Today is a day for the history books, as Queen Bey turns 40!

There’s no denying that Beyoncé has made an incredible mark on, not just the music industry, throughout her career, but fashion, film and pop culture as well.

She sets the bar for dedication to her craft, work ethic and creativity, while remaining a genuinely humble, socially conscious and gracious human being. She’s not only the embodiment of a powerhouse, but she’s also been a fantastic role model for me and countless others over the years.

My fan girling of Beyoncé developed back when Destiny’s Child first emerged in the charts. But solidified when my Mam passed away in 2001 when I was 13, and I found solace and strength in the Destiny’s Child album Survivor. That album saved my life, I can say without any doubt, and Beyoncé felt more like the big sister I never had. Since then, as I’ve grown into my 30’s, Beyoncé’s music has always been there for me through ups and downs. It’s been a joy to watch her grow as an artist and as a person.

And as today marks her 40th birthday, I’m ranking my all time top 40 Beyoncé songs (including collabs and Destiny’s Child) to celebrate:

40. Resentment

39. Savage Remix (with Megan Thee Stallion)

38. LoveHappy (with Jay-Z)

37. Lose My Breath (Destiny’s Child)

36. 7/11

35. Partition

34. Me, Myself and I

33. Mine (ft. Drake)

32. Standing on the Sun

31. Telephone (with Lady Gaga)

30. Grown Woman

29. 1+1

28. Sexy Daddy (Destiny’s Child)

27. No, No, No pt.2 – (Destiny’s Child ft. Wycliffe Jean)

26. Single Ladies

25. I Miss You

24. XO

23. Halo

22. Why Don’t You Love Me

21. 6 Inch

20. Superpower (ft. Frank Ocean)

19. Diva

18. Sandcastles

17. Run the World (Girls)

16. Jealous

15. All Night

14. Love on Top

13. Otherside

12. Bills, Bills, Bills (Destiny’s Child)

11. Countdown

10. Daddy Lessons

9. Apeshit (with Jay-Z)

8. Sorry (original demo)

7. Bootylicious (Destiny’s Child)

6. Schooling Life

5. Heaven

4. Flawless (ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

3. Say my Name (Destiny’s Child)

2. Crazy in Love (ft. Jay-Z)

1. Formation

(I do not any of the images used in this blog post)

(Ad) It’s the year of staycations and local tourism has never been more important or vibrant.

This summer has already seen lots of gorgeous weather and the North East is one of the best places in the UK to enjoy it! But how? Well, thanks to NE1, Newcastle city centre is absolutely buzzing with beautiful street art and outdoor fun for people of all ages.

As part of their #NE1SummerintheCity campaign, they’ve gone all out with a variety of installations and events. Between now and early September you can find gorgeous flower displays above shop windows, catch an outdoor movie at their Screen on the Green cinema, or explore some beautiful artwork on the Quayside. The current installations by the Tyne include 3D art by artist Joe Hill, a dichroic seating installation which feels like sitting in rainbows, and a wave field of seesaws!

NE1’s dichroic seating installation and wave field

They also have a selection of events to choose from, such as walking tours of the city (including one where you get to walk up Grey’s Monument), Teddy Bear Picnics on the Quayside and Mela in the City. For all of these and more I will post the link to their website at the bottom of this article.

Of course as well as these special summer editions to the city, Newcastle is still renowned for it’s excellent shopping, entertainment and the amazing food and drink options we have to offer.

NE1’s Screen on the Green and city flower displays

One of things that makes Newcastle city centre so great is that it houses a spectacular collection of well known brands and smaller independent businesses. You can visit Northumberland Street and Eldon Square for many of your high street names, or the Grainger Market and Quayside Market for loads of artisan goods.

Not to mention, the host of fantastic theatres, clubs and museums across town. Fancy a comedy night? Great, see you at The Stand! Dinner and a play? No problem – the Theatre Royal it is! Or a piece of local history? Newcastle Castle is just waiting to welcome you.

Stay safe, and we can’t wait to see you this summer!

Fenwicks Newcastle and WC cocktail bar

(This is a paid advertisement in collaboration with NE1, find out more about them and the #NE1SummerintheCity campaign at https://www.ne1summerinthecity.co.uk/)

What I’ve been up to

So, I don’t need to tell you that the last year and a bit has been crazy. Covid changed so many things. The world’s been turned upside down and, er, I managed to binge watch all of Gossip Girl more than once during lockdown.

