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Restaurant Hjem

Restaurant Hjem

Northumberland-born Ally Thompson and her partner, Swedish chef Alex Nietosvuori opened Restaurant Hjem in Wall, Northumberland in May 2019. Ally answered a few questions ahead of the North East Tourism Awards on March 24th, 2020.

Give us a bit of background about Hjem?

Alex and I took over the running of The Hadrian Pub in Wall, Northumberland in January 2019 with plans to renovate the pub’s old ‘breakfast room’ and realise our dream.

Having both worked in some amazing restaurants across Scandinavia and in London, we knew one day we wanted to open one of our own.

We wanted to create a destination restaurant, which represents us both and Hjem (meaning ‘home’ for both of us) does that – bringing together the best Northumberland produce together with Scandinavian values and cooking techniques in a really special environment.

The opening of Restaurant Hjem – a 24-cover fine dining restaurant in May 2019 – felt like such an achievement after so much hard work!

We serve a 12-course taster menu from an open kitchen. Alex loves creating new dishes working with the amazing produce which we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep.

Since opening, we have been genuinely delighted and a little bit blown away with the reception we’ve been given by diners, food critics and those across the North East’s burgeoning food scene.

Hjem’s inclusion in both the Good Food Guide 2020 and the Michelin Guide 2020 as well an amazing review from Marina O’Loughlin in the Sunday Times were all real highlights for us in 2019 and we’re really looking forward to what 2020 holds.

What does it mean to Hjem to be shortlisted for awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

We were thrilled to hear we’d been shortlisted for the NETA Awards. It’s lovely when all your hard work is recognised – towards the end of last year, we were given the Taste of the North East Award at the Living North Awards, and that felt great!

It’s always been our hope that people who travel from around the country to visit us at Hjem will make the most of their trip and explore more of what Northumberland the wider North East has to offer.

We feel very proud to be helping to fly the flag for the North East’s wonderful food scene, which is getting better and more exciting all the time.

What makes Hjem stand out from the crowd?

Hjem uses Northumbrian produce but cooked in a more Scandinavian style with lots of light dishes and flavours. Hjem’s food ethos is very much focused around using the ingredients and produce that can be found in the farms and gardens around Northumberland, cooked and prepared with Swedish techniques and principles.

We serve wines made with minimal intervention and with a real respect for the environment. Service is knowledgeable, warm yet professional.

We want visiting Hjem to be an experience and not just a meal out. A tasting menu is a great way to do this and allows Alex to showcase his cooking and the ingredients he is working with. It also means our guests don’t have to make too many decisions, which is always a bonus!

What is your favourite part of the North east and why?

My favourite part of the North East, apart from Hadrian’s Wall and the surrounding areas (too obvious) is the Northumberland coast, it’s such a beautiful part of the region and stretches so far.

I have wonderful childhood memories of school holidays spent in Beadnell, trips to the Farne Islands from Seahouses where my grandparents lived and a regular Sunday afternoon run around on Druridge Bay with my siblings and our dogs.

Alex also loves the coastline and loves reminding me that you can almost see Scandinavia if it’s a clear day (hmmm).

Are there are any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage your clients to visit?

The hidden gem that I always recommend our guests to visit if they are heading to the city is the Ouseburn (obviously not hidden to people from the region but for those visiting the North East, it’s the last thing they are expecting!).

Lovely restaurants, traditional pubs, live music, art and craft, a city farm and Seven Stories all in one place! Great for kids and adults and a place I have fond memories of, both as a Student in the region, and now as a grown up with small children to entertain. It was one of the first places I took Alex in the city and he loved it.

I also think it is an amazing example of how much our region has changed (for the better) over the last 10 years since I have been away. It was all a bit dingy when I was a teenager and now it has got so much to offer all ages!

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The Amble Inn

Chris Taylor, general manager of The Amble Inn, recently shared what makes this ‘pub with rooms’ so special, and his favourite Northumberland gems…

Tell us a bit about The Amble Inn?

We’ve just had our first anniversary and are celebrating a fantastic first year of trading as a brilliant new place for people to eat, drink, sleep and explore Northumberland. Amble is known in the media as the place to visit in Northumberland and is being tipped by many a travelista as a must-visit destination. People have long been crying out for serviced accommodation in Amble, and we’re over the moon to be filling that gap in the market – and being enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.

