Changing Byker




Changing Byker was an exhibition in October 2009 showing the Photographs of Richard Blosse taken during the demolition of the former Byker estate and the regeneration during the 70's and 80's shown as part of the Reinventing the City Events and culminating in the Byker Vision fulfilled workshop which brought local people, local councilors and the original design team together to see if what they imagined Byker to be had came about. My role was part curator part Designer and part construction Manager.



It came about as I was doing a presentation at Northumbria University and I was aproached by Colin Green one of the key personnel in the project (still in early stages of development) about adding some up to date images to present the moden view for the exhibition

We had our first technical recce at the church and conditions were a bit basic the Aspire people said the damage in the church where there was dangerous flooring would be sorted in time for our exhibition but no-one could think of a way to display such a large amount of pictures without damaging the walls, I had the start of an idea but I wanted to work on it a bit. The Initial idea was if we couldn’t use the walls that were there we would have to make new ones so where can we do that?
One side of the church was walled off with a timber frame and gause material giving us a section to start with the subject of lighting was discussed and initially rejected because of the cost in fitting it and the poor state of the electricals within the church I felt it was a bit gloomy in parts of the church and as the date had been set to be in October there would be the problem of dark evenings, but that was a discussion that could be put off for a later date and after there was an idea of what type of displays were going up. My suggestion for boxing in the columns on the other side of the church and having several free standing units was well received and there was a bit of discussion about how to achieve it.

First of all we were looking at hiring some prefabricated units that slot together but after a visit to the hire centre and seeing how they looked (Bright Blue fabric) they were universally rejected as being out of character with both the environment and exhibition so we needed another solution. Having seen another company use sheet MDF effectively in Hanger 51 I suggested we could build what we needed out of sheet materials re-enforced with batons this was a possibility but questions about if the ability to build it was likely I was happy to take this side of the project on (my initial design had been scribbled on a sheet of A5 foolscap while walking around the church). I took some time out for the Exhibition of work at Hanger 51 and learnt several things about exhibitions and rights and wrongs, not least of which is lighting would be needed, but how to do it with the power problems and how to be able to fit it without an electrician being needed, research at local DIY stores would be required and a proper technical Recce for measuring up at the church as this was late in July time was also becoming a factor of when we were getting the initial batch of photos to go for framing plus having a definite plan of the layout. I started gathering photos from around the area, shops on Shield’s road, buildings, people where I could so that there were some up to date images available that weren’t from an old folks home.

The second visit to the church gave us the measurements so I could draw up the plans but also threw a spanner in the works, the expected repairs to the floor had not taken place and there was an area that was not in the best conditions for walking over so the area shown here to the memorial would need to be blocked off, the idea of using chain seemed a waste and wouldn’t stop people, so I now had to put walls up to block this area in this would give us places to hang photos from but would add to the expense of the project.

The Plan now looked like this with 3 of the columns boxed in a new closed off area by the entrance way with our false walls (covered in the same gause material as the other side of the church) this would give us around 42 display spaces with the 2 free standing units and the option of replacing a 2 – 3 display points with a video while still maintaining the grand space of the church and leaving room for walking around with out tripping over or dropping into the crypt. The top area was a flexible space that would house a couple of static displays of the Byker Phoenix but would also have tables for the more dynamic interactive displays where the public could try things out and if the schools involvement came off an area they could work in without disturbing the rest of the exhibition.

I did a couple of computer generated mockups to show how I envisioned the displays would look once built. When I later compared these to a couple of the photographs from the exhibition I think it looked very similar and it gave an impression of how the pictures would be hung.

The first one was from the Byker fest event which had taken place a couple of months before our exhibition and was a great success as well as being interesting to watch

A visit to a local DIY store gave me the basis for the budget and availability of materials the revised plan was starting to take form and I could see how it was starting to come together. I also drew up two plans for lighting, one using strip lighting that would need an electrician to fit or an adaptation of an angle poise desk lamp that could be fitted using 4 way adaptors and because they used 20W CFLs would not overload the aged circuitry and would still give the option for 2 projected displays which were now part of the exhibition.

Despite a couple of last minute delays that threatened to delay delivery of the
materials until after the exhibition construction began early on Tuesday the 29 th of September we initially planned for 2 days of construction with the option of
2 more if we needed it before opening day, as the sheet material hadn't arrived
we started the day off by fitting the lights on the long wall and making sure
they worked this was quickly finished and then we waited for delivery

At last early afternoon (2ish) brought our delivery and
construction could start properly, it may sound like a simple thing, We'll just
box in that column with 8' by 4' sheets when I say that is an understatement
you will probably not realize we were balancing at least 2 of them for the
first box

Day 2 started early, as we lost time the previous day so had
to get going if we were to start hanging pictures that day we gained a couple
of extra hands in Lee and Matt which proved invaluable later


With the main frame built the closed off corner was built. This was different in
that rather than being a frame with gause it was a covered section 8' by 8' of
thick MDF with batons to brace it fastened on to one of the boxed off columns
at one end and a thick MDF T section for stability at the other it took all 4
of us to lift it then secure it in place
End of Day 2 and still no pictures hung we finished the day getting everything ready for the gause panels and fitting the lights on Thursday, the last full day I could be there.

Thursday went well we got the Gause and lighting and built the free standing panels moving them into position did a power up check to see if it all worked and got a bit extra help to paint the panels white


Friday Morning we got the newer prints and hung the main pictures making minor adjustments as we went getting most of the images hung by the time I had to leave, Richard was arriving with some extra prints on Saturday but I was working so it would be left to Colin to sort out the details of the new images and where they would go one last parting shot of the exhibition before the show starts



866 Visitors later various events two walks several talks and a lot of eyes looking around

Changing Byker is getting a second showing at the Holy Buscuit later this year