I was absolutely delighted to see that Newcastle and Gateshead have been awarded the Great Northern Exhibition for 2018. Not only will they receive £5million for the exhibitions themselves, but also £15million pounds towards legacy projects. Some of these will no doubt go to the upkeep of some special museums they have up there, which I know are struggling to keep going.
The area has a proud history of innovation – they are hoping to borrow George Stephenson’s Rocket steam engine from the National Science Museum – which was built on Tyneside. The area also saw the first hydroelectricity plant at Cragside House. Then there was the alternating current production at Wallsend – another first. Of course there was also the invention of the turbine – Turbina the first ship that had turbine engines can be found in the Discovery Museum not far from the Newcastle’s main railway station. More recently there has been the invention of low cost DNA scanning machines by QuantuMDx.
In other words it has been a powerhouse of innovation. As to why? Some of it was borne of necessity – it is said that rails (for railways) were invented to shift heavy loads of coal to the dockside. Others because people had the inspiration and the wherewithal to work on their dreams e.g. Turbina.
But could it also be an inspiration for science fiction writers?
Well the exhibition is to include art and design – additional elements that go to make good science fiction.
In one sense, I suppose, I beat them to the announcement. My latest published story – AI Deniers in the Explorations: Through the Wormhole anthology has part of it taking place in Beamish Museum – an open air museum that started out representing the coal mining era of 1913.
However, I do feel there is more science fiction potential to be had from Tyneside – if you’ve read some of the traditional and later stories, you’d understand they is a lot of imagination bubbling up around the Tyne – especially when you consider that the title of the Great Northern Exhibition is:
The Blazing World – The Fires of Invention