We’re proudly a pub with rooms. It’s all about that laid back, relaxed vibe and atmosphere you only get with a pub – that’s what we love about them! Enjoy your favourite drink, from a thirst-quenching real ale, to a winning gin and tonic or a warming mug of tea or coffee, and a stellar, home-cooked British pub dish. Then you get to stay with us in one of our lovely comfy rooms – and even bring your dog, too! Pubs are perfect.

What does it mean to the Amble Inn to be shortlisted for awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

It really is the icing on the cake of an incredible first year for us. It’s testament to our brilliant, hard-working team of staff, from front of house to everyone working hard behind the scenes in the kitchen and housekeeping who all share our great sense of pride for our inn and what we have created. It’s also a reflection of our success with our customers. We’ve gone from a brand-new unknown inn, to being in the heart of the community as a fantastic place to eat, drink, sleep and explore from. It’s a real benchmark of our quality and customer service and experience that we aim to give everyone who steps through our doors.

What makes The Amble Inn stand out from the crowd?

Although we’re a new build inn, people often comment that it feels as if we’ve been here for years! As well as investing in a superb environment that reflects Amble and the coast’s amazing heritage, with lots of quirky nicknacks and pieces, we invest in our team too, with lots of training opportunities, quality checking and opportunities to help them grow and develop their skills – whether that’s taking part in schemes like the Know Your Northumberland Ambassador Scheme or free online customer service training. We always have our eye on what the customer wants, and how we can do that the best way we possibly can. Whether that’s being dog-friendly, offering uninterrupted food service, the quality of our environment or local flavours and tastes.

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

We’re not biased but it has to be the southern gateway to the Northumberland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty here in Amble. We love the scandi-feel of Amble’s harbour village – it’s a shopper’s paradise with lots of artisan gifts and local treasures. Warkworth Castle radiates history every time you pass and is always worth a visit – and Druridge Beach is breathtaking and always quiet – whatever the time of year. It’s perfect for everyone, from families for beach games and sandcastle making, to those looking to escape for a while and take in the endless views.

Are there are any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

There are hidden gems around every corner – some of which we find out about from our customers and some we’ve discovered by becoming Northumberland Ambassadors with the Know Your Northumberland programme. One of our favourites is Amble Seafood Centre, it’s an amazing fresh fish and shellfish shop, which has an extraordinary interactive lobster hatchery that not only explains about little known lobster facts but is an important conservation project too. We love the touch tanks and there are events when young lobsters are released into the sea. We also love Warkworth Hermitage, this incredible hermitage is cut into the rock alongside the River Coquet river cliff and can only be accessed by boat.

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Angel of Corbridge

Angel of Corbridge

We spoke to Patricia Lopez, Business Development Manager at The Angel of Corbridge, about what makes the venue stand out, its recent renovations and some of Northumberland’s most beautiful sights.

Tell us a bit about the Angel of Corbridge?

The Angel is the oldest Coaching Inn in Corbridge, with accommodation consisting of ten unique bedrooms, as well as an apartment. Our rooms are all warm and comfortable, and include a full Northumbrian breakfast served with local black pudding. The main reason for visiting us is our food, which is hearty and homemade, always utilising local produce and suppliers. The bar is the heart of the Angel and it’s where our customers can enjoy plenty of local banter whilst choosing from our local ales, variety of gins or a wine from our carefully selected wine list.

What does it mean to the Angel to be shortlisted for awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

Being shortlisted for the North East England Tourism Awards in the Best Pub of the Year category represents a reward to all our efforts as a team. In the past year, we have gone through a major project, which allowed us to add 3 new rooms and expand and renovate our kitchen. The aim of this project was to improve our offer to customers, and to keep growing as a business. Being shortlisted for this award assures us that we are on the right track, and that is very gratifying.

What makes the Angel stand out from the crowd?

As already mentioned, we have recently renovated the pub, giving us a very modern kitchen with efficient and new cooking equipment, refrigeration and storage plus a healthier and temperature-controlled workplace. All of our food is homemade, from our bread up to our pastries and puddings. Extending the kitchen allows us to be more productive and to add more products into our food range.

We are also a dog-friendly pub and hotel, having two dining areas where dogs are allowed, as well as bedrooms. We also have our own car park and Fish & Chip Shop, Angelfish. The Angel is also known to be the oldest Coaching Inn within Corbridge, dating back to 1569. We have done extensive research with a local historian (and we keep doing it!), and we can tell you every owner, landlord, innkeeper and tenant from 1569 until today.

What is your favourite part of the North east and why?

The walk from Seahouses along the beach to Bamburgh is a favourite and always ends with a pork pie from the butchers in Bamburgh. The beach is so clean and beautiful and there is always a stunning view of the Farne Islands as you walk. When Bamburgh Castle appears magically as you near Bamburgh it makes you feel extremely privileged to live and work in the North East. The return walk can be quite a challenge, especially on a cold day so, perhaps a Whisky at the Ship Inn is deserved.

Are there are any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

To us, it is the beauty, magnificence and detailed history of Hexham Abbey. It is quite breath-taking, particularly on your first visit, and exceeds all expectations. Visiting on a clear dark night, gives you another perspective of its beauty.

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The Auckland Project

Hannah Bryan, The Auckland Project

We spoke to Hannah Bryan, Head of Visitor Engagement at The Auckland Project, about what makes a successful visitor attraction and where to explore in the North East.

Tell us a bit about The Auckland Project

The Auckland Project is a regeneration charity, working to create positive change for those living, working and visiting Bishop Auckland and to ensure the town’s future is as magnificent and vibrant as its past. We believe that the best way to do that is by sharing what we have, and making beautiful works of art, venues, experiences and opportunities – the things that feed people’s bodies, minds and spirit – accessible to everyone.

To do so we are creating a visitor destination in Bishop Auckland, incorporating seven sites – Auckland Tower opened in the Market Place in October 2018, following the Mining Art Gallery, in October 2017.  Bishop Trevor Gallery, a temporary exhibition space within Auckland Castle, opened in June 2019, with the Castle itself due to reopen to the public on 2 November 2019. A Faith Museum, Spanish Gallery and Walled Garden will follow in the coming years.

What makes a successful visitor attraction?

I’m a firm believer that passionate people delivering great, efficient customer service is what makes a successful visitor attraction. Though it certainly helps to have good facilities and somewhere visitors can get a cup of tea and a slice of cake. The other element is engagement with visitors, connecting them to the stories being told within our sites.

What impact does winning awards have on your business?

To win Small Visitor Attraction of the Year for Mining Art Gallery within the first 12 months of it being open was incredible and the recognition it gave to the hard work put in across the organisation was fantastic. It’s good to know you’re on the right track and motivating to keep doing what you’re doing.

It’s also a fantastic marketing opportunity to talk about the success and an ongoing seal of approval of being an award-winning attraction.

What inspires you to enter the North East England Tourism Awards?

We entered Mining Art Gallery in order to raise awareness both to potential visitors and to colleagues within the sector. Having only just opened it was important for us to use this as an opportunity for profile raising.

We also believe we have a fantastic visitor offer and an amazing team delivering it, so the chance for external recognition of this was not to be missed.

Where do you like to visit in the North East when you aren’t working?

I enjoy walking along the river into the historic heart of Durham and visiting the Cathedral, it never fails to impress. Otherwise taking a trip to Raby or Bowes out in County Durham because if I’m not at work then I’m likely to be at one of Durham’s other attractions playing the part of a visitor for once.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

I would encourage everyone to visit Locomotion in Shildon, as it’s an amazing collection there that touches so many moments within British history. I also love Escomb Saxon Church in Bishop Auckland which is one of the most complete Saxon Churches in England.

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St Cuthbert’s House

St Cuthbert's House

We spoke to Jeff and Jill Sutheran from St Cuthbert’s House about winning awards, running a B&B in a former Presbyterian Chapel and the beautiful Northumberland Coast.

Tell us a bit about St Cuthbert’s House

St Cuthbert’s House is a former Presbyterian Chapel built in 1810, it lies about half a mile from the bustling harbour of Seahouses on the Northumberland Coast. We’ve restored it to provide six lovely ensuite guest bedrooms, and the former church’s sanctuary provides a delightful dining room and guest lounge. We’ve been able to retain and incorporate lots of the original features into the restoration and the beautiful spaces help us to create a very special experience for our guests. We’ve been operating the business for 12 years and we are lucky to enjoy high occupancy rates throughout the seasons.

You’ve won numerous regional and national awards – what impact have they had on your business?

We entered our first award in the year we opened, and although we didn’t win top spot we saw how powerful they could be as a way of getting the word out about St Cuthbert’s House. Since that first experience, we’ve made the Awards a part of our marketing strategy and have had some great exposure in regional and national press as a result. We know that these prestigious awards build trust among existing and potential guests, and that they can help to build a reputation for quality. We have no doubt that they have played a part in building St Cuthbert’s House into the successful business it is today.

What inspires you to enter the North East England Tourism Awards?

We consider it very important to stay focused and ensure that we don’t take our eye off the ball or become complacent. The Awards process is one of the tools which enables us to closely examine and pay attention to every aspect of our business – and to be measured against the very best in the region. We have also grown to love the razzamatazz of an Awards night!

What do you always recommend that your visitors do in the region when they are staying with you?

Most of our guests have done some research before visiting the region, and of course, we encourage them to experience the headline or iconic venues if that’s what they want. However, we love to explain to them where they can find equally lovely experiences off the beaten track – for example, where to find peace and solitude even on the busiest summer day on Holy Island! Northumberland is such a beautiful, inspiring place and the best and most restorative experiences are often to be found in the quiet spots.

Where do you like to visit in the North East when you aren’t working?

We like to visit the places we recommend to our guests to make sure we’re always up to date! We also love to get a fix of the busy city by visiting Newcastle regularly – but only for a few hours, as we usually can’t wait to get back to the beauty of home!

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

We love to send guests off to discover the road less travelled. We always encourage them to incorporate a visit to Ford & Etal into their schedule – the Lady Waterford Hall is so beautiful and reveals such an interesting story too. Another favourite of ours is Wallington Hall, with its gorgeous walled garden.

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Durham House

Durham House

We spoke to Lesley from Durham House, a holiday let in Sedgefield, about the property, applying for the North East England Tourism Awards for the first time and her love of the area.

Tell us a bit about Durham House

We used to go away a lot with other families and we always struggled to find suitable family-friendly accommodation for a large group. When an old pub came on the market in Sedgefield we spotted an opportunity to create a holiday let which was perfect for large family gatherings or celebrations.

We took over Durham House in Winter 2016 and transformed it into a holiday let which can sleep up to 22. We managed to keep some of the original features from the pub – including a fully functioning bar! Guests can buy a keg of beer for their visit, so no more excuses for people to slope off to the nearest pub for a drink! We also have a huge dining table that can sit 22 which is perfect for large groups.

We attract a lot of large groups for weekends away – either celebrating a special occasion or just catching up with family or friends. We have a wide variety of people staying at Durham House, from families with young children through to older groups celebrating a birthday or anniversary. We are extremely flexible and can cater for any group dynamic.

Where did you hear about the North East England Tourism Awards?

We have been looking for ways to raise our profile and showcase our amazing property. Through Visit Durham, we have spoken to many other hospitality businesses in the area and heard about the North East Tourism Awards and how entering, and hopefully winning, could help us.

What has inspired you to enter the Awards?

We really want to shout about the unique offering we have at Durham House and to get validation from peers in the tourism industry would mean a lot to us.

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

I might be a bit biased, but I absolutely love Hardwick Country Park in Sedgefield. I go running around the Park every day and always think to myself how lucky I am to live close to such a beautiful place.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

There are way too many hidden gems in the North East for me to mention them all. For me, the best way to see them is to get out and explore the region – you might be surprised at how many gems that you stumble across.

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Langley Castle

Langley Castle

We spoke to Margaret Livingstone-Evans, General Manager at Langley Castle Hotel, about winning a North East England Tourism Award last year.

What does it mean to Langley Castle Hotel to be shortlisted for, and win, awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

Langley Castle is very much a delightful hidden gem, in a less-discovered part of rural Northumberland. Having the kudos of winning a North East England Tourism Award is a great boost for our business, profile and team – who are extra-motivated knowing the castle has made its mark. The award has given us much to shout about, in an ambassadorial way, as we try to lure people not just to Langley, but to our very special part of Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall Country.

The award has acted as a beacon, showing our guests and customers that a castle that is six-centuries-old can still be contemporary and stylish, while having the advantage of being unique and impossible to copy or emulate. The award recognised that we are a wholly distinctive and memorable venue, still making its mark as the only castle in Northumberland in which it is possible to stay, but also somewhere that is trying new things to excite, engage and entertain the 21st century visitor.

