Hall for one city united.
Tycoon Sir John Hall believes the future of Newcastle and Gateshead could lie with them being joined together as one city.
The man who created the MetroCentre and helped to revolutionise Newcastle United thinks the transformation of the Quayside as a major tourist attraction could see the creation of a new "Tyneside City".
The 71-year-old multi-millionaire was on the Quayside to congratulate both council leaders for successes including the Baltic art gallery, the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the Sage Gateshead concert hall.
But he says Gateshead does not always get the recognition it deserves because Newcastle is the more famous name.
Sir John said: "The name of Newcastle is initially the traditional name people associate as `the' North-East city, but Gateshead is getting tremendous publicity from the regeneration.
"We may eventually see the cities joined together to become Tyneside City.
"At this time Newcastle and Gateshead are the engine room of the North-East, giving the region a critical mass to help us fight the competition from the European cities.
"The Newcastle and Gateshead partnership needs to continue, not just for the people of these towns but for all of us in the region."
Politicians, councillors and business leaders last night gave the idea a mixed response.
Gateshead Liberal Democrat councillor Jonathan Wallace said: "We wouldn't support the merger ( we think they can achieve a lot by working together but by creating a super council, it just means that local government would be more remote from local people."
With local elections looming, councillors are concerned about the timing of the comments.
Gateshead council leader Mick Henry said: "There is absolutely no prospect of this happening now or in the future.
"Partnership is not the same as creating an organisation and we have had an excellent partnership with Newcastle which hopefully we can continue in the future."
Tyne Bridge Labour MP David Clelland said: "There is no doubt that Newcastle is a fine international city. But Gateshead is coming up on the rails so the authorities here probably want to jealously guard that success."
Newcastle North Labour MP Doug Henderson said: "There is an economic logic to this and a planning logic but cultural problems would stop it.
"People have a very strong identity with Newcastle and Gateshead and they want to keep that." Newcastle City Council Liberal Democrat leader Peter Arnold said: "This is an issue that the Liberal Democrats have talked about for some time and some of our groups believe that each of the Tyne and Wear authorities is far too small.
"It is not going to be universally popular and you could argue that the people in the city wouldn't be happy."
CBI North-East regional director Steve Rankin said: "It sounds like a good idea on paper ... but key questions have to be asked.
"Newcastle is a strong brand and Gateshead has a growing brand and they would both lose that."
Key trio put the region in focus
Three North-East companies have united to help make the region one of the UK's top destinations for corporate events and conferences.
Ingenious Promotions has been formed to create a "whole service concept" for exhibition and event organisers.
The conference industry brought pounds 72m into the North-East economy last year and is growing rapidly.
The opening of The Sage Gateshead is expected to boost the sector further, with the Womex world music conference and the Labour Party among many booked for next year.
Now CEM Event Management and Mills Advertising and Publicity, of Teesside, and Exhibition Events, of Newcastle, have joined forces to exploit the market.
Between them, the companies have expertise in marketing, PR, designing and building exhibitions, and event management.
River now a unifying force
The latest guide for visitors to the heart of a resurgent Tyneside is headed simply Newcastle Gateshead Quays.
It bears the logos of Gateshead Council and Newcastle City Council and is being promoted by the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI).
The little matter of putting an `and' between the two conurbations has been quietly dropped since Newcastle and Gateshead joined forces to market themselves to the world.
Opera singer Sir Thomas Allen made a joke about it in front of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh when they attended a concert at Newcastle City Hall during Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee year, 2002.
He referred archly to "this mysterious new place NewcastleGateshead" and everyone laughed.
But the Newcastle Gateshead Quays guide is another indication that joint marketing is working. Indeed, it is perfectly logical.
Gateshead, referred to in the 1930s by the writer JB Priestly as "a dirty back lane to Newcastle" (or words to that effect), is now home to some of the most talked-about cultural developments of recent years.
The Angel of the North, Baltic and The Sage Gateshead have helped to put Gateshead on the map, making a nonsense of the Priestley insult. The MetroCentre is one of the biggest shopping complexes in Europe and if the writer was passing through today he could have stayed at an International Hilton.
