We Jumped Off The Top Of Baltic And Lived To Tell The Tale


Zip line off Baltic. Credit: Sean Elliott
The gallery’s zip line is back for a spring run this March – and we tried it out

It was deadline day in the office, and while that means the atmosphere can be a little more tense than usual, the idea of launching myself from the top of a seven-floor building hadn’t yet progressed beyond idle fantasy. This deadline day, however, it suddenly became very real indeed. Sitting on the metal cladding of the Baltic, dangling my legs over the 138ft drop, the office suddenly felt very appealing.

Baltic’s zip wire between the very top of its building and the plaza outside the Sage ran with great success last year, and it’s due for another run on 4 and 5 March, so Living North was invited along to give it a whirl. 

In the meeting room in which we, the assembled jumpers, had been kitted up it had all seemed pretty straightforward. I went up with a couple of other journalists who looked like all they could see in their heads was a commissioning editor saying, ‘Well, at least she’d have appreciated what great shareable content she made as she plummeted to her death,’ in their eulogies. There was also a woman dressed in a pink gorilla outfit and another dressed as a banana. 

We’d run through the safety checks and been harnessed up by a succession of cheerily competent men, and I was feeling confident. After I’d got my GoPro attached to my helmet, I flipped over the heavy metal pulley attached to my harness. It was numbered 13. 

‘How funny,’ I said flatly. I’m not usually one for omens, but sometimes it’s hard to dodge the feeling that the universe is stage-whispering, ‘This isn’t a very good idea, you know,’ at you. Suddenly it was time to go up, and in what felt like both an extraordinarily long time and no time at all, I was at the front of the queue. The pink gorilla, so peppy in the prep room, was apparently less than keen. 

‘Ready?’ asked the cheery man with glasses. ‘Yeerrrrp,’ I croaked, trying to remember how my knees worked as I hobbled stiffly over, legs locked with terror, and crouched beside the foot-high rim which prevents people simply wandering off the edge of the building. At the invitation of the cheery man, I sat on the rim and dangled my legs over the edge. I looked down. Seven storeys of fresh air stared back. 

Perched on the edge of the building, I wondered if I’d led a good and worthy life: selfless, pious, kind to animals, regular charity shop donor, that sort of thing. When I realised I probably hadn’t, I started wondering if I’d lead the kind of death which might at least give my loved ones the comfort of a cheque for £250 from You’ve Been Framed.

Then I shuffled off the roof and, I presumed, this mortal coil.

It was wonderful. God bless you, industrially-standardised steel wire – I never doubted you. Silently whizzing along, parallel to the Tyne, I turned slowly to take in the retreating Baltic mill, Millennium Bridge, HMS Calliope, Tyne Bridge and the rest of the quayside vista stretching from Ouseburn to Redheugh Bridge. 

Then it was over. I’d been expecting a great crashing whump of an ending, but the brake blocks allowed me to gracefully – almost balletically – land on the platform outside the Sage. Well it would have been graceful if I’d not let out a great honking laugh of excitement on contact with solid ground again, like an aviophobic goose. I wanted more than anything to give it another go immediately. 

Baltic’s zip line is open on 4 and 5 March from 9am to 5pm, and is £50 per zip. To book a slot, go to www.balticmill.com/whats-on/zip

Published in: January 2017

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