The Get Carter car park is soon to be no more. It’s been a long time coming, but this week the concrete-eating machines began feasting on the decrepit monstrosity – the iconic Brutalist monument hunched on the prow of the hill overlooking the Tyne. About the only thing going for it were its starring role in Get Carter and its spectacular views of the area.
The film is about a gangster, Jack Carter, out to avenge his brother’s death. Shot in Newcastle and Gateshead in 1970, it offers a bleak portrayal of the crumbling post-industrial wasteland of the North East of England with its coal slag, derelict tenements and nicotine stained pubs.
In the film, Jack Carter (Michael Caine) throws Cliff Brumby (Bryan Mosley) from the top of the now infamous car park.
I have walked past it everyday on my way to work for the last 10 years, and I’m going to miss it. It was scruffy and ugly, but it had character.
I first visited Newcastle way back in 1988 when auditioning for a place on the jazz and commercial music graduate diploma course (as it was then) at Newcastle College. I stayed overnight in a dingy B & B in the city centre, all dirty browns and rusty reds and flock wallpaper. I had a 3 bed room all to myself, no en suite, just a sink in the corner. The gas heater died on me, so I sat on the floor feeding my last few coins into the meter, listening to the Dark Side of the Moon on my walkman.
I moved here a year later and holed up in the west end of the city. There were riots just up the road, and the quayside looked more or less as it does in Get Carter. Vast empty warehouses, mouldering buildings being reclaimed by nature. Having grown up in the relatively affluent south, I had never seen so many shuttered shops, boarded up homes and hard men walking naked down the middle of the street, weapons cocked. (Ok, that last one only happened in the film – possibly.)
Over the years I’ve watched Tyneside transform around me, from neglected industry to vibrant creativity and scientific innovation. So maybe it’s time for the old ugly thing to be torn down. It feeds into the perception of the ‘grim north’ which is at least 30 years out of date. Besides, you can still indulge your Get Carter fantasies by running along the High Level Bridge pretending to be a gangster, weapon cocked..