Sadly, because of the worldwide pandemic, the events industry was brought to its knees. Theatres and music venues have been some of the hardest hit businesses in this whole mess and countless tours and shows have been cancelled. Of course when I started this blog in late 2019, then called Tickets in Newcastle, I had no idea what was about to happen or that there’d shortly be no events to write about. And while live music and theatre is still one of my biggest loves, I’ve diversified a bit into a wider net of North East culture.

Well, it sort of happened accidentally, really. Like loads of others, I randomly downloaded TikTok in lockdown, and fully expected it to just be lots of daft videos of funny dances or cute dogs. Thankfully, there is a lot of that on TikTok, but I also found lots of other communities and cool things on there too.

One day last summer I decided to experiment with making a TikTok and uploaded a video about a couple of local places and businesses in Newcastle, and, since then, my TikTok has grown to over 30k followers. Most of which are from the North East, and seem to actually really like my content!

And so, I have managed to build my own community on TikTok full of people that appreciate everything North East, and have also helped out lots of local and independent businesses along the way. It’s been really amazing to share these places with people and get to know so many people who work at these businesses, as well as my followers. I’ve got so many lovely followers, and it’s been quite overwhelming. But I can’t wait to keep making more content!

If, like me, you have been aware of the Free Britney campaign for some time, and were on the edge of your seat while watching Framing Britney Spears when it was released back in February, you may well be jumping for joy today.

Last night, Britney Spears finally spoke out publicly about her conservatorship. And praise be, she eventually got the opportunity to speak her truth. In short, she annihilated her Dad and the team that have been forcing and controlling her every action for the last 13 years, under the conservatorship. 

Having been under speculation for a few years, Britney confirmed her fans worst fears and theories that she was being abused and forced into things such as work, therapy, and even birth control, against her will. 

I don’t want to repeat the things she said because, to be honest, they’re heartbreaking and horrifying. But you will be able to find numerous recordings online elsewhere by now. 

I guess my point here is just to say, what so many of her fans have been campaigning for, #FreeBritney. Let her have her life back.

Our Newcastle Venue’s artwork has had a festive makeover to bring some holly jolly to Newcastle. Our local venues may still be having a brief interval, but we’re looking forward to getting merry and visiting them all again soon.

Let’s not forget that the original artwork, commissioned by Tickets in Newcastle and created by artist Amy Hall (aka Amy Illustrator), was designed as a symbol of love and hope for our extraordinary live performance and music venues during this difficult time. If you are able to support any of these venues by purchasing tickets, giving donations or buying merchandise then it would much appreciated by your chosen venue. A list of donation pages is available below.

Christmas cards with this stunning print are also now available to purchase from Amy’s website at: https://www.amy-illustrator.com/product-page/newcastle-christmas-card-preorder

Merry Christmas!

Tyne Theatre and Opera House: https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/support-us/

Northern Stage: https://www.northernstage.co.uk/donate

Live Theatre: https://www.live.org.uk/give-join/support-us-donate

Gosforth Civic Theatre: https://www.gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk/support-us

The Sage: https://sagegateshead.com/membership-support/support-us/

Theatre Royal Newcastle: https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/support/donate-now

Alphabetti Theatre: https://www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk/support-shop

The Stand Comedy Club: https://www.thestand.co.uk/donate/

Little Buildings: https://www.littlebuildingslive.com

Little Theatre Gateshead: https://www.littletheatregateshead.co.uk/appeal/

The Cluny: https://thecluny.com/shop/

People’s Theatre: https://www.peoplestheatre.co.uk/about/support-us

Last night was the first night in almost seven months that the Tyne Theatre and Opera House was able to open their auditorium for a show. It was their first ever socially distanced performance, keeping everything in line with the government’s rules, and, for the staff and audience alike, it wasn’t a normal theatre experience.

