As I zoomed up the M1 my mind was on the coming weekend. I was going to the Traverse Bloggers Conference in Newcastle and hoping for an enjoyable and informative time. Musing on the rapid changes seen in the world of travel blogging, social media and life in general and sort of on auto-pilot, suddenly there it was, on the right. High above the A1, looming over the whizzing cars and city architecture, gazing sightlessly towards the south stood the Angel of the North
The Angel of the North in Gateshead is one of the major artworks in Britain that can truly claim that over-used adjective ‘iconic’. We have taken it/him/her to our hearts, becoming a symbol of the north, especially the north east, embracing all-comers with outstretched ‘wings’ of weathering steel. Created by world-famous sculptor Anthony Gormley, the angel was officially born in February 1998. When asked, “Why an angel?” he said, “The only response I can give is that no-one has ever seen one, and we need to keep imagining them.”
Last year I paid homage to the angel on my way to Morpeth in Northumberland. It was raining and the journey across from Lancashire had been miserable – wind screen wipers sloshing through the wet, being sprayed by indifferent lorries and concentrating hard. Then, just as the A1 signs hove into view through the mist, I saw the angel. And a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and its rusty red form was lit up in glorious splendour. I had to stop.
Approaching Britain’s largest sculpture is comfortingly down-to-earth. There’s a small car park opposite a dual carriageway lined with suburban houses. Walk across a bit of grass and you come upon it from the side. There was a group of school kids roaring about, laughing and shouting, with many people getting the right angle for their perfect photo. Others were simply gazing out towards the Cheviots. Everyone looked happy; the Angel of the North seemed to bring out the child in all who looked at it.
Taking a photo from far off, its immense size became apparent – people seemed Lilliputian in comparison to the angelic Gulliver. Going up close I could see the massive ribbed form as an art work in its own right. Some children had gathered beneath it wings and a couple of girls posed for a photo, arms around each other and giggling.
The sun continued to struggle through the rain clouds for a few minutes more, then, in a moment, it was gone. A few drops of rain splattered down and suddenly everyone was running back to their vehicles. As I got into my car I took one last look; the quirkilicious Angel of the North continued staring out, impervious to the wet, forever welcoming and powerful in its metallic glory …