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Friday, 18 January 2013

Angel of the North

Angel of the North, Gateshead, Antony Gormley, North East England, about Britain
So there you are, trundling down (or up) the A1 by Newcastle/Gateshead and this gigantic rust-coloured figure flashes past your peripheral vision.  “Oh”, you think to yourself, “That’s the Angel of the North.”  And you’re one of about 90,000 drivers to have seen it that day; it’s true, the Angel counts them as they go by.

Antony Gormley’s steel creation, controversial when it was unveiled in 1998, has become one of the iconic images of the North East.  Is it a cherished landmark, or “bad art”?  Some refer to it as “the Gateshead Flasher”; others aren’t that polite.  It cost nearly £800,000 at the time (though I did see another account which suggested £1 million), stands 66 feet (20 metres) high, has a wingspan of 178 feet (54 metres) and weighs 200 tonnes.  There’s enough steel in it, apparently, to build 16 double-decker buses, or 4 Chieftain tanks.  Whatever you may think of it, it is certainly big – and makes one hell of a statement.

Angel of the North, Gateshead, Antony Gormley, North East England, about Britain

The Angel stands on a mound, towering overhead like a modern colossus, on the site of the pithead baths of the former Lower Tyne Colliery.  It is intended to be a reminder of the miners that worked far below ground, in the dark, for 200 years.  I can get that.  Antony Gormley said that it is a “Focus of hope at a painful time of transition for the people of the north east, abandoned in the gap between the industrial and the information ages.”  I can get that too – though whether the good folk of Tyne & Wear feel abandoned is another matter.  I can see that people are drawn to the Angel of the North; there is something embracing and protective about those bloody great wings, stretching out far above you.  Undoubtedly, many love it – and, according to Gateshead Council, it receives more than 150,000 visitors every year.  I find it fascinating – and of course it’s impressive; not sure if it moves me, though – unlike Mr Gormley’s figures on the beach at Crosby.

You decide.  If you’re passing by, take a look – but best park up beforehand.  Take the northbound A167 toward Gateshead from the A1; there’s parking on the left about a quarter of a mile further on.

Find out a bit more about visiting the Angel of the North.  

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