Liaisons: Bryan Barnhouse and Ellen Gray

Newcastle has been a Sister City to Little Rock since 2001.

Newcastle upon Tyne is the largest city in northeast England. It is located on the north bank of the River Tyne and in the rain shadow of the North Pennines, a range of hills running through the United Kingdom. Newcastle is one of the driest cities in the U.K. with a temperate oceanic climate. According to the ONS, the city has a population of 293,000.

History

The first recorded settlement in the area was by the Romans, who built a fort and bridge across the River Tyne. Newcastle’s name was derived from the castle built in 1080 by William the Conqueror’s eldest son, Robert Curhose. The wooden castle was rebuilt with stone in 1087 and again in 1172, with the latter still standing today, and is the oldest structure in the city. The Industrial Revolution was vital for the town’s expansion from a frontier town to an economic center. From heavy industry, the city evolved into a center for commercial services, education, and culture.

Economy

Historically, Newcastle’s economy has been built on wool in the 14th century, coal and shipbuilding in the 16th century, glassmaking in the 17th century, and paper- and book-making in the 18th century, but now rests primarily on the service and financial sectors. Mining and heavy industry has diminished across the board as banking, tourism, retail, digital technology, and education have gained in prominence.

Newcastle has been recognized for its sustainability initiatives, aiming to become a carbon-neutral city by 2050. There is collaboration between NGOs and city leaders to create sustainable urban development.

Culture

Newcastle is famously for the Geordie dialect of its residents

Newcastle has more classical buildings than any other city in the United Kingdom, and efforts to preserve this history began in 1934. The Swing Bridge, completed in 1876, is one of the greatest engineering achievements of its time. The heart of Newcastle is Grainger Town, designed by Richard Grainger and built in the mid-1800s. Stretches of Hadrian’s wall, St. Nicholas Cathedral, and the New Castle are other historical sites.

The city has a proud history of theater and opera, hosting numerous acting companies and theatres, including the Theatre Royal, first opened in 1837. Due to its early history with book-making and literature, Newcastle is home to the Literary and Philosophical Society, the largest independent library outside London (although it predates the London Library by half a century).

Both the Laing Art Gallery and Museum and the Hatton Gallery have permanent collections of paintings, and Newcastle is home to the Angel of the North, the largest sculpture in the U.K.

Museums spanning from topics such as early Roman History to natural sciences with the Sea Life Aquarium to the John G. Joicey Museum, the official archive of the United Kingdom government.

Festivals include the Newcastle Beer Festival, celebrations of Chinese New Year, the Newcastle-Gateshead Comedy Festival, International Arts Fair, and annual stops by the Hoppings, the largest traveling fair in Europe. The Great North Run, a half marathon held annually, has attracted over 57,000 runners every year.

The Newcastle United Football Club became Football League members in 1893, and are based in St. James Park Stadium, the second-largest football stadium in the U.K. and the oldest stadium in the northeast (the first football game being played more than 125 years ago). The Stadium is also used for music concerts.

Colleges and Universities

The two major universities in Newcastle are the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and Northumbria University.

The University of Newcastle upon Tyne was founded in 1937 and is one of the most successful universities in the U.K., highly regarded for its teaching and excellent research facilities.

Exchange

Although the Little Rock-Newcastle relationship was formalized in 2001, the first delegation occurred years earlier. In 1997, the head of youth services for Newcastle organized a trip for a group of 17 at-risk youth and 6 adults from Newcastle to Little Rock. He saw the fit between the personalities of the cities and the benefits of setting up cooperative exchanges. His connection to the area is attributable to the fact that his wife, who was born and raised in nearby Conway, made frequent trips to Arkansas, leading him to an appreciation of the character of the capital city. Newcastle and Little Rock were friendship cities before formalizing their relationship as Sister Cities.