What impact has winning at Hotel of the Year at the North East England Tourism Awards 2018 had?

It has boosted our business considerably, adding a new element to our marketing mix and enabling us to entice various high-profile national and regional journalists and vloggers to the castle. Our year-on-year numbers are up considerably, giving us a new impetus to try to do things even more differently. With this confidence, we are launching new and exquisite woodland weddings in stunningly created glades within our glorious wooded areas on the Langley Estate and incorporating a wow-factor ‘Cathedral of Trees’. We have also managed to entice international Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts from Canada and the USA, who will be staging various events with us this year – a brand-new experience here, but wholly suitable and in keeping with our Game of Thrones events, dinners and weddings. We can’t wait for the medieval tents to be pitched!

We have created extra-special star-gazing Starry Knights experiences, involving Kielder Observatory supremo, Gary Fildes, to capitalise on our amazing dark skies. We have also boldly made New Year’s Eve 2020 available for a couple wishing to have an exclusive wedding here like no other, metaphorically pulling up the drawbridge and keeping everyone but close friends and family out, at a most atmospheric time of year and iconic date in the calendar. I also feel that the kudos of the award has enabled us to attract our high-flying new head chef, James O’Brien, who has built an incredible reputation north of the Border, but who is now nicely ensconced in Langley’s kitchen.

What makes Langley Castle Hotel stand out in a crowded market?

Langley is simply unique – that is a much-used description but in this case, it is truly apt. It is rare to be able to sleep in a true medieval, fortified hotel, but when you add seven-feet-thick walls – the feature that enables us to have our captivating window seats from which you can gaze down on the grounds like Rapunzel – it is something else, taking awe-inspiring and breathtaking up a notch on the spine-tingling gauge. Where else can you find medieval garderobes (posh loos) that are considered the best example in Europe, or a chapel on a castle’s battlements? Where else can you stay that is a venue built from stones dragged from Hadrian’s Wall? Where can you not just get on the trail of Jacobite history, but stay in a castle owned by two leading Jacobites who paid the ultimate price for their support of the exiled Stuart monarchy?

All of this provides us with unique architecture and a rich tapestry of history that enables us to offer brilliant daily Battlement Tours, whilst also appealing to an army of Game of Thrones fans worldwide, who view Langley as the perfect backdrop against which to play out their Game of Thrones fantasies. We are so lucky to have a venue like Langley in Northumberland which has stood the test of time and been relevant, exciting and appealing to generation after generation of visitor.

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

I am passionate about Northumberland, which is just a fabulous county that offers everything; amazing coastal scenery, dramatic landscape of the Cheviots, the National Park and the calm pastures of Lower Tynedale. With the rich history of places like Hexham and its Abbey, juxtaposed with new and much-talked-about features like Northumberlandia – our unique and slightly naughty Lady of the North – it holds a story waiting to be unravelled by a wide variety of visitors. I have recently become an Ambassador for Discover Our Land and Langley has also become part of the China Forum, so that we can spread the word far and wide and entice independent travellers, groups, international visitors, and even cruise liners, to drop by and uncover the wealth of things we have to do and see.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

Longstone Island boat trip is an incredible experience that can be enjoyed by anyone wishing to celebrate a female of enormous courage, endowed with an incredible passion for helping others. The trip sails out of Seahouses to visit the place where the heroic Grace Darling lived with her father. Just visiting the remote lighthouse is an experience in itself and only one boat is licensed by Trinity House to land on the island. When you actually arrive and then hear what Grace did, way back in the 19th century, to rescue those shipwrecked on the rocks, in the most violent of weather, it really makes you think about human accomplishment and bravery. As a woman, I am incredibly proud that this county has produced a role model like Grace and that people as famous as Princess Anne have recently made the trip to find out more about her.

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Seaham Hall

Seaham Hall

We spoke to Ross Grieve, Managing Director at Seaham Hall about success at last year’s Visit England Excellence Awards and what he loves about the North East.

What does it mean to Seaham Hall to be shortlisted for, and win, awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards and Visit England Awards for Excellence?

As with all awards, it is recognition to the team for delivering amazing experiences to the guests and therefore when you are shortlisted and / or hopefully win awards this is recognition for the hard work and effort that the property and the team have delivered.

What impact has winning at the Visit England Awards for Excellence had?

