America on Tyneside

By Rebekah Lumsdon

The appearance of the Five Guys fast food restaurant on Northumberland Street serves as a prime example of the American influence on Tyneside, and the growing ‘Americanisation’ of the Wider World. Originating in Arlington, Virginia, the first store opened in 1986, and the Northumberland Street store is the second in the North East.[1] These stores join nearly 1500 others across the world. Not only does this show the spread of United States culture, but also brings up the question of whether these establishments can continue to be seen as inherently American; the addition of the new store joins the likes of McDonalds, KFC, Krispy Kreme and other American fast food chains that are already established on the Newcastle shopping street. As Campbell and Kean wrote, globalisation has caused culture to be “an increasingly free-floating process, less attached to specific national roots.”[2] In considering this, does the existence of the Five Guys on Tyneside give it a more global and less specific identity, or should its identity still be associated with the family run business that began in Virginia in 1986?

With its design mimicking the style of an American diner, and as the high street becomes flooded with typically American culture, the influence from across the Atlantic is slowly becoming an everyday part of the Newcastle public. Although we acknowledge that these originated from America, their convenience and prominence make consumption of American brands a daily reality for many people shopping on Northumberland street and in Newcastle City Centre.


Campbell, Neil and Kean, Alasdair, ‘Chapter 10: The Transmission of American Culture’, American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture 4th edn (London; New York: Routledge, 2016) pp. 330-364.

‘The Five Guys Story’, Five Guys <http://www.fiveguys.com/Fans/The-Five-Guys-Story&gt; Accessed 11/2/18.

[1] ‘The Five Guys Story’, Five Guys <http://www.fiveguys.com/Fans/The-Five-Guys-Story&gt; Accessed 11/2/18.

[2] Neil Campbell and Alasdair Kean, ‘Chapter 10: The Transmission of American Culture’, American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture 4th edn (London; New York: Routledge, 2016) pp. 330-364 (p. 340).

[posted on behalf of Northumbria Student]

President James ‘Jimmy’ Carter assumed the office of U.S President in January 1977, in May 1977 President Carter visited the city of Newcastle. President Carter and his wife Rosaylnn had launched ‘Friendship Force’ a program aimed at bringing people from the U.S closer to the outside World by exchanging communities. Newcastle was one of the first cities to become a part of this program. 762 U.S citizens from Atlanta  exchanged communities with the Geordies, the success of this program impressed the President as a result he wished to visit the North East.

President Carter arrived in Newcastle on May 6th 1977, and was greeted by over 20,000 locals  all amazed that the most powerful man in the World was visiting them. By the 1970’s Britain was engulfed by American culture and Newcastle was no acceptation, glamorous American musicians and actors were just as beloved in the U.K as the were in the U.S. This could offer an explanation as to why Carter received such a warm welcome as he did from the Geordies. Queen Elizabeth and Mohammed Ali also visited Tyneside in the same year as Carter, yet the two of these three high profile figures who are most remembered for there visits are the two Americans. Locals were mesmerised by Carter, famous when receiving the freedom of the city at the Civic Centre, Carter began his speech by saying “howay the lads” this was met by a see of applause The Chronicle reported ““They packed the airport. They packed the streets. They packed the area outside the Civic Centre and they opened their arms to him. And he loved it. A great smile spread across his face at the airport as he was greeted by crowds waving both the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes.” the President’s visit was over 40 years ago, we still discuss it today and thus shows Americas influence over Tyneside.


Kelly, Mike, “Former US President reveals Tyneside trip was one of the highlights of his time in office” , The Chronicle, https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/former-president-reveals-tyneside-trip-12871561 , Published 10/04/17, Accessed 08/02/18

Morton, David, “Howay the lads! When American President Jimmy Carter thrilled Newcastle” , The Chronicle, https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/history/howay-lads-american-president-jimmy-12990951 , Published 06/05/17, Accessed 09/02/18


[posted on behalf of Northumbria Student]

“I think, ‘my god what a thing to happen to a town like this …. Queen one day, King the next.'”[1]

In 1977 the people of South Shields were treated to two royal visits. First came the Queen, Elizabeth II, then came Muhammad Ali, affectionately dubbed ‘the King’ by locals at the time. Invited by Jonny Walker, owner of the local boxing club, to aid in the fund-raising efforts, Ali, quite surprisingly, accepted. Descending upon South Shields on the 16th of July he was greeted by tens of thousands of adoring Sand-Dancers (people from South Shields), many of whom were unaware of the impact that this visit would have on the town in the decades that followed.

