Bridging the Gap
4 Extra Debut. A sound portrait of the Tyne Bridge, linking Newcastle and Gateshead, exploring its history and enduring role. From January 2010.
A vivid sound portrait of the Tyne Bridge which draws on the voices and sounds of the river, the bridge, local people and wildlife to explore the history, construction and role of this iconic bridge.
It straddles the river between Newcastle and Gateshead, bridging the gap between past and present, north and south.
The earliest bridge across the Tyne, Pons Aelius, was built by the Romans near the location of the present Tyne Bridge. After it fell into disrepair a stone bridge was built in 1270, but this was destroyed by the great flood of 1717. The idea for the present Tyne Bridge dates back to 1883, but it wasn't until 1825 that work began. The design is based on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and while work on the Sydney bridge began first, the Tyne Bridge was finished and opened first by King George V on 10th October 1928.
The establishment of the Tyne Bridge was essential to the development of the city of Newcastle. The river was the reason that the Romans first settled in the area in 120AD, and centuries later the river was a significant factor in Newcastle's huge shipbuilding and coal industries.
The Tyne is a major artery through the city, the Tyne Bridge a vital span; a thoroughfare of business and trade, a link between Gateshead and Newcastle, between north and south. As a giant arch, the bridge is an engineering triumph and hugely symbolic. It spans place and time, and as a port-way it's symbolic of the changes which have taken place in the north east. Today, the wildlife has moved into the gaps vacated by the industrial past; the river is home to otters and salmon and the bridge is a nesting site for kittiwakes, a species of ocean-travelling gull. The birds which nest here and on the Baltic on the Gateshead riverbank make it the furthest inland breeding site of kittiwakes in the world.
With recordings by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, the sounds of the waves, the wind and the wildlife are combined with the voices of the river in this powerful and vivid portrait of a magnificent bridge.