Although the impact is minimal from a financial perspective, it is a great marketing opportunity to shout about the success that you have had as a property.

What makes Seaham Hall stand out from the crowd?

Seaham Hall is a boutique five-star luxury hotel with a spa that is unrivalled and certainly is recognised nationally as one of the market leaders, both our facilities experience but also customer service

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

There are many aspects of the North East that I enjoy but probably particularly the coastline for its ruggedness and breath-taking views.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

Similar to above, but I would also suggest the Northumbrian coastline as well as the Durham Dales.

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Seafield Caravan Park

Seafield Caravan Park

We spoke to Carolyn Britton, Owner, Seafield Caravan Park, about success at last year’s Visit England Excellence Awards and what she loves about the North East.

What does it mean to Seafield Caravan Park to be shortlisted for, and win, awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards and Visit England Awards for Excellence?

We have won the award several times now and it means as much the last time as it did the first time we won, it is such a huge honour to win the award as showcases the hard work carried out every day at the park from all involved.

What impact has winning at the Visit England Awards for Excellence had?

Winning Silver was a fabulous achievement not just for us here at Seafield but also for Northumberland as a county, so much is seen for Yorkshire and Cornwall etc so it really does help promote the area we live in but also what we can offer tourists as a whole.

What makes Seafield Caravan Park stand out from the crowd?

Operating a caravan park takes a lot of hard work from all our team, from the owners to the part time seasonal employees. We all work as part of a team, we are now in our 4th generation of family and even have our 5th starting to help out with the laundry, at the age of 12! So many customers comment on the grass being like a cricket lawn, pride and attention to detail is given by all involved in the day to day running, we want customers to enjoy their hard earned breaks and holidays at Seafield and ensure that our holiday homes really are home from home, and making sure we go that extra mile from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave.

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

My favourite part has to be the coast here at Seahouses, Bamburgh & Beadnell, especially given the Summer we have recently experienced. The secenery is breathtaking from Bamburgh Castle to the pod of dolphins visitors have had the joy of seeing on their Farne Islands boat trips.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

We try and get our visitors to visit as many of Northumberland beaches as possible from Sugar Sands beach near Longhoughton to Ross Sands near Bamburgh.

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Sage Gateshead

Sage Gateshead

We spoke to Jessica McCabe, Acting Head of Conference and Events at Sage Gateshead about success at last year’s Visit England Excellence Awards and what she loves about the North East.

What does it mean to Sage Gateshead to be shortlisted for, and win, awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards and Visit England Awards for Excellence?

We are incredibly proud to be recognised at a regional and national level for our commitment to both leisure and business tourism, and the benefits that it brings to the region. It is testament to the hard work, passion and commitment of the whole team here, right across the organisation.

What impact has winning at the Visit England Awards for Excellence had?

It has really helped to showcase the conference and events capabilities of the venue, and demonstrates to potential clients that our services and facilities are of the highest standard. We’ve had amazing feedback and positivity around the win, from our existing client base, industry peers and when speaking with prospect customers.

What makes Sage Gateshead stand out from the crowd?

Where do I start! Of course the building, it has become a real icon for the region. The standard of facilities and technical production is of a truly global quality. But the main thing for me is the people. We have such a huge range of skills and abilities, backgrounds and expertise; from our dedicated conference team to our music colleagues. Everybody works together to create a unique experience for visitors – we will even offer graffiti workshops or steel pan music classes for delegates! It really helps us to give a unique experience to every visitor that comes through the doors and that personable touch is what we pride ourselves on.

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

My favourite part of the North East is Little Haven Beach in South Shields, particularly on a stormy day. Our coastlines are unparalleled and I think we can forget how lucky we are to have them so close. I can’t imagine living anywhere where you have to travel more than 30 minutes to get to a beach, I’m lucky and my current trip isn’t even half of that. I also love looking at the red tower on the pier – it was the inspiration for Barbour International’s logo and a real symbol of just what we can achieve here in the North East when we put our minds to it.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

I really love Jarrow Hall. It’s local to me and has an amazing café, Hive. They have great coffee and it’s naturally my social duty to buy as much cake as possible from a local independent outlet. It’s surrounded by things to do – a beautiful park and St Paul’s church and monastery ruins on one side, and Bede’s World living Anglo Saxon village on the other. It’s amazing. It helps to remind me that the North East is an ancient place with so much history.