Muhammad Ali used his superstardom to unknowingly bring together two communities in a town that had, prior to his visit, lived in separation. These were the Muslim community and the White British community. He accomplished this by getting his marriage blessed in a mosque in the Laygate area of the town. In doing so, Ali had brought the Muslim community to the forefront of the White population of South Shields’ minds. One man said of this “Not a lot of people knew about mosques. Half the town didn’t know until then. […] I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes.”[2] Using the visit of such a figure the White population of South Shields were now more aware of what, at the time, could be considered ‘the other’. It gave them an insight into the minority Muslim community. This visit ensured a united South Shields where, regardless of religion, everyone was a Sand-Dancer in each other’s eyes.


The King of South Shields. (2008). England: Bridge and Tunnel Productions.

[1] Anonymous, The King of South Shields (2008). Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N06vrxUAS1w.

[2] Anonymous, The King of South Shields (2008). Found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N06vrxUAS1w.


By Maxwell Kelly

The Animals were formed in Newcastle upon Tyne, with the members being born on Tyneside. Their hit single (and best known one) is “House of the Rising Sun”. However, what is less known is the how that song came to be The Animal’s most iconic song. Originally, it was an American folk song with its tune dating back as far as the sixteenth century.[1] The lyrics were then added to refer to New Orleans in the famous line “There is a house in New Orleans…” So how did this old American blues song become the hit single for five boys from Tyneside? Well, that would be down to the influence of American R&B, soul and jazz on lead singer Eric Burdon. This includes buying records from legendary American artists such as Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.[2] Examples of this influence of American soul music can be seen through not only “House of the Rising Sun” but also through their covers of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me” and Nina Simone’s “Don’t let me misunderstood”. What is clear here is how the distinctly American sound of the ‘60s managed to find its way to Tyneside to influence one of the most successful UK bands in the ‘60s. In fact, in Eric Burdon’s autobiography he states that at the age of 10 he remembers seeing legendary jazz musician on the TV for the first time and being inspired to play the trombone and enter the world of blues and rock and roll. Furthermore, he would later meet his influencer in 1955 whilst Armstrong toured in the UK showing just how America influenced one of Tyneside’s iconic bands of the century, who then later performed at Newcastle’s ‘Club A Go Go’.

[1] House of the Rising Sun origin, ‘www.thevintagenews.com’ Accessed at: ’ https://www.thevintagenews.com/2017/01/21/the-original-song-the-house-of-the-rising-sun-is-older-than-new-orleans/’ Accessed on 09/02/2018

[2] Eric Burdon’s influences interview, ‘http://www.ne4me.co.uk’, Accessed at: ‘http://www.ne4me.co.uk/celebrities-3/newcastle-legend-burdon-animals-147.html’. Accessed on 09/02/2018

By Carys Vickers

Shopping malls are often seen as products of the dreaded ‘Americanisation’, exporting consumerism and dampening local retail cultures with uninspiring, homogeneous structures. In contrast, Rodrigo Salcedo suggests that malls demonstrate ‘glocalisation’, mixing global capitalism with local influences.[1] The Metrocentre, in North-East England, is a clear example of this, boasting the title of largest covered shopping centre in Europe.[2] Local and national influences have further shaped the Metrocentre, separating it from its American origins.

Where most American malls are deliberately located in well-off areas, the Metrocentre was built on abandoned industrial land, serving the local working-class population.[3] Evidently, Geordie culture held an important role in the Metrocentre’s development at the expense of America’s suburban, middle-class ideals. Furthermore, owned by the Church of England until 1995, the Metrocentre maintains a full-time chaplain and holds religious services. American malls advocate comfortable inclusivity, discouraging demonstrations and gatherings; while the Metrocentre values inclusion, its approach is from a uniquely English church background.[4]

The Metrocentre also shows its local influence aesthetically. The Village shopping area invokes the atmosphere of a traditional English village with quaint shop fronts and an aged-looking clock. Until 2014, the Mediterranean Village sported Spanish style facades and an Italian car crashing through a wall. Although the mall continues to modernise, such touches show the importance of British and European culture in its design; as David Chaney has suggested, compared to American exoticism, ‘the Metrocentre displays the conventions of British understatement’.[5]

The Metrocentre successfully illustrates Salcedo’s ‘glocalisation’, combining the out-of-town mall with local culture to create something unique. Rather than a tragic consequence of Americanisation, it should be feted as a Tyneside success.



 Beckett, Andy. ‘Profile: Sir John Hall: Ruthless pursuit of a goal’. Independent. Aug 3rd 1996. <http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/profile-sir-john-hall-ruthless-pursuit-of-a-goal-1308141.html&gt; [Accessed Feb 10th 2018].