The Gateshead Millennium Bridge makes a joint promotion of both sides of the Tyne feasible.
The guide suggests a walk lasting between 60 and 90 minutes taking in 30 points of interest on both banks.
The river is a unifying force. If NGI has its way, that will strengthen when next year's Tall Ships Race starts what is hoped to be an annual river festival.
The free Newcastle Gateshead Guide is available from tourist information centres; or tel (0191) 478-4222 or 277-8000
Distant view bridges the gap
For people born and brought up on Tyneside, the divisions between Newcastle and Gateshead may be deep and obvious.
But the history of this division makes no sense to the international visitors flocking to the region.
Sarah Gardner, executive director of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies visited Tyneside with chairman Risto Ruohonen, from Finland, to assess its suitability for hosting the third World Culture Summit in 2006.
IFACCA was set up in 2000 to enable culture ministries and arts agencies around the world to share information about the best way to support the arts.
The first two summits, in Canada and Singapore, were attended by up to 300 influential figures and were an opportunity for both countries to put on a show.
Ms Gardner said London might have seemed the obvious choice for the first UK ( indeed European ( summit, Arts Council England, North East had suggested Newcastle Gateshead.
She suggested that a European location would attract many more delegates and enable speakers to "focus on issues which Newcastle and Gateshead have tackled so well, such as urban regeneration".
"I think the infrastructure that's been put in place here, with the Sage and Baltic and the impact that has had on other developments, has been very impressive."
Spanish journalist Isabela Mu-oz Ozores and photographer Manolo Yllera, from
Tevla magazine also visited last week.
They hadn't heard of Newcastle or Gateshead until a colleague referred to Tyneside in a travel article headlined Travelling Chic. Isabela said: "She said it was a very fun place to visit in Europe so I looked forward to going.
"You have Newcastle the town, with its museums and shopping, and then you go into the countryside which is also very interesting. You have a modern garden (Alnwick) with a historic castle where the owners actually live. I think that's very interesting for Spanish people."
The pair also tried out the new Newcastle Gateshead Quays walk and were bowled over by the number of restaurants on the route.
As for so many who visit from overseas, it was the region that impressed, regardless of the age-old political boundaries that the natives adhere to.
Where would you live?
Possible names for a combined city of Newcastle and Gateshead.
And Sir John Hall's favourite, Tyneside City.
Newcastle's population is 259,536, with 111,243 houses.
Unemployment stands at 14,660, 5.65pc of the population, and the largest industry is wholesale and retail, with 15.4pc of residents ( just above health and social workers at 15pc.
Newcastle boasts the Castle Keep, founded in 1168 by Henry II and the pounds 70m Life Science Centre opened in May 2000.
The city is home to the 52,000-seater stadium St James's Park where Newcastle United play their home games.
Newcastle has two cathedrals. Grey Street was voted BBC Radio 4's Best Street in Britain and Newcastle City Centre has more listed Georgian buildings than anywhere else in England, other than Bath and London.
The UK party capital tag is supported by its rapid rise up the table of tourist destinations: In 2000, Newcastle attracted 180,000 overseas visitors; by 2002 that figure was 240,000.
The population of Gateshead is 191,177 and the town has 87,000 homes.
3,599 people, or 3.9pc of the population, are unemployed and the retail industry is the biggest employer, providing jobs for 21.4pc of residents.
Anthony Gormley's world-famous 20-metre high Angel of the North towers above Gateshead and is seen by more than 90,000 drivers a day on the A1.
Gateshead's top tourist attractions include the pounds 46m Baltic art gallery, the pounds 70m Sage Gateshead concert hall and Gateshead Millennium Bridge.
Gateshead Quays, which in 1996 was a derelict industrial site, is now a pounds 500m development site with 1,000 new homes.
The International Stadium seats 11,500 people and regularly hosts high profile events such as international athletics and rugby.
The town is also home to the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe the MetroCentre ( home to more than 350 shops, over 50 places to eat, a multi-screen cinema and a 10-pin bowling alley.
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|Title Annotation:||News Local|
|Publication:||The Journal (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2004|
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