In Toon with Our Newcastle Pals
Byline: By Beth Neil
For the last eight years John Nicolaou has battled to build up a network of Newcastles, fostering links across the world. He tells his story to Beth Neil
Apart from our own pride and joy here in the North East, off the top of your head, how many other Newcastles around the world can you name?
Obviously there's Newcastle-under-Lyme down in Staffordshire and most people will be aware of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia.
Struggling now? Believe it or not, there are 53 Newcastles across the globe and, according to leading researcher John Nicolaou, there could be hundreds more.
"Easily," he says. "I've managed to find more than 50 just by myself and more are turning up all the time. I wouldn't be surprised if there were 200 out there. They range from tiny hamlets to major cities."
For years John, 44, has been fighting to unite Newcastle upon Tyne with its international namesakes, aiming to create lasting cultural and economic friendships.
His enthusiasm for the Newcastles of the World United project is so great that four years ago he compiled a book featuring more than 20 of the English-speaking Newcastles.
Newcastle, County Down; Newcastle, Oklahoma; Newcastle, Jamaica and Newcastle, Ontario are just some of them.
"It was only when I started that it emerged other people in other Newcastles had already been trying to do something similar."
John organised for local photographers from each location to take pictures for the book.
"I wanted them to capture the spirit of their city," he explains.
Patrick McArdle, who took the pictures for Newcastle upon Tyne, snapped a sea of black and white shirts as the Toon Army after a victory at St James' Park. Photos of the Castle Keep and the Tyne Bridge are also featured.
Despite his determination, John claims he has hit brick walls left when suggesting link-up ideas to Newcastle City Council. At the latest Newcastle summit, hosted by Newcastle, South Africa, earlier this year, John was the only representative from Tyneside. And that was as an unofficial guest.
"Newcastle-under-Lyme were there and they are hosting the next gathering in 2006. There's talk of a Zulu king coming over from South Africa and Prince Charles is being invited as well.
"Imagine it on the news: a summit about Newcastles all over the world being held in the UK. But not in Newcastle upon Tyne. I am so frustrated."
The council was, in fact, going to send an official delegate to the South African summit but pulled out at the last minute, leaving the organisers, John says, "deeply offended".
He says of the trip: "Going over there is one of the best things I've ever done.
"I never realise how emotional the visit would be ( the poverty, the HIV and Aids. We travelled in coaches for miles along the road and there would be children walking along with no shoes on. They have got nothing. …