Northern Quarters; the NQ on the QT

“Travelling on that train all the way up to Newcastle took me further than you’d think”

We’ve all read the inspirational quote in Comic Sans font, most likely in A3 gold foil typography on some smug’s wall, exhorting us to ‘Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars’. Really? Because, call me cynical, but floating weightlessly, unable to breathe, amidst an expanse of flaming rocks sounds like a pretty shite metaphor for success to me. Still, you occasionally find yourself taking a leap of faith and hoping you don’t get sucked in to a bloody big Black Hole in an unflattering astronomical onesie.

So it was, that I found myself launching in to the unknown by agreeing to join my first panel of interiors professionals at the inaugural Northern Quarter’s event in Newcastle. The key word being ‘professionals’…and me…pottering about accompanied by my Imposter Syndrome whispering in to my ear that if all else failed I could talk about that one time I styled a cushion. I reasoned I could then just hold the microphone for everyone else, manically grinning at an audience left wondering what the hell I was doing there.

Northern Quarters (November 17th – 18th) was all about firsts though! Neil Armstrong eat your heart out with your moon walk, this was a women’s walk to plant a handcrafted flag and stake a claim on the interiors map. Devised by Katie @beautifulhomesinthenorth, Lucy @loveofthenorth and Emma @northern_mammy.

Being behind the scenes, here’s the NQ on the QT; this interiors festival celebrated community and featured artists, makers, designers, retailers, speakers, upcyclers, writers, influencers, workshoppers…and as it turned out drinkers thanks to @fizzonthetyne. A whole region of creatives networking and sharing interiors ideas and inspiration in the iconic venues of The Biscuit Factory and St Mary’s Heritage Centre.

All great adventure stories start with an epic journey of adversity. For Marcie and I, ours featured a seven carriage train being reduced to four and that walk of denial up the platform knowing deep down that the alphabet was going to run out before we got to Carriage F. You know, the one with our reserved seats in it. FFS! Hence travelling as far as Birmingham with Marcie faceplanting a stranger’s armpit and me pretzelled in to the bike rack. I bet Lisa Dawson and Dee Campling don’t have to put up with that shit. Gratitude at arriving at the fabulous Motel One was primarily due to ensuite excitement after not being able to get close to the train loo for five hours, seconded by the fact it had a cocktail bar!

With a cool, crisp, mid-century modern design ethos, Motel One is situated in the historic heart of the cobbled bar and restaurant district in Newcastle. Highly recommend this chic, affordable chain of simple and stylish hotels.

Saturday was spent at the fabulous Biscuit Factory browsing art, drinking Mimosas and trying (and failing) to avoid Katie and her camera.

A stunning exhibition space, The Biscuit Factory hosted ‘make and take’ workshops by The Stencil Library, Cheryl Lumley and Northumbrian Flowers. Demos from artisan crafters such as The Northern Loom offered a chance to speak to northern-based creatives directly about their work and inspiration. Have-a-go and hands-on.

The Biscuit Factory has signed up to the Own Art scheme that allows you to buy artwork over £100 in 10 monthly instalments making original art affordable and accessible…even when you’ve blown your budget on rail fares! This piece by Phil McLoughlin stole my heart. Could I? Should I? I’m still wrangling between temptation and bills.

Sunday saw me leaving my comfort zone somewhere back down South and knocking back the prosecco in preparation for our panel talk. We were hot on the heels of the always brilliant Cathy Dean and Kerry Lockwood. No pressure there then!

Cue another cliche ‘Life begins where your comfort zone ends’. Yeah, well so does your need for Immodium apparently. Teaming up with The Creative Junkie Cheryl Lumley, interior designer Julie Chambers and Emma Dickinson Design Manager for BoConcept, Newcastle.  The biggest challenge was keeping our Madonna-esque mics securely attached to our faces and disentangled from our hair. The talking bit turned out to be surprisingly relaxed, thanks to mutual support, camaraderie and the fact we can all gasbag about interiors quite convincingly afterall, despite our mutual trepidation. All skilfully kept on track by our fabulous Panel Chair Beth Murton, Editor from Real Homes magazine. I think we did ok.

Never underestimate how much nervous energy, laughter, self-doubt, camaraderie, support and fellowship went in to our little contribution to the day just to encourage each other through. Stands to reason it’s NOT comfortable outside that proverbial zone. You need good people to see you through and I got lucky with this team of ladies. Travelling on that train all the way up to Newcastle took me further than you’d think. It took me to a different level of confidence and for that I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to join in.

And that’s what made this festival such a relaxed success; everybody was willing everyone else on. It was the epitome of ego-free enthusiasm. An atmosphere fostered by the superb organisers who worked so hard to pull this new event together and tirelessly to promote it. Katie, Lucy and Emma remained grounded and energised throughout, and ok, a bit pissed too after the fact because we all had a LOT to celebrate. And on the other side of your comfort zone has to be a bottle of champagne over the Tyne, right?

Participants, audiences and attendees alike were just really happy to be there, supportive, engaged and proud to be part of it. So here’s to the next one. I’d definitely drink to that!

Northern Quarters did shoot for the moon and, you know what? It landed right on target. Screw those stars!

2 thoughts on “Northern Quarters; the NQ on the QT”

  1. Brilliant read Lou….how needs seats on a train when you have stinky armpits and bikes to rest on ???

  2. You were all great, I was sitting in the front row for your talk & could see how nervous you all were. You really shouldn’t have been, it was a great informative chat between individuals that all brought something to the afternoon.

    Thank you

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