In the spirit of multiculturalism and solidarity among the human race in which all good hopeful civilisation rests, Newcastle University Student’s Union (through the work of Activities Officer Sophie Mcdermott) has decided to put on a grand show of culture and education to take place over the next couple of weeks.
The International festival of culture will host a variety of different activities, workshops, talks, evenings and gatherings, ranging from Japanese Calligraphy Lessons and food-tasting to Jazz nights and guest speakers. While the first event was technically a guided tour around the Great North Museum (something which I as a classicist especially appreciate), events were truly and ceremoniously kicked off on Monday 4th, with a guest talk and evening featuring one of Newcastle liveliest and most recognisable characters, Tom Caulker.
Tom has worked prodigiously throughout the years in the name of multiculturalism and diversity to bring real change to the city of Newcastle, something which was brilliantly reflected in the words he gave on the night.
Imagine a Newcastle where there was almost no diversity, no wider cultural recognition, and just a whole lot of racism. This is the city in which Tom grew up in. That is why when he spoke first about once bringing a small pub not too far away from St James’ Park and Castle Leazes into one of the most distinctive pubs in Newcastle, it is not too impossible to believe that people once used to know Tom by the name as Tommy Trent.
Tom has worked prodigiously throughout the years in the name of multiculturalism
From then on his business moved onto higher and higher popularity, and from there he was able to establish possibly the most iconic club in Newcastle for the past 30 years – World Headquarters. Tom wanted a club which represented people who had no representation, to be a place of safety for those who encountered insecurity and danger on an everyday basis, and to celebrate cultures which weren’t permitted to see the light of day in the presence of racists and xenophobes. After the tremendous success of WHQ, and after the general normalisation of multiculturalism and diversity in society as a whole, Tom was given the opportunity to work on significant projects with the council to improve the accessibility of Newcastle, shaping it into the city-form that we see it today.
And even after all of this, Tom managed to continue to enterprise his way into setting up one of the most popular and fast-growing institutions in Newcastle today, Wylam Brewery.
Tom is a quietly spoken, humble and unobtrusive man, someone who says himself that public speaking is simply not his forte, something that is still the case even after receiving his honorary doctorate. But when speaking to him as I did after, it is hard not to think that this is someone deserving to kick off what the Students Union has labelled the festival of culture.
We have to celebrate multiculturalism and diversity in the present, but we also have to remember those who allowed us to be able to speak about and celebrate such things in the first place.