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Legend of the Art World Hosts an Audience for Newcastle Lit & Phil

Andrew Graham-Dixon, one of the leading art critics and presenters of arts television in the English-speaking world, will host a special lecture on August 5 to help raise funds for Newcastle’s oldest library, the Lit & Phil. 

‘Paintings to see before you die’ is the ultimate bucket list for art-lovers, a definitive guide to the must-see pieces to seek out in your lifetime. It will feature some of the world’s most celebrated, influential and iconic artworks including pictures by Manet, Géricaultand Constable. Graham-Dixon will describe why they are so meaningful to him personally and introduce the audience to the principles and practice of art appreciation. 

Graham-Dixon is an art historian and broadcaster of high acclaim and has presented numerous landmark series on art for the BBC and other independents including Italy Unpacked (2013-15) and Secrets of the Mona Lisa (2015). He has a long history of public service in the field of the visual arts and is currently a member of the board of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead.  

Graham-Dixon is a longstanding friend and supporter of Newcastle’s Lit & Phil and is hosting the event to help raise funds for the historic library after a turbulent year, and to signal the start of the library’s reopening celebrations in September.

Established in 1793 The Literary & Philosophical Society (or Lit & Phil for short) on Westgate Road, just yards from Central Station, is the largest independent library outside London with a collection of nearly 200,000 books. It is one of the city’s best kept secrets. The Lit & Phil was the birthplace of the city’s universities and a hub of enlightenment for 19th century industrial pioneers. For over 200 years ideas have been exchanged here that changed the world. Joseph Swan made it the first public building in the world to be lit by electric light in 1879 and in 1815 Robert Stephenson’s father, George, demonstrated his life-saving miners’ safety lamp to the Society. Before the pandemic it had evolved to become one of Newcastle’s busiest cultural venues, but like so many in the sector, has suffered financially over the past 16 months.

Graham-Dixon said: “I am a huge admirer of The Lit & Phil and the important work they do.  They are a rare cultural gem in the North East and in the UK, and a major advocate of the fine arts.  I always enjoy hosting events with them and look forward to renewing our partnership all the stronger in this culturally-hungry post-covid world.”

Kay Easson, Librarian, said: “Andrew’s art knowledge is unsurpassed, and he is a hugely charismatic and entertaining speaker.  He has long been a friend of the Society and his events always sell out immediately. By doing this latest one virtually, we are able to reach a much larger audience, and distance will be no object.  This will be very important for the members we have internationally including many in North America.

“Tickets are already selling fast and we hope this will be the first of a series of new ventures together with Andrew

The event will take place on Thursday 5 August at 6pm, via Zoom.  Tickets can be purchased via the Lit & Phil website: www.litandphil.org.uk

The event will be the first in a programme to mark the official full reopening of the Lit & Phil, which will also include a VIP reopening party in September hosted by its current President the presenter, comedian and actor Alexander Armstrong.

The Lit & Phil is now open again to everyone, not just members. A genuine ‘hidden gem’ of the city, it is open 6 days a week and anyone is welcome to walk in, browse the historic, as well as contemporary, tomes and enjoy a coffee, or just lose themselves for a few hours amid the exquisite and intimate Georgian architecture. 

There are lots of ways to support the Lit & Phil and help ensure this beautiful and important Library continues to inspire minds, stimulate imaginations and confer a wealth of knowledge to young and old alike for years to come – whether by becoming a Member, sponsoring a book or simply making a donation. Visit www.litandphil.org.uk/about-us/support-us/ for details.