Carl Hutchinson headlined the evening with his new material, aptly named ‘Carl Hutchinson Is Allowed To Play Out Again’. He was also joined by support acts Anth Young and Louise Young, both local favourites in the comedy scene. Anth and Louise were both welcomed to the stage in turn and did fantastic jobs of warming up the crowd. Having seen them both perform on Carl’s comedy live streams from the Tyne Theatre during lockdown, I wasn’t expecting anything less.

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The beautiful Tyne Theatre and Opera House was brought back to life last night

Upon entering the building, everyone was asked to keep their masks on at all times, to use the hand sanitising stations at the entrance, and to wait at their seats until being instructed by a member of staff to leave at the end of the show. The bars were also closed to audience members and we were instead served with a drinks service at our seats. Perhaps the strangest thing of the night was sitting with our hands up to let the staff know we’d like to buy a drink. It almost felt like being back at school, but it was certainly much safer than being three people deep in a queue at the bar. Seating had also been strategically planned so that every other row of seats was unused and groups of two or four from the same household were separated by at least 2 seats between them. Although the venue holds up to 1100 people, there was only a limited capacity of 200 tickets available for last nights performance, which were all sold out.

Despite the smaller than normal numbers, Carl took the stage to a roaring round of applause. He did hilariously forget his microphone as he walked on stage though, and blamed the fact he hasn’t been able to do a live show in months. But it got the set off to a very funny start! Anyone who has seen Carl live before knows that he’s a born comic and a pro on stage. He interacts with the crowd wonderfully and clearly really enjoys playing to his hometown.

Carl’s material was full of hilarious stories and tales about his career and home life. His inspiration coming from anything from relatable arguments with his wife, to hosting BBQ’s, to farting on a train. There wasn’t a dull moment throughout the night and I was doubled over with laughter numerous times. The theatre was truly brought to life again and it was wonderful to be a part of.

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Carl Hutchinson on stage at the Tyne Theatre

Last night was obviously a special show for Carl as he beamed on stage telling jokes. But it became all the more obvious as he got emotional when it was time to leave the stage. He stated ‘we don’t know when we’ll be able to do this again’. There were a few tears in the house, including my own.

We were led out of different exists, depending on where we were seated, and leaving the venue was very stress-free. It is worth noting that all the staff at the Tyne Theatre were brilliant last night, and made sure that all guests had a great night, and were kept safe, regardless of the strange circumstances.

After the leaving the venue, however, something struck me. It hit 10pm as we travelled in a taxi directly through the city centre, which is currently the curfew time set by the government. We watched hundreds of drunk revellers, mainly young students, pour out of the bars and into the streets of Newcastle. We saw four separate people fall over because of how drunk they were. I have nothing against this at all, because when I was younger I certainly did the same. But what we saw at 10pm is just what would have happened 3am in normal times. The Government have encouraged students to come to universities and stay in halls of residents with hundreds of others, but they have done nothing useful at all to support our cultural businesses, including live venues, pubs and bars. The curfew is doing nothing but cut short vital trading hours for these businesses and encouraging drinkers to get drunker earlier in the day. What on Earth did Boris expect when he brought this into play?

The hypocrisy from the government is not just infuriating but also dangerous while we watch cultural venues across the country suffer and staff be made redundant every day. The way the arts in its various forms has been treated during this pandemic by the government has been an utter shambles. All I can hope is that it doesn’t continue for much longer, and believe in the incredible resilience of UK creatives.

Carl Hutchinson thanks the audience and theatre staff at the end of his show

It’s just been announced that Pilgrim Street in Newcastle is about to have a facelift, which will include modernisation of the street and the introduction of new housing, offices and businesses. But there’s one business that has already seen the potential in the area.

Horticulture, one of Newcastle’s most trendy bar and restaurants, opened its doors in summer 2019 and has already made its mark as one of the most specialised cocktail bars in the city. Boasting a drinks menu that features over 50 percolators, there’s something for everyone.

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Cocktails on Horticulture’s first floor

The venue itself was previously Paradiso restaurant on Market Lane, and is made up of 3 separate floors. The owner, Mike Hesketh, has poured his heart and soul into the vision for Horticulture, and has crafted a beautiful setting. A mixture of modern street art, 70’s disco balls and outdoor/indoor vibes with greenery flourishing around the building, it’s unlike any other venue in the city.

