My Inspiration: MiE Fielding – The Closest Thing to Heaven | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The Closest Thing to Heaven is a unique photographic record of the Newcastle music scene in the 1970s and ’80s by Northumbrian writer, artist musician and producer MiE Fielding and Simon McKay, radio DJ and publisher of the music fanzine Eccentric Sleeve. It features a mix of professional and amateur photos that captures the essence and ethos of all the musicians that performed in the city.

Here, MiE Fielding tells us what inspired the book…

Firstly, I was part of that scene as was Simon and it was a time of great excitement and youthful freedom. However, life moves on and we all get tied up in other things that have equal if not greater importance. I’d had a number of 35mm negatives in my possession for many years that were taken at the time by an old friend Ed Hayes and It was a chance conversation which led me to look again to see which of them could be used for an unrelated project. What struck me immediately was that they captured a Newcastle social scene that was amazingly vibrant. I pondered over the pictures trying to recognise faces and remember band names, characters in the audience and venues. Would this make a book? Would anyone be interested 40 years later?

I also had negatives in that collection that had been given to me and the combination of both meant that there was a good start in putting together a photographic record of that era. 

I knew also that as well as being in a band of that time, Simon had been a meticulous collector of artefacts, notes and pictures – some of which he had used in his fanzine ‘Eccentric Sleeve Notes’. I contacted Simon about the idea of a book to which he agreed instantly and he sent me what material he had. Together we had a tremendous treasure trove at our disposal, meaning that if we could get the ‘gaps’ filled we would have the makings of a fascinating document. But also, we felt that we wanted to recapture the excitement of that time and give something to future generations of musicians who may themselves one day experience the great times we had witnessed. So it was decided that our royalties would go to the Young Musicians charity set up by Kathryn Tickell. The next two years were spent contacting artists, individuals, formatting the book and restoring photographs. From the outset, the support and help we received was incredible and we’d like to offer our sincere thanks to all. We hope that this will bring back many happy memories for all those who were part of a wonderful and special time in Newcastle and hopefully for many it captures perfectly – in the words of the Kane Gang chart hit – The Closest Thing to Heaven.

Unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic has scuppered all of our plans for any events that would of complimented the launch of the book and (hopefully) raised more for the charity .We had wanted to bring together lots of our old friends from the past and have one more great night together, and there was to be an exhibition in the central library , but with the support of Tyne Bridge Publishing, we do hope to do a series of related events at some point in 2021. 

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