Northern Agenda hosts first in-person event looking at future of region

Less than a year after first launching, a newsletter which aims to stand up for the North of England held its first ever in-person conference.

Among those attending the event run by the Northern Agenda was the Levelling Up Minister Neil O’Brien, and the Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy.

Lisa Nandy speaks at the Northern Agenda Live

The event, held at the offices of ChronicleLive in Newcastle, was broadcast online and held in front of a small, invited audience. Panels were chaired by journalists from across the North of England.

The Northern Agenda newsletter, which is supported by Reach’s titles across the North of England, followed up the event with a special ‘Sunday Supplement’ edition of the newsletter.

Neil O’Brien speaks at the Northern Agenda Live

Rob Parsons, editor of the Northern Agenda, said: “If there was one theme that ran throughout, it was the sense that the North has the ambition, the skills and the passion to succeed, if only it was given the tools to do it by an over-controlling central government.”

The conference also featured four panel discussions on the big issues facing the North, where some of the region’s leading experts set out how the North-South divide could be bridged.

The first debate, chaired by Helena Vesty of the Manchester Evening News, asked if the North can thrive if it is poor and unhealthy. Speakers included Professor Clare Bambra of Newcastle University, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness, Amanda Bailey of the North East Child Poverty Commission and John McCabe of the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

Next up was a debate on whether the North can — and should — speak with one voice. A diverse panel featured Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of the North of Tyne, Martin Tugwell, Chief Executive at Transport for the North, Katy Shaw, Director of Cultural Partnerships at Northumbria University and Jonathan Webb of think-tank IPPR North.

Anne Longfield in conversation with Graeme Whitfield

Anne Longfield, who chairs the Commission on Young Lives and for six years was Children’s Commissioner for England, was next.

She set out in conversation with Newcastle Journal Editor Graeme Whitfield how the North-South divide on educational attainment has got worse, rather than better in recent years thanks to the pandemic.

In the third panel event Graeme was joined by Chi Onwurah, Newcastle Central MP and Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, Matt Boyle of the North East Automotive Alliance and Tom Nightingale, North East Stakeholder Manager for energy firm Equinor, to debate how the North can lead the green agenda.

In the final panel session of the day, Westminster Editor Dan O’Donoghue was joined by Anne Longfield, chair of the Commission on Young Lives, Henri Murison of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Ellen Thinnesen of Education Partnership North East and Debra de Muschamp, executive head of the the North East-based IRIS Learning Trust.

If you want another way to catch up on the action in a bite-sized 24-minute listen, check out the episode of The Northern Agenda podcast with highlights from all the panels and speeches.

The Northern Agenda is delivered daily to over 10,000 subscribers across the North of England.

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>> See the series so far, here

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