Not to mention, their restaurant offers an incredibly unique menu. Featuring a wide selection of small plates, basically like tapas but not Spanish, they focus on organic, environmentally friendly and locally sourced ingredients. Chef Peter Breckon proudly presents seasonal dishes that have been lovingly and creatively crafted, described by Horticulture themselves as “modern British cuisine with international flavours”.

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Barbeque tiger prawns at Horticulture

To make sure we sampled as much of the food as possible, my partner and I chose the ‘Earth, Land and Sea’ option, which was a collection of set dishes at £20 per person. We also ordered the scallops and halloumi fries from the main menu as they sounded too good to pass on.

As each dish was served it was obvious we’d made a great choice! The sweet potato curry and chicken thigh tangine were our favourite’s from the sharing menu and the scallops and halloumi fries were absolutely incredible. The assortment of flavours that packed every individual dish were amazing and clearly very articulately put together. The only downside was that our table was a bit small for the amount of food that we’d ordered! I did ask to swap the dessert on the set menu from strawberries and yoghurt to the chocolate creameux with black cherry gel, which the staff were more than accommodating about. Having a big sweet tooth, I think it may have been my favourite part of the meal.

Delicious small dishes at Horticulture

We ended the night with a couple of cocktails on the first floor bar and soaked up the surroundings. Having such an extensive drinks list it can be hard to choose which to go for, so we’ll definitely be back sooner rather than later. But next time we might have to visit for brunch too!

To view Horticulture’s full menu and make a booking, visit: http://www.horticultureuk.co.uk

In the heart of Newcastle is the iconic Swan House roundabout. A well known structure in the cities landscape. But what’s on that roundabout has changed numerous times since it was built in 1967. If you’ve been there recently, you’ll have noticed a small restaurant nestled underneath Metro Radio’s headquarters called Zucchini.

Zucchini Pasta Bar is exactly what its name describes. They pride themselves on serving “hand rolled fresh egg pasta to the beautiful people of Newcastle”. Their pasta is lovingly created every day using free-range eggs from Northumberland and they are the first dedicated pasta bar bringing an authentic Italian experience to the region.

Zucchini’s ciabatta garlic bread with pizza sauce

The restaurant is designed with a simple interior and relaxed atmosphere. It’s also placed in the ideal location to people watch through the floor to ceiling windows. As soon as we stepped through the door we were greeted by friendly staff and given our choice of tables. Luckily we arrived just before the lunchtime rush so we picked our favourite spot.

Having visited before, we already knew how great Zucchini’s ciabatta garlic bread is, so this was a no brainier. But we both chose pasta dishes for our mains that we hadn’t tried before, and we were both very glad that we did!

I opted for the taglierini with smoked salmon, leek & crayfish tails and, I have to say, this is the best dish I tried here so far. The tangy sauce was absolutely delicious and the fish worked wonderfully with the taglierini pasta (which I would describe as a skinny tagliatelle). My partner chose the fettuccine spicy sausage and loved the subtle spiciness of the meat and crispy sourdough crumbs dusted on top of the pasta. I couldn’t finish my dish as the portions are very generous, but if I had a larger stomach I certainly would have!

Fresh pasta dishes at Zucchini Pasta Bar

The desserts looked too good to pass up though, so we couldn’t leave without a sugar fix. As tasty as the pasta was, the tiramisu was absolutely my favourite part of the meal. It’s probably the best tiramisu I’ve ever had, and it’s one of my favourite desserts so that’s saying a lot! It was a perfect combination of creamy with a hit of alcoholic flavour. Andy had the cinnamon sugared pasta snaps with Nutella & salted caramel dips, which were super sweet and completely unique.

Tiramisu at Zucchini Pasta Bar

Overall, as with our previous visits, the service was excellent and the food was hearty and incredible. It’s a firm favourite of mine in Newcastle’s foody scene and somewhere we’re lucky to have on our doorstep.

Zucchini Pasta Bar, Newcastle

To find out more or make a booking, visit: http://www.zucchinipastabar.co.uk

Local funny lad and regular comic on the North East comedy scene Matt Reed has designed his very own artwork to help The Stand to survive.

