2018 event, set to showcase art, design and innovation, will not be the first in the region.

In 1929, the North East Coast Exhibition was opened by the Prince of Wales in Newcastle amid great fanfare.

So, will organisers take inspiration from the grand event, which attracted four million visitors?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A telescope belonging to Edinburgh University was put on display

Responding to the Newcastle and Gateshead announcement, the North East Chamber of Commerce said: "The Great Exhibition looks set to be the launch pad of real growth in our regional economy."

The Prince of Wales - later King Edward VIII - opened the 1929 event and said: "The industries of the North are not yet knocked out of the ring.

"They are fighting back gallantly with a good Northern punch."

Image copyright Tyne and Wear Archives
Image caption The government-sponsored Empire Marketing Board featured exotic produce

And the "northern punch" included cutting-edge technology, such as a cow milking machine, a telescope brought down from Edinburgh University, and the local newspaper using a newly-designed electric sign to flash out the latest news items.

Industry and consumer items were represented, some of them household names that remain, such as Hoover vacuum cleaners, Singer sewing machines, and Pyrex glass ovenware.

Andrews Liver Salts showed off its brand with a 15ft "fountain of health".

Image copyright Tyne and Wear Archives
Image caption More than 300 works were exhibited at the Palace of Arts, although a problem with ventilation meant mildew appeared on some of them
Image copyright Newcastle City Council
Image caption The Palace of Arts was the only structure not to be dismantled - it became a military vehicle museum and is now a brewery

For entertainment there was an amusement park, a Himalayan Railway, and an African village.

More than four million people passed through the turnstiles between May and October that year, including King Alfonso of Spain and the Sultan of Zanzibar. Each millionth visitor was presented with a gold watch.

Image copyright Tyne and Wear Archives
Image caption At night, the main avenue was lit up "like something from a fairytale", one visitor noted

When the exhibition ended, the pavilions were dismantled and the area reverted to a public park.

Unfortunately, that "northern punch" would fall victim to the economic depression a few years later, in the 1930s.

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