An innovative arts project encouraging people to explore alternative futures will culminate in an exhibition this week.

The Alternative Futures project was commissioned by Newcastle University, and delivered by cultural champion and promoter The Culture Vulture. The exhibition will open on Saturday, May 25.

It involved three residencies in Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland, with four artists involved in each place.

Rachel Horton, Managing Director at The Culture Vulture and Alternative Futures lead, explained: “The project invited people from Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland to work with artists, musicians, writers and poets from the region to explore and design an alternative future.

“Through events, workshops and debates, we’ve had conversations about the world in 50, 100 and 300 years times in relation to innovation, invention, housing, people, transport, technology, politics, society, identity and the environment.

“The intention through the project has been to get people thinking and talking about the future while doing creative things with artists.

“There are a lot of frustrated people at present, but the aim was to get people feeling the future is in their hands so to use that power wisely and to feel much more empowered in making changes for the future.

“Artists have had people suggesting everything from mass extinction, to living under the sea, to an increase in society segregation, to nature fighting back against human pollution, to plastic being a thing of the past, to Brexit negotiations still ongoing even though it’s 200 years later.”

An exhibition of work and ideas produced during the project will open this week at the Thought Foundation art gallery, in Clarity House, Durham Road, Birtley.

Thought Foundation Owner Leanne Pearce said: ”We are delighted to have supported the Alternative Futures project at Thought Foundation.

“We are not only displaying the work but also hosting workshops which helps to bring the exhibition to life.

“At Thought Foundation, we are all about creative discussion and being thoughtful so it’s been a great fit.”

Artists in residency activity included artists working to visualise what climate change and transport might look like in the future, working to explore what the area could be like in the future and songwriting workshops.

Singer-songwriter Jennie Brewis worked with Futurehead Ross Millard to create a song with pupils from Sunderland’s Academy 360 for the project.

Jennie was also the Sunderland Alternative Futures project manager and explained: “Alternative Futures Sunderland was an exciting opportunity to engage with local artists and the community to ask important questions about the city in which they live.

“What would be their perfect city? How much agency do they feel they have to affect those changes? By attending the exhibition, individuals will be able to add their contribution.”

The free exhibition will run until Sunday, June 9 and will include a curtain of origami butterflies by visual artist Pui Lee, animations by animator Sheryl Jenkins and a radio show set in 2119 by writer Iain Rowan.

Rachel added: “Throughout the project we’ve also been working with artist Frank Styles to create an Alternative Futures post box for which people were invited to post a postcard to their future selves with advice, a message or a question.

“We’d love anyone attending the exhibition to fill in their own postcard.

“There will also be an events programme including a positive protest banner workshop, worry doll making and a Meet the Artists event on the last day of the exhibition day.

“I’d really like to thank Gosforth Civic Theatre, Trinity Square Gateshead, Gateshead ALive, Thought Foundation and Newcastle University for making this project happen and supporting it.”

The exhibition programme can be found at

Thought Foundation is open every day between 10am and 4pm.

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