Newcastle's Famous Bigg Market In Its Own, Launch Of A People's History Of The Bigg Market


< Back to latest

To preserve and commemorate the Bigg Market’s long and illustrious history the company behind the area’s current rejuvenation, NE1 Ltd, has commissioned a film exploring recollections of the area’s past through the eyes of those who know it best.

Bigg Market

Entitled, `A people’s history of The Bigg Market`, the film was produced by North East company, Northern Stars Production and follows the history of the Bigg Market from the late 1800s to the present day.  Using photographs, film and most importantly people's memories, the film shows how the Bigg Market has played a pivotal role in the city’s history and how it has changed over the years.


Members of the public will get the chance to see the 30- minute film at the Tyneside Cinema on the 22nd June. There will also be other screenings throughout the summer, including at NE1’s free open-air cinema, Screen on the Green.

The film had its first screening at the Tyneside Cinema on Thursday 23 May with an invited audience of guests.  Many of the attendees had contributed to the film’s production sharing their personal histories and memories of the Bigg Market.

The film comprises archive photos, illustrations, film extracts and interviews with people who have lived and worked in the Bigg Market over the years.

Among those featured are Viz creator, Simon Donald who gives an insight into the more notorious side of the Bigg Market when it was a notorious night spot and drinking haunt.  He talks about the area being a valuable source of inspiration for many of the Viz comic characters.

Funding for the film and a major contribution to the current regeneration work came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund who are keen to see the history and heritage of the Bigg Market recorded for posterity and celebrated as well as ensuring that it forms a key strand of the area’s future redevelopment.

Some key themes about the Bigg Market’s history are highlighted in the film including how it has been a space for business growth and incubation for generations.  Michael Rye of footwear specialists George Rye and Sons is recorded in the film discussing how his family business started in the Bigg Market in the 1800s and continues to this day in the North East with the sixth generation of the Rye family now working in the business.  The film also focuses on the stories of other businesses that thrived in the Bigg Market during its heyday. 

Most viewers will be familiar with the Bigg Market’s social and entertainment history, which is heavily referenced in the film.  The film focuses on the famous Balmbra’s Music Hall, which is mentioned in the Geordie anthem, The Blaydon Races and on the Winter Zoo which took up residence in the old Town Hall for several years in the early 1970s.  The zookeeper is interviewed in the film reminiscing about the zoo and its popularity with former Bigg Market residents, describing seeing a camel being taken for a walk around the area, and a panther accompanying the zookeeper for a drink at The Old George Pub.

Alex Slack, NE1 Ltd Project Manager for the Bigg Market said:
“Making the film has been a truly fascinating experience and a great source of pride for the team at NE1.  The whole motivation behind the Bigg Market’s current redevelopment is to stop the rot and try to reverse almost three decades of decline and under-investment, while preserving Newcastle’s rich history and heritage for future generations.  Sharing people’s memories and stories about the Bigg Market over the past hundred years has highlighted how important the area has been not just as a thriving place but as a place to thrive”

“The Bigg Market continues to be a great source of inspiration, in fact the song chosen as the film’s outgoing credit music is called ‘Bigg Market’ and is performed by local band, Crux.”

Alex Ayre, Lead Film Maker, Northern Stars Production:
“It was really exciting for Northern Stars to be asked on-board NE1's Bigg Market project. Our team have a successful history of producing films centred on aspects of North East heritage, and this was an area we knew very little about. Once we scratched the surface and began interviewing people with memories of the area, we quickly realised that the Bigg Market is much more than it's current reputation would have you believe! The history of the buildings and characters that have resided there over the last century, and beyond, are the main reason that the area should be preserved - and we're happy to have contributed to the wider project with this living, breathing, audio visual artefact that we have created.”

For details of all the summertime screenings of A People’s History of the Bigg Market and to view the trailer, visit:

More in latest

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Please let us know your preferences.

Please read our Cookie policy.