The North East in the 21st Century

The North East in the 21st Century

A new millennium. A new hope. New bridges. New developments. New authorities. Brexit, politics and a pandemic.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Gateshead Millennium Bridge. Photo © David Simpson

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Jan 1, 2000 – A new millennium

The third millennium is welcomed with a street theatre extravaganza in Newcastle and thousands of private parties elsewhere. As the clock strikes midnight, the North East erupts in a frenzy of fireworks.

29 Sep – 2000 Billy Elliot

The movie Billy Elliot set in County Durham during the 1984-85 miners strike is released and will prove a critical success, nominated for three Academy Awards. Adapted from a screenplay by Tyneside writer Lee Hall it features the story of a young working class boy with a passion for ballet. The film stars Teesside’s Jamie Bell. The Billingham-born Jamie receives the BAFTA award for best actor in a leading role. Scenes were filmed in Easington, Dawdon and Seaham, in County Durham along with Ellington and Lynemouth in Northumberland as well as Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

Teesquay Millennium Bridge
Teesquay Millennium Bridge. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Dec 2000 – Teesquay Millennium Bridge

The Teesquay Millennium Bridge, an elegant cable-stay structure, opens across the River Tees at Stockton.

BALTIC Gateshead
BALTIC viewed from the Gateshead Millennium Bridge : Photo © David Simpson

2001 – Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The beautiful Gateshead Millennium Bridge opens across the Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle. It is a footbridge with two arches. One arch lies flat, linking the quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead, forming a crossing for pedestrians and bicycles. The other arch forms an elegant span high above the Tyne. The whole structure can be tilted when required to allow vessels to pass through.

2001 – Lemington Bridge

A bridge opens across the Lemington Gut which enters the Tyne near Newcastle.

2002 – Renewable energy at Blyth

The headquarters of the National Renewable Energy Centre is established at Blyth.

Baltic Gallery
BALTIC, a former flour mill . Photo © David Simpson

2002 – BALTIC opens

BALTIC, an impressive gallery of contemporary art opens at Gateshead Quays. It occupies the former Baltic Flour Mill building.

2002 – Blyth Power Station closes

The power station at Blyth closes and its landmark chimneys are demolished.

2003 – Dalton Park

A ‘factory outlet’ style shopping centre opens at Dalton Park, close to the A19 in east Durham between Seaham and Murton.

The Dun Cow, Sedgefield © David Simpson 2018

Nov 21 2003 – US President visits North East pub

The short state visit of United States President, George Bush to Britain includes a trip to North East England. After visiting the Queen in London, the president heads north and lands by helicopter at the County Durham village of Trimdon Colliery, the home to Prime Minister, Tony Blair. After visiting the PM’s house and meeting Mr Blair’s neighbours, the President heads to Sedgefield in an armed motorcade and joins Mr Blair for a pub lunch of fish and chips in the Dun Cow before heading home on his jet from Teesside Airport.

Feb 2004 – Middlesbrough win League Cup

Middlesbrough Football Club defeat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the League Cup final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, collecting the first major trophy in their history. Goals come from Cameroonian, Joseph-Désiré Job and Dutch international Boudewijn Zenden.

Newcastle Brown Ale © David Simpson 2021

22 Apr 2004 – End of an era for Newcastle brewery

Scottish and Newcastle Brewery’s site in Newcastle closes. The Newcastle Breweries had occupied this site in the Gallowgate area of the town since 1890 and brewed Newcastle Brown Ale here from 1927. Brewing has taken place on the site since 1868. The brewing of the Brown Ale has been moved across the river to the Federation Brewery site at Dunston, Gateshead. The bottling of this beer will subsequently move to Tadcaster in 2007 and then to the Netherlands in 2017.

Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead. Photo © David Simpson 2018

2004 – Sage Gateshead opens

Sage Gateshead opens on the Gateshead quayside. Constructed from curved panels of stainless steel, it is a centre for music and conferences with state of the art acoustics.

2004 – North East says ‘No’ to devolution

A referendum vote on whether or not an elected regional assembly should be established for North East England resulted in an emphatic ‘No’ vote. The vote included all the local council areas from Redcar and Cleveland to Berwick upon Tweed. Of these Darlington was the least in favour where only 14.8% of voters said ‘Yes’. Derwentside (in north west Durham) and Durham City had the most ‘Yes’ votes but still with only 42.4% and 40.6% respectively voting in favour.

Jan 26 2005 – ‘Big E’ closure ends centuries of mining

Ellington Colliery in Northumberland closes. It is the region’s last remaining colliery. The closure of this large mine, known as the ‘Big E’, brings to an end centuries of deep mining in the North East of England, although opencast mining still takes place across the region.

2005 – Britain’s best park

Saltwell Park in Gateshead is awarded the accolade of Britain’s best park.

2008 – Gateshead heritage

St Mary’s church in Gateshead near the Tyne Bridge becomes a heritage centre for the town.

2009 – Farewell to Sir Bobby

The world of football mourns the loss of Sir Bobby Robson, the Sacriston-born (and Langley Park raised) former footballer and football manager. Robson, who has managed England and clubs such as Ipswich Town, Barcelona and FC Porto, is one of Britain’s most successful football managers. Later in his career he would manage his boyhood heroes, Newcastle United from 1999 to 2004.

