4 min read

Newcastle upon Tech & Design

Shortly after I moved to Newcastle, I was given the advice that while this town can seem disappointing to those who expect the culture to reach out to them, it has a number of thriving communities for those who choose to search. (I was told this in a pub, which was apt, since almost everything in England seems to happen in a pub). And it’s true: after doing a bit of digging via Twitter, local knowledge, and sometimes just plain old googling (the key phrase I later found out was to use “NE” for North East) I began to find a whole lot of tech and design events based here in the Toon.

Geordie Geeks

It’s pretty easy to fill up your calendar with tech related events — one week I swiftly went from having a completely open calendar to filling up four weeknights! I’ve got a feeling that I’m still missing a few, but the below are a start.

SuperMondays can be quite tech-based, it does sometimes cover more general web-based matters. It is held on — you guessed it — Mondays, usually at Newcastle University. I found that their local awards ceremony The SMACS was a great way to find out the good people/companies doing things in the area.

There are a number of specialist groups, such as

If you just want to drink (and get a badge!) the “let x = nerds + beer” The Geekest Drink is an absolute winner (as is the website, with the most creative use of absolute positioned CSS I’ve seen in a while!)

Badges with beer on them

On a more general digital note, Codeworks, an organisation with European funding (!) are responsible for a number of events.

  • Codeworks Connect are regular events around innovation,and have included TEDxGateshead a few months back and the more recent book launch with Frank Rose. (The events aren’t free but worth it, at the very least for the amazing food!)
  • The GEL– or TED-like annual Thinking Digital conference, happening this year from 24-6 of May.
  • The more web design and development focused DIBI (Design It Build It) happens in June — a two day conference with two tracks, one design, the other development.

This year the British HCI conference is being held at Northumbria University, and there are often a lot of symposiums going on in July-Sept.

And another that people may not realise is open is Girl Geek Dinners. Members get in free, but non-members can attend various events for £10-20 depending on the event. And men can go — though they must be invited as dates from women, as a way to keep the event female-friendly.

Design Magpies

For those more into the design stuff, Design Event (and its sister company Design and Business — aimed mainly at local businesses, but also available for the general public) do fascinating talks every few months. (I’m gutted to be out of town when they talk to Troika on the 10th of May). They also do informal drop-in Fridays every month or two, which I haven’t made it to as of yet, but am planning to in the near future.

Speaking of Design Event, they get their name from a week of local design events that happen here every year in October (sadly I missed most of it in 2010, but will be doing the rounds in 2011).

Design Network North does a lot of good in helping local businesses integrate design. While most of their Rise and Design workshops are funded for local businesses, their Design Means Business conference in March was available to all and based on reports highly worthwhile.

I’ve also noticed a lot of interesting things happening with Made in Newcastle, a design/craft shop that also runs workshops and exhibitions. And don’t forget the number of universities around— Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Sunderland, and other community colleges as well. There are also a number of craft fairs, such as those at the Biscuit Factory/Holy Biscuit, Jesmond Mixer, or in the Tyneside Cinema. The Sage and the Baltic also do a number of interesting events, but generally more in the art rather than design sphere.

Newcastle (Not So) United

I do think it’s unfortunate that there is no real place that all these events are catalogued (North East Tech diary is rather sparse, and NE Tech Events is “launching soon”as of June 2014 is down), and may take this up with other people or even create a calendar of my own. (For those that are interested, I’ve set up a couple of public Google Calendars to share with other people, and there is a general UK UX calendar maintained by Stuart Cruickshank, though this doesn’t cover so much of tech and design).

Google calendar showing events

However, I hope this is a good starter for those like me who arrive here on the scene. What other Toon design/tech events are out there?

Gateshead image CC by Alex Liivert