Tying the Knot
25 Jul 2022
Every year sees more couples choosing Baltic as the venue for their special day.
David Whetstone talks to some of the people who tied the knot at Gateshead’s centre for contemporary art.
Most people know that Baltic is a place where you can see art. Fewer probably realise you can get married there.
Of course, the choice of wedding venue these days ranges far wider than church, chapel or register office.
But there are couples who couldn’t be happier that, when it came to one of life’s big decisions, they chose a former flour mill that for 20 years has been a showcase for contemporary art.
Take Heather Deacon and Robyn Creighton, for example.
The couple, now living in Heaton, Newcastle, got married at Baltic on October 20, 2019.
“It’s a place that’s important to both of us,” explains Heather.
“It’s been a bit of a focal point and it just felt the right place for us to get married.”
Both women moved to the North-East from down south because of work.
“When I first moved up here in 1998 Baltic was just empty,” says Robyn.
“It was waiting to have something done with it and then the Anish Kapoor sculpture (Taratantara) appeared on the inside and that kind of blew me away. I remember being quite mesmerised by it.
“Both Heather and I like art. We look at art a lot. We were both impressed by Baltic and Anish Kapoor before we even knew one another.”
Heather moved to the region in 2012 after commuting for several years from Sussex.
“When I got here Baltic was the first place I went to. It was just such a calming space.”
Robyn says: “I think the thing for me about Baltic is that it exhibits big things, bold things. I adore Antony Gormley. I love the scale of his work.”
The women first met at the Laing Art Gallery but when it came to deciding on a wedding venue, the sheer scale of Baltic won the day.
Well, that and the food in Six, its famous top floor restaurant.
“We didn’t know we could actually have the ceremony there,” says Heather.
“We are both avid foodies and the food at Six was what we wanted. We went to Baltic to talk to them about hosting the food element of the wedding but then they said, ‘You can get married here’.”
Once they had established that the ceremony could take place in the restaurant, the deal was done.
Heather recalls: “We had a registrar come to do the ceremony but then Baltic took over the handling of the food and other arrangements.
“We stayed on the top floor but our guests did explore the building. It was a Sunday and people were there from about 11.30am to 7.30pm. We had a meal and wine and speeches but no dancing because neither of us wanted that.”
Among the 70 guests were people from as far away as Eastbourne, London and Cambridge. Others came down from Scotland.
“What’s lovely for us is that people had a really lovely time and still talk about it,” says Heather.
“There are few better buildings. It has art and spectacular views. What a great way to see the city.”
“Another thing that swung it for us was that we knew it would be dramatic whatever the weather,” says Robyn.
“We didn’t want to add pressure by making it weather dependent and even on a very stormy day we knew it would still be incredible.
“We had a bit of rain and a bit of sun but even as the light fades the view remains spectacular.”
Kathryn Goodfellow and Stephen Foggin, who live in Whitley Bay, tied the knot at Baltic on May 22, 2016… and in a rather nice way it has tied them to the building.
“We used to go back and take pictures every year at this spot in front of the ‘rusty’ wall,” says Kathryn, now the mother of two little girls, Astrid, aged five, and Orla, two.
“We had a photo from when we were dating there and then we had one on our wedding day and then on the first anniversary of our wedding when I was heavily pregnant with Astrid.
“Then we went back when it was her first birthday. We used to do that frequently.”
Kathryn, who combines parenting with studying for a master’s degree in psychology and working part time for a charity, remembers a wedding fair at Baltic when she was dating.
“I dragged Stephen round and got the idea then.
“We met in Newcastle and we’re just really proud of where we live, the North-East. Stephen grew up in Gosforth, I grew up in Teesside but came to university here and never left.
“We didn’t want a conventional wedding. We’re not churchgoers and we wanted a humanist ceremony.
“The legal part of the wedding took place the day before when we spoke 11 words to each other. It was just a bit of admin to us. Our real wedding day was on the 22nd at Baltic.
“We had a humanist celebrant come toBaltic and had the ceremony at 3pm in the riverside terrace followed by a drinks reception on Level 1.
“But as you come out of the lift there’s a cinema room and they said we could do anything we wanted with that. So we put on a slide show of photos of when we were little.
“We’re the same age so there was one of him on a donkey, one of me on a donkey; him in the bath, me in the bath. Bit cringy but also quite sweet, really.
“We had music by The Cornshed Sisters, because they’re my mates, and 70 or 80 guests.”
Kathryn says neither she nor Stephen, a Gateshead Council manager, regrets the decision to have a Baltic wedding.
“It was brilliant. We got married on a Sunday, so it was quiet; and what was lovely was that some members of Stephen’s family, from South Tyneside, hadn’t been to the Quayside since it was developed and remembered it as a working area.
“Also, quite a lot of my friends from university hadn’t been back for 10 years or whatever.”
Kathryn says she and Stephen were engaged for only 100 days.
“We just wanted to get married but didn’t want any bells and whistles or sugared almonds or stuff.
“I ordered my dress online from America. I didn’t want to look like I was a bride because that seems like fancy dress.
“The only thing I wanted at my wedding, my only request, was to walk in to Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero. Me and my dad ran the Great North Run a few times together and it’s my Geordie anthem.
“We also sang When I’m Sixty-Four and Bring Me Sunshine.”
A good time was had by all. “And,” concludes Kathryn, “you just can’t beat that view.”