Ignite article

The North East is facing immense challenges at a time when the region’s resolve to adapt and change appears to be slipping.

Of immediate concern is the lack of opportunities for young people, with the consequent loss of skills and hope offered through worthwhile employment and careers.

Great North Festival was created to act as a catalyst to bring together those concerned, to act against a growing tide of disillusion and despair, and to bring hope of a better future.

The aim is to celebrate the region’s traditions of innovation and celebrate inherent strengths, to raise people’s spirits and focus minds on what needs to be done to recharge the faltering efforts towards economic, social and cultural renewal.

In the 19th century great entrepreneurs such as George and Robert Stephenson, Charles Parsons, Joseph Swan and William Armstrong created the innovations and the products that the world wanted to buy from the factories of the North East.

During the second half of the 20th century the things that gave rise to a sense of pride and enterprise were lost as coalfields, steelworks and major engineering workshops vanished from the North East’s industrial landscape.

That will never return. Despite some substantial improvements over the past 25 years, particularly to the physical environment, the North East once again finds itself a peripheral geographical region.

The world has moved on. The premiums for success now lie in the knowledge, skills and ability to adapt with imagination and commitment to profound change.

But Great North Festival believes that the potential to regenerate the required actions and resolve is not beyond this region’s capabilities. It needs, however, leadership and ideas to kick the process back into life.

We have four simple overriding objectives:

Great North Festival has begun the process with a set of initiatives that we are striving to realise in the coming months.

We are, as already stated, acting as a catalyst for much-needed change. So one of the things we want to encourage is the mounting of a Great North Expo to celebrate past, existing and future innovations in the region.

There are enormous latent possibilities waiting to be exploited in sectors such as renewable energies, biotechnology, electric vehicles and through the ongoing development of emerging, sustainable technologies in the fields of printable electronics, nanotechnology and life sciences.

Creative services, too, in the advanced areas of virtual reality and animation are gaining momentum.

We have begun a series of Great North Debates on issues of vital concern to the North East.

Other projects could involve schools, colleges and the region’s universities in helping to determine the region’s future.

We know there is enthusiasm for the Great North Festival project; people have told us so. But more leadership, more participation and more commitment will be needed to turn aspiration into achievement.

Can you contribute? Do you have ideas, experience and knowledge that could make a difference?

Get involved. The adventure begins at www.greatnorthfestival.com.

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