That Newcastle-Gateshead was chosen to host the Great Exhibition of the North 2018 (a Northern Powerhouse-funded festival of art, culture and design) is testament to the area’s growing status as an events destination – a status further boosted by the news that a £200m arts, leisure and conference complex will be built by the River Tyne. Less than three hours by train from London, Newcastle already has a strong portfolio of venues and good air links to European hubs such as Dublin, Paris and Berlin. Lower prices add to the appeal.

Meet

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‘I’d challenge anyone to say they’ve got a more inspiring venue than Sage Gateshead,’ says Paul Szomoru, head of business tourism at Newcastle Gateshead Convention Bureau. He has reason to be bullish; the building he’s referring to is exquisite. And versatile too: the Tyneside complex can host anything from big gigs to small conferences.

More intimate is the 800-capacity Boiler Shop, where Robert and George Stephenson built the first steam engine in 1823. ‘It screams history,’ says Szomoru. And for later? A drinks soirée at Newcastle Castle, which, according to Szomoru, can be hired from as little as £800. We’ll certainly drink to that.


Eat

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Newcastle Castle also offers private dining in partnership with The Vermont Hotel. After working up an appetite on a tour of the site, up to 40 guests can eat in the castle.

Newcastle boasts Michelin-star status thanks to the gourmet cuisine of House of Tides, though team dinners are a more realistic proposition at Blackfriars – which claims to be the oldest dining room in the UK – whose medieval banquet hall is available for private hire. For something more contemporary, try Lane7 for informal food plus bowling, crazy golf and karaoke.

Play

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Wending its way through Newcastle, the River Tyne is a source of much pride in the city: there’s even a song written about it (Fog on the Tyne, in case you’re wondering). It’s hard to think, then, of a more fitting team activity than sailing down this feted waterway on a tailored trip, which can be organised through River Escapes.

Not quite cutting it? Take the team to windswept Whitley Bay, where Cullercoats Bike & Kayak can organise anything from bike rides to stand-up paddleboarding. Alternatively, get them swinging through the trees at Go Ape in nearby Matfen.


Stay

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A glut of new hotels has been blamed for depressing room rates in Newcastle; bad news for hoteliers, but good news for anyone planning an event in the city. Notable arrivals include the 160-room Hampton by Hilton and the 251-room Crowne Plaza Stephenson Quarter, which, with nine meeting rooms – one with a capacity of 1,000 – has added to the city’s event space.

Incredibly, there are more in the pipeline, including the four-star Maldron Hotel, set to open in 2018, which suggests room rates aren’t likely to go up any time soon.


Next up, Hull, Sheffield and York.