Background to GNF

The Great North Festival Company GNF) is a charity (No. 1151529) with two main aims:

to promote sustainable development by celebrating innovation.

to promote sustainable development and educate the public – especially young people who are 25 and under – by organizing lectures, debates and discussion about the future of the North East.

The original idea was floated in a letter sent by David Goodacre in September 2011. These are extracts:

‘In 1887 Newcastle organized the Royal Mining, Engineering and Industrial Exhibition to demonstrate the city’s achievements. Earlier in 1863, the annual meeting of the British Association William Armstrong, the great North Eastern entrepreneur as the year’s president, spoke to the assembly about the history of industrial development, especially in the North East. (see above) Each in its way was a showcase of all that the North East was contributing to the country. I would like to propose that we need a similar event and exhibition today, to be effective something on the scale of Michael Heseltines’s National Garden Festival.

Some 50 years ago I worked in Birtley. Conversation with people was often about the glories of the past. My attention was constantly drawn to the Jarrow March, even then in 1963, some 30 years before. It used to depress me. People were not looking to the future, not even recalling the great achievements of the past, heavy engineering, ship building, the invention of the railways. They were bemoaning the lack of help.

The reality today is that the North East is perceived in London to be a distant and isolated urban centre somewhere on the road to Edinburgh. Oddly it is almost as if Edinburgh is perceived as nearer. We now face the prospect that Scotland might opt for independence, which it if does, will make the North East even more on the periphery. The Coalition, so Andrew Rawnsley revealed in a recent article in the Observer (June 26, 2011, p59) funds the North East at a significantly lower level than it does Scotland. Already our economy is alarmingly dependent on the public sector, which as we know is not popular with the current government – what are we to do?

Unless the North East takes action for itself, we will never properly recover. We need to recover a new spirit. We need a new readiness to encourage entrepreneurs, to explore new ideas, to demonstrate to the rest of the country that England needs the North East.

A start would be to take an idea from William Armstrong and hold a major exhibition or festival to demonstrate what the North East does, what it does now, and what it can do in the future.’

Since our year of debates and events in 2013 (See our report on the website, ‘Preparing for an Expo’), we have been promoting the idea in a series of newsletters.  Three have now been published (June 2015) and are available from GNF.  Go to the ‘Contact us’ page and send us an email.

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Newsletter 11

August 14, 2017

As a preparation for the Great Exhibition of the North, GNF invited three speakers to  its May AGM  to talk about the North East and its future: Read more Read More