Down by the Riverside

My time in higher education was misspent at Teesside Polytechnic in Middlesbrough. Moving there from Doncaster was generally swapping one declining industrial town for another, albeit one with a better cultural life even in the mid-80s, and not all driven by the presence of the poly. But as I had grown up with Sheffield, and to a lesser extent Leeds as the nearest big cities, in Middlesbrough, 40 miles up the coast, an hour on the train, was Newcastle. My first trip was in my first week and it was to begin a relationship that has continued since.

The Riverside was also new to Newcastle in September 1985, built in a disused warehouse overlooking the Tyne and born out of the lack of such a place in the city, and the lack of pretty much anything for young people in a city that had suffered more than most from the Thatcherite downturn. It wasn’t long before I was discharged from an orange VW Beetle, queued for my red membership card and failed to see the Shop Assistants.

Over the next four years my education got in the way of seeing such bands as the Fall, the Go-Betweens, Swans, Dinosaur jr, Godflesh and Rapeman to name but a few. Broon was drunk, the floor was stuck to, and sometimes the ceiling, and the city was changed very much for a better, leaving a legacy that remains to this day.

As you might imagine, there are many stories to be told from such a place, and Hazel Plater, a former employee, collected many of them and wrote a book. The next plan is to make a film and collect the reminiscences of performers and attendees alike. In the fashionable way, the first stage is being crowdfunded through Indiegogo and needs to raise $5000. If you’re like me and enjoy musical history for the sake of, well, history, you’ll understand that it’s a labour of love and that it needs to be completed. If you were there at the time, you’ll probably need to be reminded. If you give enough you’ll even get a copy of the book. You can’t say fairer than that.

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