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Artwork to mark the spot of the celebrated races.

THE Blaydon Races immortalised in the song are to be commemorated by an artwork which will be installed later this month.

Gateshead Council commissioned sculptor Andrew McKeown to take on the project, which represents the horses and jockeys as they approach the finishing line.

Three almost life-size horses and jockeys, a 3m winning post and two 5m flagpoles made with galvanised steel plate, pipe, sheet and section form the major elements of the artwork.

It is intended that the flagpoles will make the artwork stand out in its riverside location beside the new footpath and cycleway from Blaydon Burn to Stella, recently upgraded with funding from the Local Transport Plan.

It is near the site of the now removed island where the most famous races took place. It will also be visible from passing trains on the Newcastle to Carlisle railway.

Mr McKeown said: "I hope this is a fitting and appropriate artwork to commemorate the site of the first Blaydon Races.

"I also hope that it acts as a visually appealing reminder to passers-by, travellers and the people of Tyneside that this was the site of the original Blaydon Races."

The races had a chequered history. The first recorded horse racing in Blaydon was in 1811 but ended in 1835 when the land was used for a railway station.

They were restarted in 1859 and became an officially recognised race in 1861. The following year the event was immortalised by Geordie Ridley who performed his song at Blaydon Mechanics' Hall on the night of the race.

The racing ended in 1865 and despite two attempts at resuming the tradition, the last race was run in 1916. It ended in a riot when the winner of the first race, the favourite, was disqualified.

Today the route in the song forms the basis of the Blaydon Races road race.

A blue plaque to mark the 150th anniversary of the Blaydon Races song will be unveiled on Shibdon Road on Saturday.

The unveiling is part of celebratory events that also include traditional music hall-style entertainment, marching bands, dancing and circus entertainment from noon until 8pm.

Mayor of Gateshead Malcolm Brain said: "As events in the history of Tyneside's history go, this is one of the most celebrated, all thanks to the legendary song.

"People are rightly proud of the role that Blaydon has in Geordie traditions and of the unique history of the races and song.

"Although the horse racing may be a long distant memory and Tyneside has changed beyond recognition, the passion and the humour represented by the song are as prevalent today as it was 150 years ago.

"Geordie Ridley's lasting legacy is that thousands of people around the world now know a lot more about Blaydon and its heritage."


LASTING LEGACY Geordie Ridley, author of the Blaydon Races which he wrote in 1862
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2012
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