Becca Wilson is a research fellow in health data science at Newcastle University. Four years ago she had an episode of transverse myelitis, since which she has been working to improve disability inclusivity and equality in the academic sector.
With temperatures plummeting to -8oC recently in Newcastle, I have not been very enthusiastic about planning outdoor activities for February half-term week. However, I also don’t like to be stuck inside the house, so have been using the AccessAble app to help scout out two free-to-visit art museums in the area i) the Baltic and ii) The Biscuit Factory, that I can take my niece to when she visits.
The AccessAble guide for The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art helped me plan my trip in advance, allowing me to check logistics (accessibility, parking and toilets).The Baltic, is a riverside art museum housed in a converted flour mill. It holds a couple of contemporary exhibits, a cafe, a fine dining restaurant and an expansive gift shop. The museum runs a programme of family-friendly and also access family-friendly events, details are listed on the What’s On section of their website. I was very impressed with the accessibility facilities on offer at the museum - including the ability to pre-book wheelchairs, strollers and mobility scooters use at the venue.
One of the highlights at The Baltic is to take in the river and city views, which can be absolutely stunning on a clear day. This is possible from either the indoor viewing box on Level 5, or the outdoor viewing terrace on Level 4.
The second art gallery I visited was the Biscuit Factory - an independant gallery housed in a former biscuit factory. I wanted to check suitability in terms of access for myself, and whether it was a child-friendly gallery. It’s a short scoot from the East side of the city centre. Following an AccessAble Northumbria University route plan gets you just a few roads away from the gallery and is a pleasant stroll through the campus.
The gallery is smaller than The Baltic, with the entrance ramp bringing you into the 1st floor of the building, through the restaurant. From here there is access to the 1st floor gallery, and a lift - to take you to the ground floor gallery. The lift can fit a manual or electric wheelchair, but not a mobility scooter.
The gallery is spacious to move about in, and again I had no worries about squeezing between aisles or knocking things over! There is a wide range of art, sculpture, jewellery, furniture and more on display here for sale. It was helpful that displays are positioned at varying heights, meaning that there is plenty to look at from a wheelchair or if you are with children. The ground floor cafe has a large seating area including an outdoor terrace. It is the perfect spot to grab a cream tea, or to sample their home made ice cream.
The Artisan restaurant on the 1st floor is an atmospheric, candle-lit, fine dining spot to celebrate a special occasion or to have one of their legendary Sunday roasts!
It is easy to spend a couple of hours at each of these museums. As they both change their galleries regularly, they are both worth a return visit!