There is life outside London

If you watched the BBC report last night about spending cuts in the UK, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the North East of England is filled with run down streets lined with boarded-up houses. It’s exactly this kind of crap that perpetuates the whole north-south divide and makes those who live in and around London believe that it’s a barren wasteland once you pass Peterborough – suddenly, the country becomes this Mad Max like post-apocalyptic mess. It’s as if no one down at the bottom end of the coutry has any idea what it’s actually like, or even knows anything exists outside of London. As an illustration, I was at an event in London recently when

The Mayor of Middlesbrough?

someone announced that they were from Peterborough ‘representing the northern contingent’. Northern? Peterborough? Oh, please.

In the report last night, Mark Easton focused on Middlesbrough and how it would be affected by spending cuts. And when they said ‘Middlesbrough’ I heard ‘Middlesbrough’, but I can imagine that a lot of people heard ‘North East’. I understand what the report was trying to highlight, but it’s impotant to remember that these reports are both audio and visual, so we heard the report – facts, figures and commentary – layered over images of Middlesbrough. Now, I don’t live in Middlesbrough, but I do have family who live there so I’ve been to some areas of it – good, affluent areas where people live in well kept homes – and yeah, it’s not the greatest city in the UK. Probably not the worst, either, but what did the BBC show us? Did they show us a balanced view of Middlesbrough? No. They showed us boarded up houses. Close-ups of rusted gates with broken hinges. Cracks in the pavement with weeds pushing between concrete slabs. The kind of images you’d be able to find in most cities in the UK, but the way the BBC showed them, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at images of Pripyat, the ghost town left in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. Oh, yeah, and we were also treated to the image of overweight people smoking, as if they were somehow representative of all the people who live in Middlesbrough. I mean, come on. Shame on you BBC. I don’t think Middlesbrough is alone in having its bad areas. If I were a resident of Middlesbrough, I reckon I’d be feeling pretty pissed off about that report.

For the record, I live in Newcastle (how many people just read ‘North’?), and we have our fair share of run down areas, but they’re not what Newcastle is all about, just as it would be unfair to suggest that London was only full of impersonal high-rises, rife with crime and poverty. But it’s this kind of crap from the BBC that perpetuates the myth and makes people afraid to venture north. Newcastle is actually a great city and, guess what? It’s in the North East. I love it here. We have shops and cars, running water (yup, it’s true), and homes without boarded windows. We have pioneering universities and we even have theatres and culture, you know.  And when friends visit from the south, they’re generally surprised that we don’t have pit heads on the horizon and chimneys belching flames and black fumes into the sky. They’re even more surprised when they see our more affluent areas, our impressive city centre architecture, our beautiful countryside and coastline. And just a little further north into Northumberland and you’re in the most sparsely populated county in England. Miles and miles of green. Imagine that. Green.

So I’m standing up now, and saying it aloud. I’m not ashamed. My name is Dan and I am from the North East.

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4 thoughts on “There is life outside London

  1. Yep, there’s an awful lot of misunderstanding and, well, downright snobbery about the north down here. I have good memories of brief sojourns in Durham, but I also continue to have nightmares of Whitley Bay (cold! COLD!).

    But Dan, sticking up for Boro? What would your Toon Army say? 😉

    • Well, it can be cold on the coast – it’s the north sea! Actually we were at the coast (Tynemouth) just a few weekends ago and it was a beautiful warm day. The sun was high, the sand was soft and the sea was . . . well, it was bloody freezing actually, but in a good way. As a matter of fact, Cockney Jerry was there, but I think he was missing the smog and grime of ‘Old Smokey’. You can take the cockney of of London, but you can’t take . . .

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