Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Day That an Angel Beckoned; Last Week, the North East Marked the 20th Birthday of the Angel of the North. That Sparked Happy Memories for CHRIS LINES

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Day That an Angel Beckoned; Last Week, the North East Marked the 20th Birthday of the Angel of the North. That Sparked Happy Memories for CHRIS LINES

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS LINES

TWENTY years ago, I was living in London and until 15th February 1998, I was only vaguely aware of the Angel of the North.

I knew it was a 'thing' and I was aware that it was going to be located somewhere near Gateshead, but that was about the sum of my knowledge.

I couldn't simply log on to a website or social media platform to find out more and North East newspapers weren't widely available in Kensal Green.

So, I was blissfully unaware of the vitriol that the project was attracting from sections of the local media, and from some politicians and the wider population.

Then, on that date and the days that followed, the Angel was everywhere. I was working in my first PR job, at Lynne Franks PR on Harrow Road, West London, and we had all of the national press delivered to the office each day, while there were also TVs located throughout the building, showing various news and entertainment channels on rotation.

Wherever I turned, there was the Angel of the North, big, bold and, depending on the eye of the beholder's perspective, beautiful.

As an exile at the time, it was very unusual to see my part of the world in the national spotlight for reasons other than sport, or as a case study that reinforced backward looking and often negative stereotypes about the region I loved. So this was a revelation.

Down in London, we hadn't closely followed its story from birth, nor the manufacture of its component parts, or its gradual construction. And now, a monumental piece of public art was suddenly there. Pages and pages of national print coverage followed, along with many minutes of screen time.

Inevitably, not all commentators were complimentary, but most were, helped by the credibility of the Angel's creator Anthony Gormley.

Regardless of the tone, in all of the coverage everywhere (apart from on the radio of course!), there was always an unmistakable, almost immediately iconic, image of the Angel - tall, proud, defiant, welcoming. And that was just in London and the UK. As we know, the Angel of the North gained global attention.

I do understand the objections to big, expensive public art projects, and there are some I have seen (here in the North East and elsewhere) that I believe are ill-conceived wastes of money, though if a bit more time, money and ambition had been invested in them, perhaps my view would be different.

I have heard the argument that the money spent on the Angel could have been used for something that would directly benefit the general public at a practical level.

Yes, I suppose that is true, but I still believe that pound for pound and rivet for rivet, the Angel of the North is one of the best value investments that a local authority has made in my lifetime. …

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