A North East academic has received levelling up funding to help bring jobs and greater economic and community activity to Gateshead town centre.

Dr Rebecca Prescott, from Northumbria’s Newcastle Business School and Dr Alexander Wilson, Lecturer in Urban Planning at Newcastle University, will use the £165,000 from Gateshead Council’s levelling up fund on a research project called Flourish.

The project will build on a 10-year collaboration between Northumbria and Newcastle universities, the National Trust, Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust and Gateshead Council. It will also feed into a wider regeneration and revitalisation initiative, the Tyne Derwent Way a 9-mile outdoor trail connecting the centre of Gateshead with the Derwent Valley.

Flourish aims to promote a more dynamic and inclusive creative and cultural environment in Gateshead. The research will include a broad range of subjects and methods from, ecosystem mapping to urban planning. Researchers will work with a stakeholder group of artists, local businesses and other cultural sector entrepreneurs to understand the challenges, opportunities and infrastructures they need to help create a flourishing and prosperous town centre. These stakeholders will also receive bursaries.

What else is happening in Gateshead?

Dr Prescott said: “Flourish is about getting buy-in from the grassroots, engaging with artists, cultural practitioners and other local entrepreneurs in Gateshead to understand what support they need to set up their businesses and enterprises.

"Bringing the creative community into regeneration like this can be complex and requires involving a diverse mix of practitioners in participatory decision-making and grant-making to fully understand what support and infrastructure they need to establish viable and sustainable businesses. Previous experience shows this doesn’t always happen – it really needs significant and sustained co-investment and energy.

“Over the next year, our research will also draw on the findings of previous studies and we will work on knowledge-sharing activities with Creative Cultural Zones around the UK where there are good examples of creative businesses finding permanent affordable places to work and are supported to start up and grow.”

The Northern Echo: Researchers investigating potential premises in GatesheadResearchers investigating potential premises in Gateshead (Image: Northumbria University)

Dr Prescott said: “What we want to see in terms of impact from this research is greater activity in the town centre, increased footfall and dwell time – those markers that say an area is vibrant and thriving. Creative and cultural enterprises are a vital part of the wider development of the south side of the Tyne with the new Sage Arena and International Conference Centre earmarked for completion in 2027.

“Getting Flourish right will help a whole range of creative and cultural practitioners – from local artists and architects to fashion designers and all sectors in between. Its economic and cultural impact will also significantly benefit the wider communities of Gateshead.”