Located in the heart of the culture capital of Newcastle, Ousburn, stands Uptin House – an old boarding school turned art hub. The Tower, taking up the south side of Uptin House, is a shared art gallery, café and gallery specialising in contemporary art and graffiti. An eclectic, independent space for all sorts of creative individuals in an up and coming area. Sounds great right? So why then do people want it demolished for yet another block of overpriced student accommodation?
One in six people in Newcastle are students and areas such as Jesmond and Heaton are teeming with student houses from prices as low as around £50 pppw and yet there seems to be overpriced private accommodation popping up everywhere. Don’t get me wrong I can see the appeal. Most of them have en-suites and the studio flats have everything a student could need in one room. I myself felt the stress of finding enough people to get a house together and the countless viewings of shitholes. I felt like I literally looked around every house in Jesmond before settling on a house and then came the ridiculous agency fees and the knobhead landlords. So I understand. But let’s not destroy a beloved cultural hub, which in fact attracts a lot of students, for more of the same shit.
The Tower is important. Newcastle isn’t exactly lacking in art spaces with the likes of Newbridge Project Space, The Biscuit Factory and Baltic 39 but The Tower serves more of a purpose than just an art space. It’s a central part of the Ousburn community and the copious amount of fundraising they’ve done has helped countless charities.
I’m fed up of art spaces in Newcastle not getting enough attention. Just recently, Alphabetti Theatre, an independent theatre and bar faced closure after financial difficulties. Alphabetti believes that theatre shouldn’t be dependent on people’s financial status and so offers ‘pay what you feel’ shows. The Tower’s bring your own booze policy is a dream come true but realistically its lead to the business facing financial difficulties as they can’t afford repair work that is pretty essential. But the fact that these business are not completely focused on money should not mean that they struggle to keep going.
So why are they struggling? I’ve got an idea. Instead of forking out millions upon millions of pounds on building more and more identical, characterless accommodation, maybe the government should be funding independent art spaces? It’s just another example of the arts being swept under the rug. Not so long ago we saw the cutting of arts A-Level subjects and the reduction in funding for arts based degrees so how far is it going to go? Are we going to be left in an artless, soulless world? Perhaps. But don’t worry, there will be a plethora of swanky accommodation to fill the hole. Let’s all drink ourselves into oblivion in our £150 studio apartment and ignore the fact that the end of culture is nigh.