National Garden Festival Gateshead 1990

Ray Smith Red Army 1990
Ray Smith Red Army 1990

The National Garden Festival, Gateshead Tyne and Wear was the fourth in the sequence of five National Garden Festivals held in different cities throughout the UK.

Following on from forming the visual art programme for the Glasgow Garden Festival 1988, Isabel Vasseur was invited to be the Visual Arts Director for Gateshead. The festival opened in May 1990 and ran until October.

Selection of the 70 visual art components were gathered from the hundreds of proposals received by Isabel and her expanded team: Jane Heath, Timandra Gustafson, Liz Knight, Reuben Kench and Martin Garrett. Expectations had been raised as a result of the successes of the visual art programme for Glasgow.

While there were critical voices raised largely to do with cost of the Glasgow exhibit, visitor feedback from those attending was overwhelmingly positive. Audiences had shown an unexpected ability to engage positively with the art content.

It was testament to the momentum generated during the previous two garden festivals at Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent that seemingly, visitors had become more discerning and familiar with art in the context of an open air event. As a result certain installations became closely associated with the identity of the Glasgow festival. Without question art had lodged in the public imagination in Glasgow.

Sculpture being assembled and installed
Sculpture being assembled and installed

Clearly ambitions for the visual art programme for Gateshead were increased. The programme was given a headline title to reflect this change in status: Festival Landmarks ‘90. The claims made for some of the art installations were more ambitious too. The festival site comprised four areas, starting from the River Tyne’s southern shoreline at Riverside, toward Dunston, Eslington and finally Norwood.

View site

Festival site map
Festival site map

Each locale was connected by a form of public transport. The festival’s attenuated layout over 200 acres had inherent logistical idiosyncrasies that had to be overcome by an imaginative use of trams, a monorail, steam locomotive and road train. This meant that there were ample opportunities for the visual art programme to resolve design problems inherent within the temporary infrastructure of stations, platforms, bridges and gateways.

With nearly double the budget of the Glasgow Garden Festival, Isabel raised and committed 1.5 million GBP to be directed towards 50 commissions across 70 installations of different disciplines in art and craft and an extensive education programme. The festival attracted 3 million visitors, provided 1,000 jobs to help run it successfully and saw another 1,000 created in the area to service it.

The festival’s content was one of the first to include art and craft within its remit. The craft objects were displayed within a domestic setting, a Showhouse laid out to accommodate different disciplines like ceramics, textiles and furniture. This dedicated, non-gallery space showed how commissioning craft could give a home a less manufactured, more individually considered presence.

While the selected artists had their motives in creating the work produced for the festival, there was a limit to the amount of interpretive text that could be presented within the open air context of a garden festival. With this in mind the art was selected for its ease of access for a general audience, each installation had to stand up on its own merit without recourse to the language of art appreciation.

With an education and outreach programme that was developed to engage with different community groups locally as well as drawing out interests that would be relevant nationally, it was considered essential to build relationships within the education networks established for the event that would last beyond the dates of the festival’s duration.

Peter Mortimer Advice For Better Living (No 26)
Peter Mortimer Advice For Better Living (No 26)

The festival featured installations and performances by the following artists, designers, makers, performers and poets:

Jane Adam
Keith Alexander
Janet Allan
Jonathan Anderson
Ron Arad
Kenneth Armitage
Art in Ruins
John Atkin
Raef Baldwin
Phyllida Barlow
Bateman, Crowther
Dail Behennah
Jeff Bell & Jules Armitage
Lisa Bird
Marinus Boezem
Floris van den Broecke
Mark Brazier Jones
Keith Brown
Irene Brown
Sandy Brown
Anthony Bryant
Graham Budgett
Rod Bugg
Andrew Burton
Kate Byrn
Ann Cameron
Shirley Cameron
Norman Cherry
Fiona Clark
Lucy Clegg
Tessa Clowney
Richard Cole
David Colwell
Chris Comins
Christine Constant
Noreen Conwell
Siobhan Coppinger, Alec Peever
Cowdy Glass
Caroline Coyne
Tony Cragg
Jenny Crisp
Andrew Crouch
Arthur Cummings
Dart Pottery
Anna Dickinson
Roger Dickinson
Mike Disley
John Dix
Tom Dixon
Mike Dodd
Julienne Dolphin-Wilding
Stephen Down
Robert Drake
Jim Edminson
Richard Farrington
Deborah Fladgate
Marianne Forrest
Carol Francis
Susie Freeman
Fulcher, Tate & Carter
Adrian Funnell
Maria Gaisley
Debbie Gibberd
Morag Gordon
Robert Goldsmith
Joanne Greenhill
Jane Hamlyn
Diane Hart
Christine Hatt
Andrew Heaps
Matthew Hilton
Jasmine Hixson
Jill Hlaol
Juliet Hone
John Hodkinson
Marigold Hodgkinson
Charlie Holmes
Hamish Horsley
Loes van der Horst
Louise Hudson
Janet Hutchinson
Brian Illsley
Angela James
Hazel Jones
Cynthia Karasek
Jonathan Keep
Paddy Killer
Andrea King, John Bradley
Philip King
Laura Kitchen
Graham Knight
Hilary Laforce
Anna Lambert
Pamela Leung
Christopher Lewis
Don Lipski
Nick Lloyd
Gus Mabelson
David Mach
Jamie MacPherson
Mari Mahr
John Maine
Fenella Mallalieu
Kate Malone
David Martin
Carol Mather
Sally Matthews
Annette Meech
Elizabeth McFall
John McKellar
David McMillan
Carol McNicoll
Andrew Miller
Janet Milner
Lorna Moffat
Paul de Monchaux
Colin Mortimer
Peter Mortimer
Robin Munro
Jane Norbury
Jacqueline Norris
Peter Niczewski
Rosa Nguyen
Jacqueline Oglesby
Rowena Park
Jean-Marie Patois
Alan Peters
Katrina Porteous
Jim Partridge
Nic Pryke
Howard Raybould
Dave Regester
Ali Rhind
Graeme Rigby
Tony Rix
Colin Rose
Martin Ryan
Sanders & Wallace
Hue Scriven
Fiona Sharp
Annie Sherburne
Kumiko Shimizu
Juliette Shotton
Alice Smith
Annalisa Smith
Ray Smith
Amanda Snow
Andrea Stemmer
Helen Styliandes
David Swift
Niki de Saint Phalle
Sabina Teuteberg
Toucan Play
Roger Tye
Neil Talbot
Richard La Trobe-Bateman
Graham Tunnadine
Betty Vaughan-Richards
Joanne Veevers
David Wall
Fiona Walker
Liz Walmsey
Gilbert Ward
Sacha Ward
Jocelyn Warner
Kate Watkinson
Robin Welch
Richard Wentworth
Jane Wheeler
Avril Wilson
Richard Windley
Toby Winteringham
Anne Wrightson
Adrian Wiszniewski
Vincent Woropay
Elizabeth Wright
Andrew & Joanna Young
Paul Young
Jerilea Zempel


Aalco (Newcastle) Ltd
Acorn Wood & Metals
M Aynsley & Sons Ltd
Bridon Fibres Ltd
British Rail
British Steel
Cameron Hall Development
Cleveland County Museum Service
Cornings Glass (UK) Ltd
County Windows & Joinery
Crafts Council
Dyneema Fabrics (Netherlands)
Gateshead Round Table
Gillespies & Partners
Government Business Sponsorship Incentive Scheme
Henry Moore Foundation
Hewden (Contractors) Ltd
Howard & Kooij’s Nurseries
International Paints
Lin Hopper/Bill Hopper Design
Makita Electric (UK) Ltd
Mallinson-Denny (Northern) Ltd
NEP Group
Newcastle Business Park
Newcastle Furniture Company
Northern Arts
Northern Electric
Northumbrian Water
Patterson Wolf Ltd
Prins Bernhard Fonds (Netherlands)
Seaboard International (Timber & Plywood) Ltd
Solar Film (uk)
Steetley Brick & Tile Ltd
The Sunday Times
Sustrans Ltd
Swan Hunter Shipbuilders Ltd
Tyne & Wear Development Corporation
National Garden Festival Gateshead
The accompanying publication was
Festival Landmarks ’90.
Click here for details
Photography by: Reuben Kench, Damien Wootten and Charles Hall