Due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown of all entertainment venues across the UK since 22nd March, our local comedy club The Stand is currently struggling to survive. Having played host to thousands of comedians since 2011, from brand new up and comers to the biggest names in comedy, it truly is one of the most loved venues in our city centre. However, The Stand (including it’s sister venues in Edinburgh and Glasgow) has not secured any financial support from the government to ensure its survival.

The black and white version of Matt Reed’s artwork

The Stand announced in an email yesterday:

“In a normal trading year The Stand pays out £1m in act fees.

The clubs also helped raise over £100k in that period for local charities through monthly benefit gigs in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.  

We have received funding from local authorities to support hospitality businesses and the job retention scheme.

This has helped but it has not bridged the gap. 

Since Covid-19 with no customers through the doors the clubs have a trading loss of 342K and as of yet have received no funding from arts funding bodies Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government need to step up and help before it’s too late.

Without their support there will be no Stand Comedy Club providing a real living wage to it’s employers, Providing revenue for acts and supporting charities.  

There will be no clubs to provide entertainment enriching the culture of the country.”

Matt Reed is a popular regular at The Stand comedy club

To help The Stand in their mission to keep comedy and their venues alive, regular stand up and well known local name Matt Reed has created his very own piece of art to raise money for Newcastle’s venue. The art features a gorgeous portrait of the well known entrance to The Stand on High Bridge, and comes in both colour and black and white.

He stated on social media today:

“The Stand is in trouble, comedy is in trouble. We are all aware the government is not going to help. The stand is a place where some of the weird and wonderful get a chance to do comedy. It’s vital to the city. It’s where I started in 2001 at the Edinburgh club, it’s where some of the biggest names in comedy started. It’s where some of the oddest people in the world got a chance to be themselves. But mainly it’s where thousands of people forgot all their problems while they watched the imbeciles on stage do their best to make them laugh. Some failed but people still left with a story about their night in these amazing clubs. There is nothing as good as a comedy night in a packed room laughing till it hurts. Surrounded by friends or even on your own.
There’s very few comedy clubs as important to the scene as The Stand.”


Through his love of Newcastle’s comedy scene he has decided to sell prints of his artwork through his Instagram page to raise money. To purchase one for yourself and donate to help save The Stand, you can find Matts work on Instagram at @mattreedillustration – he says you just need to drop him a message to place an order. Both the colour and black and white designs cost £15 each, plus postage of £1.50. That’s a bargain you just can’t argue with, for an incredible cause.

The colour version of Matt Reed’s artwork

Please visit The Stand’s website at: http://www.thestand.co.uk for further information on how you can help them. You can also sign this open letter to Save Live Comedy:

https://savelivecomedy.co.uk/open-letter/

Madonna is undoubtably one of the biggest powerhouses in the music industry, and has been since she released her debut single back in 1982. Since then she has continuously reinvented herself, experimented in style and pumped out a collection of incredible studio albums. Her insatiable determination to dominate popular music has seen her become one of the worlds biggest icons of pop history, fashion, Hollywood and radio stations.

August 16th saw Madonna celebrate her 62nd birthday, so it only feels right to take a walk down memory lane and bask in the glory of some of her hits. So here are my top 10 Madonna singles;

10. Ghosttown- Rebel Heart

In my opinion, Ghosttown didn’t get the attention it deserved upon its release in 2015. It’s certainly one of Madonna’s less commercially renowned singles, but this doesn’t reflect on the quality of the song. The production and vocal delivery behind the track are marvellous and the music itself sounds like a modern and well crafted ballad. Demonstrably coming from a more technically matured Madonna since her Like A Virgin days. It’s cinematic music video fits perfectly with the track and shows a dystopian Madonna surviving through a post apocalyptic world and eventually dancing through the wreckage in a stunning dance sequence. An underrated gem.

9. Express Yourself – Like A Prayer

This upbeat song comes from Madonna’s Like A Prayer album and encouraged women everywhere to never settle for second best. It was also the opening song to her famous Blond Ambition tour, as she appeared on stage shouting “Do you believe in love?” to the audience, while donning her notorious ‘cone bra’ corset. The single is a deep funk and pop creation and it’s lyrics celebrate female empowerment. It’s thought to have inspired many of today’s female music artists with its feminist message.

8. Music – Music

If I think back to the year 2000, this song perfectly sums up my pre-teen years. Getting home from school, the video to this song was on TV and turning on the radio meant listening to Music on repeat. It was also the only CD single I wanted to buy in HMV to go in my discman. Madonna had reinvented her image once again to release this dance record and it immediately became one of the sounds of the early noughties. The video of course featured (a then pregnant) Madonna living it up heading to clubs in a gold limousine, driven by Ali G, while dressed in a white fur coat and a cowboy hat. As you do.

7. Material Girl – Like A Virgin

Material Girl’s video saw Madonna strutting her stuff in a Marilyn Monroe influenced role. Draped in diamonds and a fancy pink dress, she could have any man she wanted – and his money. Material Girl was a stamp of power in Madonna’s career and was one of the songs that established her as the icon she is today. The electronic sounding vocals and synth arrangement of the track still give it a futuristic feel, even though it was released over 35 years ago. The song is a pinnacle of pop music and continues to have a strong influence on the genre today.

6. Like A Prayer – Like A Prayer

“When you call my name it’s like a little prayer”. Madonna certainly had us down on our knees as she took us there. Like A Prayer is one of M’s best known songs and received critical acclaim across the globe after its release in 1989. Unlike some of her other releases, this single speaks of her relationship with God as she praises him as, well, Godly. Of course, the song could have other meanings depending on how you listen to it, but it’s rooted in religion. The video for the song caused deep controversy as it featured Madonna steamily kissing a black saint in church and the burning of some Ku Klux Klan-esque crucifixes. All heavy stuff that lead to the Vatican having a big fall out with our Madge.

5. Frozen – Ray of Light

Frozen is in my top 10 Madonna singles because it’s, for want of a better word, a bit weird. It doesn’t sound like anything else and seems like it should have been on the soundtrack to some sort of Sci-Fi film, even though it never was. It makes me think of Madonna as some kind of ice powered super villain, and to be honest I think she’d nail that role! It’s haunting and creepy and the closest thing I can think to compare it to would be ‘Stay’ by Shakespeare’s Sister. It’s peak Madonna giving us a different, spooky, reinvention of herself. The ballad was her first single to debut at number 1 in the UK charts and it’s video features a gothic style Madonna using a black veil to mimic contortionism and shape shifting into a flock of crows. Whew.

4. Miles Away – Hard Candy

Though Miles Away is possibly one of Madonna’s lesser known single releases, at least outside of her dedicated fandom, it’s one of my favourites. It comes from her Hard Candy album and was possibly a bit overshadowed by the highly successful collaboration with Justin Timberlake on their single 4 Minutes, which also features on the same album. Miles Away is much softer and easy to listen to. It’s catchy chorus gives a dreamy vibe and it’s acoustic/electro backing lets it linger gorgeously in my mind for the rest of the day after listening to it. The song is apparently autobiographical and talks about long distance relationships.

3. Secret – Bedtime Stories

Secret is Madonna’s lead 1994 single from her Bedtime Stories album. It was a step away from her more dance influenced early pop tracks and combined sultry melodic vocals with mid tempo accents. It had more of an R&B persuasion then her previous work and gave yet another side to Madonna’s ongoing discography. The chilled out, yet melancholic, song offers a gentler and slightly more vulnerable side to the queen of pop.

2. Papa Don’t Preach – True Blue

The strong opening chords of Papa Don’t Preach and the eclectic mix of acoustic, string and electric instrumentals throughout, have given this moderate tempo single a fresh and original sound since it’s release in 1986. The track and it’s innovative lyrics offer something that I’ve certainly never heard in another pop song. It focusses on a father daughter relationship and tells the story of the daughter finding out that she has become pregnant at a young age, asking her Papa for love and support. “Papa don’t preach, I’m in trouble deep. Papa don’t preach, I’ve been losing sleep”. Madonna also famously dedicated this song to Pope John Paul II, after he urged Italian fans to boycott her concerts.

1. Vogue – I’m Breathless

I’ve chosen Vogue as my number one Madonna song because, quite simply, it’s iconic. When you think of Madonna you think of the Vogue dance moves that still storm dance floors and influence modern dance today, as well as the unmistakable “Come on, vogue!” chorus line. Both the choreography and the song were influenced by the Harlem ballroom scene, and it’s said that Madonna wanted to highlight and celebrate this phenomenon, born from the African American and Latino LGBTQ drag community. It was the best selling single of 1990 and has proved timeless in the realm of pop music. The stylish black and music video is one of the most recognisable music videos since MTV launched in the 80s and continues to provide a source of power and inspiration for many within the LGBTQ community today.

*Madonna’s studio albums are available across streaming services now. Please note that I do not own the images used in this article.

It’s been a strange few months and, during lockdown, my partner and I have both been very strict about only leaving the house for necessities. Even a few weeks ago when bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen again on 4th July we opted to stay well clear. This has partly been down to fear of passing the virus onto anyone unknowingly, and partly due to nerves of once again being in a crowded and possibly dangerous space.

But yesterday we decided to venture a bit further back into ‘normality’ and decided to go for food in Newcastle city centre for the first time since March. I’d noticed a new place that had caught my eye on Instagram called The Little Dumpling House. Chinese style dumplings are one of my favourites so I was excited to give this new small restaurant a go.

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To say the least, I wasn’t disappointed! It’s based on Ridley Place so an excellent location if you’re shopping in town. As you approach it you’ll notice a sign featuring a Chinese symbol sticking out from the building.

The first thing I noted when stepping inside was how clean and simply laid out the place was, making social distancing very easy. There are only two large bench tables and some bar style seating at the window, so I can imagine on a busy day these would get taken up quickly. But all of the food is also available for takeaway, so you can have dumplings on the go. The decor is stylish but minimal with a plant wall and some Chinese lanterns in the window.

As soon as we got there we were warmly greeted from the counter by the host, who went out of his way the whole time we were there to make sure we were enjoying everything (even though he didn’t know I’d be writing a review until I asked for his photo before we left). He took his time in explaining the menu and choices of sauces and just made us feel incredibly welcome with his cheery service and great sense of humour.

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Fantastic service and a friendly face!

The menu is great for authentic Chinese food, specialising of course in traditional Chinese dumplings. We chose a selection of six chicken and mushroom dumplings, six pork and Chinese leaf dumplings, and two slow cooked pork in steamed buns. They were out of the burger buns when we arrived so we went for baos instead. All of this with a drink came to under £13, which is incredible value for money!

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The interior and food at The Little Dumpling House

The food is cooked fresh and served hot in bamboo steamers, giving the meal an even more authentic feel. There isn’t really a word I can use to sum up the food from The Little Dumpling House thats any better than – YUM! Everything we ordered was delicious and we were absolutely stuffed by the time we’d finished. You can choose which sauce you’d like at a cost of 10p each, so I went for soy sauce while my partner chose the homemade chilli oil. I’m not one for spicy food but my boyfriend assured me that if you like a bit of heat with your food then it would be a great compliment to your meal.

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It’s impossible to choose a favourite between the chicken and mushroom or pork and Chinese leaf dumplings because both fillings were so good. But we’ll definitely be trying a couple more of the options next time we go, and we absolutely can’t wait to eat here again!

Given that The Little Dumpling House only opened on 18th May 2020, it’s a brave time to have opened a new foodie venture – but I’m sure glad they did. This small restaurant/ takeaway is a fantastic new addition to Newcastle’s vast food scene and I hope it’s around for a very long time. Honestly, I can’t rave enough about this brilliant little place. Great service, lovely interior and fantastic food.

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The Little Dumpling House, Ridley Place, Newcastle

You can follow The Little Dumpling House on Instagram @ the_little_dumpling_house and also find them on Facebook, here; https://m.facebook.com/thelittledumplinghouse

They are also on Deliveroo for delivery, here; https://deliveroo.co.uk/menu/newcastle/newcastle-city-centre/the-little-dumpling-house-t-a-mannaza

It has been announced by the government that UK theatres will be allowed to open again for live productions from 1st August, on a trial basis with appropriate social distancing measures in place.

For many theatres, this offers a glimmer of hope, but they are far from out of the woods. Without being able to sell tickets at full capacity, most theatres will not see a profit from any performances, or worse, could even lose money. Theatres in Sheffield and York are also the latest to announce that they may have to make a number of redundancies if they are to survive following lockdown.

