A right of centre think tank has declared that some Northern cities can not be regenerated and the inhabitants could consider moving to the south. (see here)
When I first heard this story on the news this morning, I laughed. The cities mentioned were Liverpool, