INTERVIEW: The Cumberland Arms 20th Anniversary Celebrations | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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I remember an evening at The Cumberland Arms a few years back involving DJs, indie bands, mummers and an Irish session. It was at once like a mad tiny festival and yet just another Cumby Sunday. It’s in that spirit of inclusion, invention and energy that the Ouseburn pub is celebrating its 20th year with Jo Hodson as landlady and as you’d expect, they’re really going for it.

A vast series of events both inside and outside the pub kicks off on Easter Weekend. “Hannabiel Sanders has put together a new band recently – the Midnight Blue Collective – so it’s going to be amazing. Then on Easter Sunday it’s going to be Sister Shack and Rock ‘N’ Doris on the terrace, so DJs all day. And then Monday the lovely Rob Heron is DJing on the terrace and Dilutey Juice are playing. So that’s the launch of the events… And then pretty much every weekend following has got something on.” Hodson enthuses.

It’s just about working with as many different people as you possibly can and creating a safe space that anybody feels safe to sit in, drink in, play at

And it doesn’t end there... “There’s going to be a quoits competition in honour of former landlord and sportsman Jocker Wood. We found an article showing that on 23rd April 1912, he won a quoits championship so we decided to redo it. On 14th May the wonderful Steve Jefferis [Warm Digits] is bringing back Cathode so we’ve decided to organise a day around it, Inside Outside. Inside we’re going to have Madeleine Smyth, Faye MacCalman, Nathalie Stern, Stu Walkinshaw and Cathode… and then outside we’re going to have Iris Brickfield, Kitty, Stagger Lee. We’re really excited about this.”

Through the summer, Hodson has booked lots of acts or events that have been connected with the pub over the past 20 years, including The Baghdaddies, The Wilsons, Live-E-Oke, Georgia May, Magic Hat and The Pink Lane Bakery. Things culminate with a two-week celebration at the beginning of August. ”And during that two weeks there’s going to be talks about the pub and Ouseburn’s past, present and future,” Hodson explains. “There’ll be an exhibition of photos from the area, and of the pub, from 1898…My dad is even doing a podcast!”

One thing the pub – and its sister venture The Old Coal Yard – has come to be known for is its involvement in various communities, LGBTQ+ in particular. Hodson is clearly proud of the space that’s been created but keen to point out that it’s not in any way contrived. “It’s just about working with as many different people as you possibly can and doing things without saying ‘this is what we are’, creating a safe space that anybody feels safe to sit in, drink in, play at…if you project that, what comes from it is an amazing, diverse collection of people who want to be involved. The ethos is obvious and people soon realise if it’s not the place for them…if you create a space where that sort of behaviour isn’t welcome, then it can become self-policing.”

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