Artist creates Sunderland and Newcastle football kit mash-up inspired by The New Monkey nightclub

One of Sunderland’s most notorious nightclubs and long-standing sporting rivalries is the inspiration behind a football strip created by a student textile designer.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

While The New Monkey nightclub caused controversy for nearby residents and authorities alike in the late 1990s, artist Phoebe Gamblin has used its colourful past to create a combined SAFC and NUFC kit for her degree course at the prestigious Chelsea College of Arts, in London.

Merging the red and white of Sunderland with the black and white of Newcastle United may have loyal fans choking on their half-time Bovril, but there is more to Phoebe’s work than challenging that traditional derby rivalry.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While the infamous nightclub, based in the former Plazo Bingo Hall New in Pallion, was regularly raided by the police in the late 90s and early 2000s, it was the way the venue brought together rival fans through their love of music that captured the artist’s imagination.

Read More
Tale of Two Monkeys: Trailer released for new film telling story of how New Monk...

She said: “Sunderland and Newcastle fans may have been rivals in football, but they mixed happily at The New Monkey.

“The reasons behind that togetherness were among the themes of my designs. Sunderland and Newcastle fans may be divided on their teams, but they have far more in common than they, at times, would care to admit.

“The themes that inspired my work were: Working-class life, Thatcherism - and its resultant neglect of the North - patriotism, northern pride, escapism, unity and obviously football.

Student artist Phoebe Gamblin poses next to her away kit design.Student artist Phoebe Gamblin poses next to her away kit design.
Student artist Phoebe Gamblin poses next to her away kit design.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“The main focus of the project was an exploration into North East pride, asking things like where does it come from and why is it so strong?

“Historical neglect led young people in the North East needing a means to escape, which then led to their livelihoods and passions stemming from football and music.”

As part of her research, the 23-year-old spoke to former New Monkey clubbers, DJs and music experts to get their views to help inspire her designs. They told her how football fans put aside their sporting differences to celebrate their shared interest in dance music, in particular, the club’s Makina music scene.

Phoebe said: “For my dissertation I spoke with DJ Rush who used to work at The New Monkey and I interviewed clubbers who used to attend the venue back in the day.

Phoebe's friends model the home kit.Phoebe's friends model the home kit.
Phoebe's friends model the home kit.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I also got into contact with Sandy Duff who is a part of the CoMusica team at The Sage Gateshead and has extensive knowledge of the Makina music scene and The New Monkey club.

“The MC depicted on the back of the shirt is MC Turbo-D who was very popular at the club.”

The findings helped inform the images on her designs. Using old photographs of ravers taken inside the club during its short-lived heyday as inspiration, Phoebe designed her strip incorporating the colours of both teams and images associated with the venue and the football clubs.

And it’s a far cry from the basic stripes used by both clubs. Historically, the most famous Tyne-Wear derby strip creation is probably the half black and white/half red and white top sported by then-England and Southampton star Kevin Keegan, who donned the top to complete the first Great North Run in 1981 (though Keegan went on to blot his copybook with Sunderland fans by playing for and managing Newcastle). Phoebe’s creation, however, is a more colourful and intricate production incorporating elaborate graphics and lace finishes, though whether footballers would actually wear the strip is open to discussion.

Student artist Phoebe Gamblin next to her home kit design.Student artist Phoebe Gamblin next to her home kit design.
Student artist Phoebe Gamblin next to her home kit design.
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Phoebe added: “This project was about collecting the symbols associated with the North East, translating them into textiles and creating my own football kits that emulate the culture and show off why being a working-class Northerner is something to be proud of.

“My lace patterns on the strip I created from my drawings of North East symbols. These included the Newcastle seahorse, Sunderland’s lion, MCs, stars, and the ‘thumbs up’ hand gesture which featured a lot in the New Monkey Club photographs I collected.

“The Newcastle Brown Ale star is seen everywhere in Newcastle and had been a favourite sponsor for many years, even to the point that there is a petition to have their logo put back onto the Newcastle strip. Therefore I found it very important to include this iconic Northern symbol into my football kits.

“The music is still very much alive and a part of lots of people’s lives. There are Makina events still happening in the North East, you just need to go and find them.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The finished home and away strip project, called Rough as Owt (wording that features prominently on the kits), was part of the university’s final exhibition and helped earn the student a 2.1 in her BA Honours degree in Textile Design.

Phoebe's friends model the away kit she designed.Phoebe's friends model the away kit she designed.
Phoebe's friends model the away kit she designed.

The now defunct New Monkey operated between 1999 and 2006 and received nationwide notoriety due to long-standing disputes with local residents over drug use and antisocial behaviour. The club was eventually closed down following a police raid leading to prosecution of the club owners. A documentary featuring the club was made by students in 2019 and an edited version can be seen here.

Phoebe, who lives in North Tyneside, says her imaginative football strip will form an integral part of her art portfolio as she tries to pursue a career in fashion. She has already dipped her toes into the industry by creating her own designs and products under her own Gambo branding.

You can view the strip and more of Phoebe’s designs on her Instagram account at

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

What do you think of Phoebe’s designs? Would you wear one? Let us know your thoughts on her work, the whole issue of football rivalry and what, to you, constitutes Northern pride? Write to us here at [email protected]