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If Carlsberg did conferences

14 July 2017
If Carlsberg did conferences
14 July 2017
Helen Furnivall
I expected the People’s Powerhouse event to be good – I just didn’t expect it be that good. I’ve done my fair share of conferences and events but I’ve never been to anything quite like the event in Doncaster on Wednesday. The goodwill, enthusiasm, positivity and ambition to do things differently and for the North to forge its own future – without waiting for Westminster to determine what the Northern Powerhouse’s priorities should be - was something else.

In a day of stand out moments I had a fair few. From seeing more and more chairs being brought up in the lifts due to the event's popularity, through to the great privilege of hearing Dame Louise Casey’s moving reflections on her career in the civil service which led to a standing ovation at the end of the day.

On a personal note, I’m not sure I’ve interviewed so many well known names in one day – Andy Burnham, Lord Victor Adebowale, Peter Holbrook, Jo Miller, Fay Selvan.…! But even better than that everyone was so up for it, full of fun and really enjoying the day. As IPPR North’s Ed Cox remarked: “The lack of cynicism is what has struck home today. It’s been a really wonderful atmosphere.”

Like everyone else I was blown away by Charlie Lisle and her funny and moving account of how she hadn’t allowed herself to be held back by other people’s misconceptions of what she was capable of. And it was clear Charlie in turn was taken back by the impact she had on everyone else at the People’s Powerhouse conference. As she told me: “One of the big things I’ll be taking away from today is the power of words. I spoke for five minutes in the morning and I’ve had people stopping me all day. I didn’t expect to have so much impact.”

The challenge now of course is to turn those words, all the discussion, debate and enthusiasm into action and real change that makes lives better for people and communities in the North. A new collaborative web platform has already been launched www.peoplespowerhouse.org.uk, but that’s just the start.

Already more and more organisations are coming onboard and asking how they can get involved. Jo Miller and Tracy Fishwick are wonder women who have created something special by getting the right people in the room to achieve real change. And as Jo said in her parting words: “The real work starts now.”


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