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The Crack Magazine

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Northern Heights

Alex Niven’s fascinating new book ‘The North Will Rise Again’ looks at the history of modernism in the north, charting its rise and fall and issuing a call to arms for its return.

Pop art began in New York, right? Wrong! There’s a case to be made for Newcastle being the real hot bed of this era defining art movement. This was mostly down to the innovations taking place at Newcastle University where the likes of Richard Hamilton was telling students that modern artworks should reflect popular culture. And Hamilton is just one of the figures who loom large in Alex Niven’s ‘The North Will Rise Again’, figures that also include poet Basil Bunting, architect Terry Farrell, and playwright Andrea Dunbar. The book is nominally about ‘The North’ – a line is drawn between northern futurism and southern pastoralism – but Niven concentrates mainly on the north-east, and Tyneside in particular. It’s a lively, opinionated account (disgraced councillor and “Mr Newcastle” T. Dan Smith is given a rather sympathetic hearing, Bryan Ferry rather less so) and the author’s own life story, recounted here, gives the book a real narrative flow. Highly recommended. RM

‘The North Will Rise Again’ is published by Bloomsbury on 2 February. Alex Niven will be in conversation with Michael Chaplin at Live Theatre on 16 February, 7pm, £3.