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O2 City Hall Newcastle opened as City Hall in 1927 as part of the redevelopment which also includes the City Pool. The Harrison and Harrison Organ was added in 1928, giving Newcastle its first dedicated concert venue.
For almost 40 years, the venue hosted concerts by major British orchestras featuring conductors such as Sir Malcolm Sargent and soloists as Yehudi Menuhin and Kathleen Ferrier. In addition, local choirs and societies hold their annual concerts here and there were celebrity recitals and talks as well as Civic functions.
The 60s saw the cultural explosion of pop music and the hall was soon playing host to “package tours” featuring The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Newcastle’s own Animals. Many shows featuring five or six acts such as Gerry and the Pacemakers, Gene Pitney, The Kinks and Marianne Faithful on one bill could be seen for 10/6 (52p) or less.
The venue has continued to host almost every rock and pop “great” since the 60s as well as seeing the first tours of future legends. Throughout the decades, it has maintained its position as one of the best and most-loved venues in the country and one of many artists’ favourite gigs. Bruce Springsteen rates his show in 1981 as one of his three best shows and both Dire Straits and Elton John insisted on starting world tours in the Hall.
As well as music, the venue has a tremendous reputation for comedy and has seen multiple sell out shows by the likes of Billy Connolly, Little Britain, Jimmy Carr, Al Murray, Frankie Boyle and many more.
Harrison and Harrison Organ
Essentially a Victorian development, the concert hall organ became an object of great Civic Pride in nineteenth-century England. By the end of the century many major towns and cities had been provided with large instruments.
The decision in Newcastle to build an organ of heroic proportions for its new City Hall as late as 1929 might have heralded the beginning of a new era of concert hall and organ construction.
It is clear that no expense was spared in its design and construction. It will have caused a sensation when first installed and enjoyed an initial period of glory. But the times were against it; the Second World War curtailed public entertainment, and although it was followed by a resurgence of interest the organ scene was about to change.
With the arrival of the Royal Festival Hall organ in 1954, neo-classical principals of organ building gradually came to the fore and eventually acquired such romantic organs became deeply unfashionable. By the 1960s the instrument had entered its long period of neglect. It is still a supreme example of this style of organ in its form and is entirely unaltered. This in itself makes it highly important, unique and is a historic artefact.