Chaney, David. ‘Subtopia in Gateshead: The MetroCentre as a Cultural Form’. Theory, Culture and Society. Vol. 7, No. 4 (Nov 1990). pp. 49-68.

Hodgson, Barbara. ‘How Gateshead’s Metrocentre was made – and why it was built on a “great big clarty field”’. Chronicle Live. Oct 29th 2016. <https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/how-gatesheads-metrocentre-made-built-12096359&gt; [Accessed Feb 10th 2018].

intu Group. ‘intu Metrocentre, Gateshead’. Accessed Feb 14th 2018. < https://www.intugroup.co.uk/en/our-centres/uk-overview/intu-metrocentre-gateshead/&gt;.

Salcedo, Rodrigo. ‘When the Global Meets the Local at the Mall’. American Behavioural Scientist. Vol. 46, No. 8 (Apr 2003). pp. 1084-1103.


[1] Rodrigo Salcedo, ‘When the Global Meets the Local at the Mall’, American Behavioural Scientist, Vol. 46, No. 8 (2003), p. 1085.

[2] ‘Intu Metrocentre, Gateshead’, intu Group, accessed Feb 14th 2018 < https://www.intugroup.co.uk/en/our-centres/uk-overview/intu-metrocentre-gateshead/&gt;.

[3] Salcedo, p. 1090.

[4] Ibid., p. 1091.

[5] David Chaney, ‘Subtopia in Gateshead: The MetroCentre as a Cultural Form’, Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 7, No. 4 (1990), p. 61.

[Posted on behalf of Ioni]

The AmericanIconsTemple site offers an array of blogs exploring Barbie as an American icon. Many highlight how she represents the American woman and how she fits into American culture both past and present. However many of the blogs look at the negative side of Barbie as an icon and how her portrayal of women is unfair and inaccurate. Focusing on the issues of body image and low self-esteem, interesting points are made about her body proportions and provocative outfits. Images have been used in some to show how Barbie would look as a real woman if her body proportions were the same, showing a less ‘perfect’ body shape.

One blog named ‘Can Barbie Win?’ offers a different perspective to many of the other American icon blogs. The blogger states that Barbie does offer diverse versions of the original doll, using a range of skin tones and different aesthetics like tattoos. Despite controversy that Barbie is an inaccurate representation of femininity, this blog states that American people are giving Barbie power by buying the products and not boycotting them. Therefore, if Barbie is seen as an unsuitable icon, people can try to change it. This is an interesting way of looking at an American icon, showing how Americans have the power to choose which figures represent their society. The blog also exclaims how Barbie will never be able to satisfy everyone and that people will always be unhappy with the diversity of the doll. Although this is a fair statement to make, perhaps further attention could have been made to what companies of influential toys like Barbie could do to improve the images they are putting across to American society.

This post is in response to, “Johnny Cash: The Incarnation of America”[1].

The blog’s main argument is that musician Johnny Cash is the ultimate American icon. The author states, “Every American can somehow identify himself with Johnny Cash.”[2] While I believe that this is true, I also think that if we change the word, ‘American’ to simply, ‘person’ it is still a very accurate statement. Most people – myself included – find it easy to make connections between their own lives and Cash’s life, whether that be due to going through monetary struggles, dealing with complex relationships – familial or romantic – or even, in some cases, addiction.

The blog also compares Cash to Elvis. While I agree that Presley was perhaps more of a staple of popular culture at the time, I think that both musicians now share the status of musical legends, especially to those of us in the Western world. The writer makes a good point about how, “Country music does not export that well in other countries.”[3] And I very much agree with this comment. I would argue, however, that Cash’s music transcends genre. Undoubtedly, most will call him a country music star, but there is a lot more to it than that. His materials often embraced staples of other musical genres such as rock and roll, folk, blues and gospel.

The blog touches on the idea that Johnny Cash embodied the ultimate American. On the face of things, he was. He was a hardworking, God-fearing patriot from rural Arkansas. Although, I think that he was representative of people in general, and not just Americans. By this, I mean that the turbulence of Cash’s life – the peaks and lows of not just his musical career, but his personal experiences – is something that we all face, and his overcoming adversity in the most unlikely of circumstances is what makes him a role model for so many people. For this reason, I would say that Johnny Cash is not simply an American icon, but a global icon.


[1] edwindutilleul, ‘Johnny Cash : The incarnation of America’, published May 8th, 2016

< https://americaniconstemeple.wordpress.com/2016/05/08/johnny-cash-the-incarnation-of-america/>

[accessed 23rd February 2017]

[2] (Ibid.)

[3] (Ibid.)