Newcastle is situated in the far north of England and like many British cities is an old industrial city. It was founded by the Romans and was once located on the northernmost border with Scotland. Newcastle saw tremendous growth during the industrial revolution. However, half way through the twentieth century it fell into decline and in the eighties the coal mines closed and the shipyards were dismantled. The traces of the shipping industry are still clearly visible when you enter the city by boat.
Starting in the eighties, central government made substantial investments to generate vigorous redevelopment of the city. Large scale demolition, building, and restoration took place and the old industrial city was redeveloped to focus on the retail industry. The old city center containing Georgian and Victorian architecture was completely restored.
The Newcastle-Gateshead metropolitan area is a metropolis with 800,000 inhabitants and is the main city in North East England. Newcastle is a university town containing Newcastle University and Northumbria University. In recent years, the city has marketed itself as a city for shopping and cultural events. The city of Newcastle has worked for some years with the borough of Gateshead on presenting this cultural profile.
Groningen and Newcastle became twin cities just after the Second World War. This twinning was ratified again in 1988. In the nineties, representatives from both cities made several exchange visits and artists had lively exchanges. Both cities also collaborated with the cities of Odense and Bremen on the project Public Policies on Hard Drugs. More recently, collaboration is occurring on the PURE project that is focused on spatial planning. In July 2006, the mayor of Groningen went on a working visit to Newcastle. The occasion was the sixtieth anniversary of the twinning of Groningen and Newcastle.
Starting in the mid-nineties, a lively traffic developed between the literary circuit in Newcastle and Groningen. The driving force behind this literary link between Groningen and Newcastle is Keith Armstrong: the unofficial poet laureate of Newcastle. Armstrong on average performs about once a year with musicians in Groningen and holds workshops (mostly) at Werkman College and the University of Groningen.
As of 2000, the city of Groningen poets (Bart Dry, Ronald Ohlsen and Rense Sink Counts) also visited Newcastle. Ronald Ohlsen and Rense Sink Counts were received by the Lord Mayor.
In October 2007, the 15th anniversary of the literary twinning was celebrated in Newcastle with a literary evening organized by Keith Armstrong. Recitals were given by poets from the cities of Newcastle, Groningen, and Tilburg.
In September 2008, the Groningen alderman for culture visited Newcastle. He invited the cream of the Groningen poet world to accompany him. The poets arranged a recital in Newcastle together with poets and musicians from the British twin city.
While in Newcastle, they also visited the largest theater house in North East England, the Northern Stage. A warm relationship exists between the Northern Stage and the northern Dutch province of Groningen Theater. In 2006, the theaters produced a joint production of On Top of the Town. This piece starring young people from both sister cities was performed in Groningen (during Noorderzon) and in Newcastle. The co-production was directed by Anny Rigby (Newcastle) and Floris van Delft of the NNT.
Look here for the website for Newcastle upon Tyne.