NEWS: Q Festival & Jesterval Comedy Festival @ BALTIC Quays | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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If you’ve never heard of a Spiegeltent, I suggest you pause here, Google it, and return – as you’ll be spending much of your summer inside of one.

From Friday 14th July to Sunday 6th August, the very first Q Festival will be taking up residence on the banks of the Tyne, bringing you the very best in comedy, culture, crafts and entertainment. The extensive programme is down to an incredible collaboration between Gateshead Council and the folks at Jesterval, the biggest comedy festival this side of the Edinburgh Fringe. Outside the Spiegeltent, Baltic place will be mapped out with street food stalls and bars, with plenty of space for children and families, too! Now, get yourself a pen and paper, as you have 24 long, hot (hopefully) days and nights to pop in your diaries.


Summer can bring all kinds of misery; sweaty commutes, whingey offspring, exam results – the list goes on. If you’re in need of some comic relief, then get yourself down to Baltic Place, where you’ll find some of the biggest household names and great emerging talent before the Fringe wears them down. Better still, all shows are a tenner or less (unless you go to see Ed Byrne, in which case you may pay £15, but he’s worth it).

Kicking off the festival on Friday 14th July is Live at the Apollo regular Hal Cruttenden, followed by Sara Pascoe, one of the most intelligent and witty comedians and writers of our time. Later in the week, we welcome Abandoman’s Rob Broderick, a firm Fringe favourite, for a surreal blend of hip-hop, comedy and animation – in other words, a must-see. From one surreal to another, it wouldn’t be Jesterval without the outlandish Paul Foot, offering his bizarre commentary on everything from terrorism to Ant and Dec. Tip; if you’re shy, don’t sit in the front row, as you may be climbed upon. The masterful Ed Byrne takes the headline slot, previewing his Edinburgh show – tickets will sell fast for this one, so grab them while you can.

Local and emerging talent comes thick and fast, from local MCs Hal Branson and Mat Reed (the one with the gin in his hand), to Luisa Omielan with new show ‘Politics for Bitches’. Other circuit regulars worth a watch include the Geordie Greek George Zachropoulos and Lee Kyle, who offer shows for both adults and children. There’s plenty for little ones, too, but for something completely new, try Circus Central’s ‘Arthurs Oddessy’, a blend of circus skills, puppetry, physical theatre, live music and theatrical storytelling.

Family and Kids

Comedy and theatre aside, there’s a whole host of daytime activities to keep the bairns busy. GemArts’ Masala Festival should be your first port of call; a celebration of South Asian culture, with yoga classes, Indian storytellers, and Desi snacks, running from Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd July. For the young and nimble, further yoga classes for ages 4-12 will be available, along with music movement and sensory classes for pre-walkers right up to three year olds. For teenagers, Newcastle-based champion break dancers Bad Taste Cru are running a daylong workshop in breakdancing; fusing physical theatre, b-boy moves and dance techniques. Make use of the bar for this one, and watch from afar.

Inside the infamous Spiegeltent, the Screenage Kicks folks are back on July 28th, with a “Screenage Kids” edition of Dumbo, plus all the circus-themed trimmings. Watch their little faces as the film comes alive around them, complete of course, with hot dogs and popcorn. Need to wind down? Storytelling for little people under 5 will be available on Wednesday 19th July and Friday 4th August.

Now, babysitters, parents and grandparents take note; the Spiegeltent will play host to a Breakfast Club coffee rave on Saturday 5th August. For those not familiar with breakfast raves (who is?), think the very best in 80s music, from Bowie to New Order, complete with dressing up box for the kids.


So the kids have their summer diaries sorted, now for yours. But it’s not all booze and laughter: Boost your career or get a new project off the ground with the help of Culture Vulture and their blogging masterclass. Open to the North East blogging community, marketeers, writing enthusiasts, SMEs and beyond, get yourself along for an evening of storytelling, experience sharing and networking.

For the crafty among you, try your hand at drawing, painting, sewing, embroidery or paper crafting, available across various dates. Cocktails will be on offer at most workshops, too.

After a night on the sauce? First stop is the return of Screenage Kicks, for a psychedelic and immersive trip to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Screened in the brilliantly vibrant Spiegeltent, the space will transform into Willy’s factory by night, complete with live music, themed food, and Umpa Lumpas. Don’t forget your fancy dress. Gin lovers can get their fill with Steampunk Gin, hosts of a fantastic weekend long Gin Festival with one day time and two evening sessions. If wine is your tipple of choice, Carruthers & Kent bring you their Debut Summer Wine Fair. With the chance to taste over 90 wines, champagnes and a smattering of Liqueur Sherries and Ports, a Master Class with food pairing will be on offer behind every table.

If it’s a good old-fashioned dance you’re looking for, then there’s nowt better than a ceilidh, led by the folks at Fiddler’s Elbow. If folk’s not your thing, then step into Q’s Social Club for 80s beats and glittery neon treats, hosted by Culture Vulture with live back to back DJ sets from Patterns Collective and Timothy McVicar.

For the full programme of all things culture, head to their website to see what else is on offer – whatever your festival plans are this summer though, be sure to add Q Festival to your list!

Q Festival & Jesterval will be held on Baltic Quays from Friday 14th July until Sunday 6th August.

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