When 1,700 People Agreed to Grin and Bare It in Gateshead; A Decade Has Passed since Naked Bodies Filled Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides. DAVID WHETSTONE Remembers Spencer Tunick's Photo Shoot

The Journal (Newcastle, England), July 16, 2015 | Go to article overview

When 1,700 People Agreed to Grin and Bare It in Gateshead; A Decade Has Passed since Naked Bodies Filled Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides. DAVID WHETSTONE Remembers Spencer Tunick's Photo Shoot


Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

SHORTLY after 3am on July 17, 2005, about 1,700 people stripped off in the carpark near Baltic and legged it over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

It was the biggest mass streak ever seen in the North East but at that time of day it wasn't seen by many - only a startled young couple returning from a night on the town and some jovial voyeurs hanging out of windows on Newcastle Quayside.

They - actually we because I was there to cover it, or uncover it, for The Journal - were under direction from Spencer Tunick, an American photographer who specialises in naked photo shoots. To the volunteers he explained that posed human bodies were his art material, enabling him to add interesting colours and contours to urban and rural landscapes.

That was the high-minded bit.

Down on the ground the nudes were shivering and giggling, some bashfully and some a touch hysterically.

A couple of lads, mistaking the event for the Great North Run, bolted over the bridge at a sprint. As the hours rolled by (on a morning of multiple exposures, the promise that we would only be naked for short periods was soon exposed as a lie) inhibitions were dropped and humour came to the fore.

"Chilly camaraderie" is how one volunteer recalls the event.

Lying in a row along Newcastle Quayside, we prayed that wheeling kittiwakes, whose cries still bring back that morning for me, would not score a messy direct hit. Beneath Sage Gateshead, which had recently opened, Tunick and his team had us clambering up the meshed steps for an iconic pose as the sun came up, bathing us in warmth and light. Look at the place now and it's overgrown, the steps long covered. …

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