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What to Expect from Newcastle’s Alternative Market, The Handyside Arcade

Handyside Arcade. Newcastle Libraries via Flickr
What's on
March 2022
Reading time 10 minutes

A new market is hoping to bring back the culture of 1960s Newcastle, as the importance of supporting local grows

Named after the lost Handyside Arcade on Newcastle's Percy Street, The Handyside Arcade Market will take place on 5th March at Newcastle Library. With stalls from local creatives, it hopes to bring back the spirit of the original arcade. It’s the brainchild of Jools and Paul Donnelly who recently lobbied Newcastle City Council for a heritage plaque at the site of the Club a’Gogo, where The Animals started out, and were successful in their bid.
The original Handyside Arcade. Paul S Robinson The original Handyside Arcade. Paul S Robinson

What inspired you to create this market, inspired by The Handyside Arcade?
Anyone who knows us will know we have a keen interest in promoting the memory of Newcastle’s recent cultural and musical history. We are also specifically interested in preserving the memory of places or buildings that played an important part in the sub-cult history of Newcastle and the North East. The Handyside Arcade played a huge role in this scene. The arcade was sadly demolished in 1987 and was replaced with Eldon Gardens. We had started to notice that when we talked of the arcade, people who were younger than us had never heard of it, so we wanted to get the name back out there.

Why is it so important to remember Handyside Arcade?
It’s very important to remember our recent cultural past as well as the long distant past.  The arcade was where the youth of the North East would hang out on weekends in their respective tribes, whether it be punks, mods, hippies or skinheads – they were all there.  The arcade was a hub of creativity and full of small and independent shops. Many of your readers will no doubt remember the famous Kard Bar, Frisco, Fynd or the Army and Navy Store where little gems could be picked up that were not available on the high street. We think it would be sad if this beautiful arcade and all of its sub-cult history were to be forgotten.

What have you learned about its history?
The market was built in 1906 by George Handyside and held 90 shops over two levels. The arcade had a fabulous period of renaissance in the 60s where the mods and ‘flower power kids' would flock there to see and be seen. In 1967 the arcade even hosted its own love-in which was captured on film by BFI and can be found on YouTube. John Steel of The Animals actually part-owned a trendy little boutique in the arcade called Target. We have more on this in our book on the Club a’Gogo. The arcade was featured in youth magazines of the 60s and there are various films from that era which can be found on the internet.

At the height of the boom of the 60s, Handyside Arcade was dubbed Tyneside's answer to Carnaby Street. What changed in the 80s?
In the 80s the Handyside Arcade was still a meeting place for all of the North East sub-cults and was known and loved by those on the fringes of mainstream. It had, however, started to look a little run down as it had been badly neglected and not maintained for a number of years, and plans were then made to demolish the arcade and replace it with Eldon Gardens. There were protests at the time and efforts were made to save the arcade, but without success. The arcade was doomed and in 1987 it was pulled down, ripping the heart out of Newcastle’s independent spirit. A missed opportunity, as other cities have preserved their arcades and these are now are an asset to those cities.

Why hold your market at Newcastle Library?
We were delighted when Newcastle Library approached us to ask us if we would hold the market in the library. The library has been shut for most of the pandemic and they are keen to get visitors back through the door (also a younger audience who may not have been to the library before). We think it’s an amazing venue, the market is in the light-filled atrium over two floors. Having the library as our venue fits in very well with the cultural side of the market. The library will also be selling books featuring the music, art and fashions of the North East. We’ll also have DJ sets, so the atrium will be filled with music; it’s going to be a great day!

Handyside Arcade. Newcastle Libraries via Flickr Handyside Arcade. Newcastle Libraries via Flickr

What can locals expect from the market? 
We have a fantastic selection of traders at Handyside Arcade Market; in the spirit of the original arcade we were keen to showcase our local and independent creatives. We have stalls selling vintage fashion, vintage accessories and furniture, vinyl sellers, books, alternative fashion and accessories and a host of local artists selling their crafts. You can expect to find clothes and gifts that aren’t on the high street – an exciting selection of quirky and unique items. Paul will be DJ-ing all day and playing sounds from Club a’Gogo and our indie club Gimme Shelter on vinyl.

Your favourite local independent business?
We have discovered so many new and independent businesses since starting our market. We’ll have to name check a few of them… Lottie’s Hoard, Spilt Milk Zine, Urbn.nest and Merpinz. The list goes on…

Your favourite shop that used to be within Handyside Arcade?
Jools: The Army and Navy store. The first item I ever bought in the arcade was an original sailor’s top; I wish I’d kept it!
Paul: The Kard Bar. Me and my mates loved the badges, posters and all the memorabilia of all genres.

Your favourite thing about the 60s in Newcastle?
Jools: The mods! I love hearing the stories of the mod scene: the clothes, the hang outs the music… it’s just amazing!

Your favourite thing about Newcastle now?
We are loving that the independent spirit of the original Handyside Arcade is still alive and kicking, it’s just knowing where to find it. There are a host of very talented creatives out there and new and independent bars and coffee shops popping up all over Newcastle. We feel that 2022 is the year of the independents and we want to support this as much as possible by promoting local talent and encouraging everyone to buy local. We hope everyone will come along on 5th March and visit Handyside Arcade Market and support our local creatives.

What’s next?
As well as naming our new market Handyside Arcade in homage to the original we are thrilled that Newcastle Council want to remember the arcade on the heritage plaque we awarded Club a’Gogo. The wording of the plaque will include Handyside Arcade, as well as Club a’Gogo. We are hoping the unveiling of the plaque will take place around April this year. We are also finalising our book on the Club a’Gogo and the mod scene of 60s Newcastle and we have another book in the pipeline for autumn titled Why Can’t I Be You?, a book on the Handyside Arcade and the sub-cult scene of the North East. If anyone would like to contribute, we would love to hear from you.

Find out more about the market, and keep up to date with their progress at thehandysidearcade.co.uk.

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