Great North Museum, Newcastle
Great North Museum, Newcastle © David Simpson 2021

2009 – The Great North Museum

The Great North Museum opens in the former Hancock Museum. It includes some features from the earlier museum but with a much more modern feel.

Infinity bridge, Stockton.
Infinity bridge, Stockton. Photo © David Simpson 2018

2009 – Infinity Bridge

The Infinity Bridge bridge opens across the River Tees at Stockton-on-Tees. It is named from its resemblance to the scientific symbol for infinity.

10 Jul 2010 – Manhunt ends

A manhunt ended with the death of the fugitive, Raoul Moat at Rothbury. Moat was released from Durham Prison on July 1 and at Birtley, two days later, shot and injured his ex-girlfriend, killing her new partner. He then shot and permanently blinded a police officer at West Denton and threatened to go on a killing spree. With 160 police officers on the case, Moat was traced to Rothbury, hiding in the countryside. After a standoff he took his own life.

2011 – Tyne Tunnel Two

A second Tyne Tunnel has opened alongside the original to improve the efficiency of traffic flow.

Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North
Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North. Photo © David Simpson 2018

2012 – ‘Northumberlandia’ : Lady of the North

The 1,300 feet long Northumberlandia or ‘Lady of the North’ sculpture is completed near Cramlington within a 44 acre park on a reclaimed opencast coal mining site.

2013 – Higgs Boson Particle proven

The existence of the Higgs Boson Particle, an important feature of theoretical physics first proposed by the Newcastle-born theoretical physicist, Peter Higgs, is proven by the Large Hadron particle collider near Geneva in Switzerland.

Norman Cornish

2014 – Norman Cornish

Former coal miner and artist Norman Cornish of Spennymoor (born 1919) has passed away leaving an extraordinary legacy of much-loved paintings featuring the life of communities in the Durham coalfield.

Keel Square. Sunderland © David Simpson 2017

2015 – Keel Square

A new square called Keel Square opens in the heart of Sunderland as a focus for a number of new cultural developments. These include the conversion of the nearby former fire station into a new hub for music, culture, drama and dance.

Steelworks pictured from Redcar beach
Steelworks pictured from Redcar beach © David Simpson 2021

12 Oct 2015 – Steelworks close

The Redcar steelworks close on Teesside with a loss of around 2,000 jobs. It brings an end to an epic era of iron and steel making on Teesside.

1 April 2016 – Tees Valley Combined Authority

The Tees Valley Combined Authority is formed, combining the local authorities of Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees, Hartlepool and Darlington under a directly elected mayor.

23 June 2016 – North East votes for EU leave

The national referendum on whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union results in a ‘leave’ vote. In the North East there is a 69.3% turnout with 562,595 voting to remain and 778,103 voting to leave.

23 June 2016 – Newcastle voted to remain

Of the 12 North East local authorities (Newcastle, Northumberland, County Durham. North Tyneside, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Darlington, Redcar & Cleveland), only the people of Newcastle upon Tyne voted to remain. The Newcastle upon Tyne vote is 65,405 in favour of staying in the European Union and 63,598 voting to leave.

8 May 2017 – Tees Valley Mayor

Conservative, Ben Houchen is elected as the first Mayor of the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

6 Sep 2017 – Farewell Mike Neville

North East regional TV mourns the loss of Mike Neville, who has been the face of North East regional news programming since 1962. Neville was a presenter for BBC Look North from 1964 to 1996 and a presenter with Tyne Tees Television from 1962-1964 and again from 1996 up until his retirement in 2005.

2 Nov 2018 – North of Tyne Authority

The North of Tyne Combined Authority is established. The combined authority covers Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and North Tyneside. A broader authority had been proposed that would have included Durham County, the City of Sunderland and the Boroughs of Gateshead and South Tyneside, but those councils were not satisfied with the plan due to concerns over funding.

The Northern Spire
The Northern Spire bridge across the River Wear during construction. Photo © 2017 David Simpson.

2018 – Northern Spire

An impressive new bridge opens in Sunderland linking Pallion on the south side to Hylton and Castletown.

2 May 2019 – North of Tyne Mayor

Middlesbrough-born Jamie Driscoll, representing the Labour and Co-operative parties is elected as the first mayor of the combined North of Tyne Authority.

12 Dec 2019 – Election throws up surprises

The General Election throws up some surprising results in some North East constituencies. Traditional Labour seats such as Blyth Valley, North West Durham and Bishop Auckland all fall to the Conservatives. Sedgefield, the constituency once held by Tony Blair, the former Labour leader and Prime Minister, also becomes Conservative.

March 2020 – Covid lockdown

The nation goes into its first lockdown in response to the Covid 19 Coronavirus pandemic.

6 May 2021 – More election shocks in the North East

Local council elections in the North East and a parliamentary by-election at Hartlepool have yet again thrown up some surprising results that seem to suggest major changes in the region’s political landscape. Despite retaining the most council members, the Labour party lost overall control of Durham County Council for the first time since 1925. The council had been the first in the country to come under Labour control back in 1919. Meanwhile, Hartlepool voted for Conservative, Jill Mortimer, as its new Member of Parliament. The constituency (and its preceding constituency ‘The Hartlepools’) had been held by Labour since 1964.

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