Beauty and the Beast, Theatre Royal Newcastle, 2019 (image taken from the Theatre Royal’s Facebook page)

Due to the last few months of uncertainty and lack of generated income, this leaves the Christmas season of 2020 for UK theatres questionable. In the North East, some of our venues are hopeful that panto season can still go ahead this year. However, sadly, the People’s Theatre in Heaton have already stated that their 2020 panto has been cancelled. They released a statement back in June noting; “Although December feels a long way off, our preparations have already begun. We would usually start rehearsing soon after the summer, and we don’t see that being possible this year.”

The Customs House in South Shields also has Christmas productions planned from 25th November. But Executive Director, Ray Spencer MBE, has recently stated; “As each week goes by, a bigger question mark is placed over this year’s pantomime Rapunzel and we will make an announcement in August based on the best available guidance for your continued safety and protection”.

The Theatre Royal has yet to make a full statement regarding their annual Christmas panto, which is usually a huge hit with regulars. However, following their announcement of 44 redundancies and definite cancellation of all performances up until the end of November, it may unfortunately have an affect on their Humpty Dumpty pantomime, due to be taking place this winter. Playhouse Whitley Bay are also yet to make a statement regarding their production of Snow White, however it looks like it currently is still planned to go ahead at their venue from 5th December.

Jack & the Beanstalk at Playhouse Whitley Bay, 2019 (image taken from Playhouse Whitley Bay’s Facebook page)

The Ambassador Theatre Group, operators of the Sunderland Empire, announced earlier this month that all productions until 20th September were being suspended. So, there may be hope that their Christmas production could still go ahead from 12th December as planned, but possibly at a reduced capacity depending on government guidelines.

There is also no official word from the Tyne Theatre and Opera House regarding their panto this year as yet, which has become another firm favourite with pantomime lovers in the region in recent years. However staff from the venue are hopeful that the production of Sleeping Beauty will still go ahead from 4th December as anticipated.

Aladdin at Tyne Theatre and Opera House, 2019 (image taken from Tyne Theatre’s Facebook page)

One of the latest announcements from a local venue comes from Northern Stage – who launched a press release a few days ago to reveal that their Autumn 2020 program will not be going ahead this year. However, they are intending on rescheduling many of their already proposed productions that were due to take place this autumn, including Gatsby and Red Ellen, at later dates. Their planned family friendly Christmas performances of Hey Diddle Diddle Christmas Spectacular and The Sorcerers Apprentice will also be postponed, with The Sorcerers Apprentice already confirmed for winter 2021. Executive Director of Northern Stage, Kate Denby, states; “While the government has announced its first steps to bringing back live performances, there is still some way to go until we can put shows on in the theatre. As a producing theatre, we need to consider how long it takes to make a show from scratch – from writing, through to casting, rehearsing, choreographing, creating the music, building sets and making costumes in our workshops – and that’s all before it even makes it onto the stage when our technical teams work their magic. So we have made the difficult decision to postpone our autumn productions, but we remain absolutely committed to making these shows and look forward to continuing to work with our brilliant creative teams and freelancers to bring them to life.”

BUT – in a positive and innovative move for theatre in the region, Northern Stage has also announced that Associate Director Mark Calvert and their creative teams are on a mission to save Christmas, and are planning “a magical theatre experience for the whole family that can be enjoyed in a safe and socially distanced way”. It won’t look like the type of production we are all used to, and it has not yet been confirmed if the production will be happening inside Northern Stage, but hopefully it will still be a spectacular and inventive show.

Due to the extreme circumstances that 2020 has presented to the theatre and live performance industry, many venues are now unfortunately left in a position that won’t allow them to produce Christmas shows this year. But the creatives behind them are just that, creative, so while the tradition of the Christmas Pantomime may not go ahead for a lot of venues, theatre goers and supporters are likely to see more unusual and unorthodox performances being showcased this year. Whether they are socially distanced, take place in outdoor venues, or even happen online. This year, more than ever, it’s important that the general public keep an open mind as to what Christmas 2020 may look like in theatre land, for the love of our venues.

The Snow Queen, Northern Stage 2019 (image taken from Northern Stages Facebook page)

*Update* – Since this article was published, Customs House have announced that their pantomime will not be going ahead for Christmas 2020. Please visit http://www.customshouse.co.uk for more details.