This is The North

This is The North: Why I’m proud to live in the North

This week I attended the This is The North convention. Organised by social movement People’s Powerhouse, the day focused on how the people of the North can have more say on what happens here. It was a great space to meet other people with innovative ideas on how to improve the North for all of us.

As a young person who has lived in Manchester for several years, first as a student and now working in the city, I was excited to see what the conference would bring. I was excited to use the convention to get the most out of what the North means to me.

People’s Powerhouse give a platform to social, economic, and democratic justice initiatives and ideas across the North.

Introduction to the day

The day started with a welcome talk from the Chair of People’s Powerhouse, Edna Robinson. She challenged us all to step outside out of our comfort zone and engage in as much of the day as we could. 

Following this, there was a panel consisting of Nazir Afzal OBE, Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor, and Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester. Andy Burnham turned up late and Jamie Driscoll attended via zoom. So it’s not surprising that the first topic spoken about was the state of the north’s transport! This led on to us all questioning what the North stands for. The panel underlined that they are not giving up the fight to have more power in the North, we are just yet to see great success in our efforts. 

Edna Robinson, IPPR Zoe Billingham, Nazir Azal OBE and Andy Burnham

Workshops and discussions

We then split off to attend different workshops. My first being how to support grassroot groups making social change led by the non-profit organisation The Social Change Nest. We discussed how grants and funding need to be easier to access for groups that rely on government support. It opened my eyes to the different non-profit groups and charities that exist and work so effortlessly to help others. 

The next workshop I went to was led by a member of Equity, a union supporting and advising people on workplace issues. This was around collective voice and how we can each use unions. Particularly for young people who may work in the gig economy. Many in this industry are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, so are taking up extra work to survive. This really widened my knowledge around how unions can help people. They need to be strengthened so that everyone is aware of the support they can provide.

Questioning the panel of Northern Mayors

After the lunch break, there was another panel formed of many Mayors from the North. This consisted of Oliver Coppard from South Yorkshire, Steve Rotherham from Liverpool and Tracy Brabin from West Yorkshire. The panel answered many questions from the audience. These focussed around social housing, how to further opportunities for young people, the North’s economy and of course the deterioration of our transport across their regions. 

It was inspiring to be in the company of such like-minded people who wanted to understand what each Mayor had to say and also ask them questions.

That was followed by a talk from Councillor Bev Craig. She spoke on why Manchester is so unique and what it means to her. She underlined the importance in believing in ourselves and the work we’re doing within each area. Also emphasising that we, the people of the North, are a real force to be reckoned with!

Talks from non-profits and charities

To finish the day, there were some lightning talks with Patrick Hurley, Area Manager of the RSA. These consisted of five-minute talks from organisations to show the work they’ve been doing and the positive impact this is having on the North. The talks that stood out the most to me were those that interacted with us. 

Shared Harmonies is a CIC focusing on singing to improve people’s wellbeing. They had the audience singing together to understand the collective joy that being in such a group could have. A different organisation, 100 Ideas For The North, challenged us to come up with an idea that would make an impact around us during his talk. This definitely tested our creativity in such a small space of time!

What I’m taking away from This is The North

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and am excited to see what next year’s convention brings. Even though I live and work in the heart of Manchester, there is so much I don’t see. I’m very grateful to have met so many people doing inspiring things not just in our city but right across the North!

To read about previous People’s Powerhouse events click here.