FEATURE: ¡VAMOS! SOCIAL | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Images: above by Anna Miller, below by Simon Williams

The annual ¡VAMOS! Festival has become an integral part of the region’s events calendar, celebrating the best of Latin and Lusophone culture and bringing a vibrant mixture of music, film, theatre, art and everything in between to the North East. The festival has grown organically over the last ten years, and so it makes sense that the spirit of ¡VAMOS! has finally found a permanent home.

Festival founder Nik Barrera’s new venue has taken over Bamburgh House. Occupying a corner of Market Street in Newcastle’s city centre, the collective have turned the building into a haven for artists, with studios and project spaces taking over its nine storeys. As an additional bonus, the former Venue nightclub on the ground floor was also part of the deal, and so ¡VAMOS! Social was born.

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“It has been a dream of mine for a few years, I wanted to give ¡VAMOS! a more permanent space.” Nik explains. “Luckily Breeze Creatives were on the same page with their own distinct vision for this building, and we owe them a lot for their support.”

The ethos behind ¡VAMOS! Social sits comfortably alongside Nik’s vision for the festival; it’s an inclusive, friendly and comfortable space full of bright, vibrant artwork and original touches. The footprint of the old venue still exists in the square tables made from the ripped out bar; the former nightclub’s sunken dance floor has become an adaptable space, peppered with repurposed deckchairs sporting Mexican patterned oilcloths. It’s no longer a dingy long room, light floods in through the newly uncovered windows on either side of the seating area. Nik proudly shows off some quirky cardboard concertina-style chairs which unfold to bewildering lengths, perfect for film screenings and communal dining. He talks excitedly of plans for the future: “We’ll have club nights and live music, food events too, small film screenings, talks and workshops, even a hot desk area, a library that people can contribute to, maybe even yoga and group meditation. Eventually every Saturday there will be a vibrant market with makers and producers from the region.”

An open-plan kitchen is in the works, but for now the venue serves a simple tapas-style menu, easily made from the bar. Unusual beers and spirits are affordable and ethically sourced. The Latino theme is prevalent throughout the building, vivid artwork produced by Brazilian, Mexican and Peruvian artists adorns both the inside and outside spaces; in every nook and cranny there’s something new to discover. One corner of the room is given over to an exciting gallery space, in which Latino artists will display their work, but in keeping with the essence of the venue, it’ll have its own twist. “It’ll be a light-based night gallery – we’ll have a quirky installation and an area for people to sit, all illuminated by the artworks. Galleries are always white and brightly lit and austere, with everything so visible, so the idea is that we’ll have a night-time vision reflecting the former night club use. It’ll be transparency based, featuring brand new Latin American photography. It’s a space which will organically evolve and change throughout the year.”

The Latino theme is at the heart of everything we do, but there is an element of flexibility

While ¡VAMOS! Social has a clear theme to its décor, food and drink offering, Nik’s philosophy is that of inclusiveness and community. “The Latino theme is at the heart of everything we do, but there is an element of flexibility. It’s very partnership driven, so many people have fed into this space. We have international artists but it’s about the North East and the people here; it’s about collaboration and fusion too.”

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In fact, ¡VAMOS! Social is the very essence of a community space. “I do genuinely hope that it’s a space that offers more than just a service. When you go to bars, culture or artistic content bolsters or elaborates on a brand, and that’s fine, it’s normal and the way it works. I’d like to think we can try it the other way around; where the cultural, creative and artistic content is at the start and at the heart of everything and the food, drink and social aspects are then inseparable to that.”

Nik talks of his plans for later in the year: a Boxing Day social complete with communal dining, encouraging the city’s huge international student population to join in and feel a part of the space; an inclusive and pressure-free New Year’s Eve celebration; and the creation of a space where everyone is welcome to celebrate the wider cultural make-up of the region. “If we accentuate it, talk about it and celebrate it, it’ll only get better.”

¡VAMOS! Social is located on the corner of Market Street and John Dobson Street in Newcastle. The venue is open from 12pm-midnight Wednesday until Saturday.

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