Postmodern irony and retro culture?

Inner city regeneration? Or what?

Barn Again @ The Biscuit Factory

Cultural heritage gone mad

I have held back on this one a while – not wanting to hammer the NE of England too much. But here goes anyway.

An ART warehouse, brand new interior, in an old food factory in Newcastle-upon-Tyne UK. Urban regeneration meets (aspiring) European city of culture.

“30,000 square feet on two floors … Britain’s biggest original art store … It?s a fun, relaxed place to buy original contemporary art in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne. Entrance is free.”

Great. Well, maybe – some of the stuff on sale was shockingly bad (clichéed). But it IS good to have challenging art available, accessible.

The warehouse has a restaurant – relocated, once called “The Barn”, and now “The Barn Again“.

We went for lunch, on a personal recommendation from a friend (and hence my reluctance to speak out) – this is, apparently, one of the places to eat in Newcastle.

The food was mediocre. Not my interest here.

No. Imagine this, instead. Old biscuit factory turned into gallery. Now has a mezzanine, is open plan, halogen spot lights everywhere.

Behind a hessian curtain – the restaurant. Decor (deco?) – contemporary gallery fittings; 50s and 60s retro features (tat – I remember the dreadful table lamps); yellow pine tables and chairs, from when yellow pine meant KNOTTY and YELLOW (here rustic, I guess); references to a wild west theme (cattle, horses, barn dances etc). But outrageously ill-fitting. Beyond kitsch. Retro – fusion – hybrid – and no design sense. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I can’t take this anymore. Maybe it is just SO sophisticated.


Then – the proprietor (well he is definitely the one in charge) is pacing up and down. It is London docklands, about 1988. As if fresh from commodity dealing, he wears a dark, buttoned up, pinstripe suit. And he has the attitude of Grant or Phil from Eastenders. In front of diners and with an outrageously affected local accent he tears a strip off a miserable waiter for being late. Boasts of telling a diner the night before – “you don’t like the food? – stick to your crappy business and I’ll stick to mine”.

Basil Fawlty turned Geordie entrepreneur.


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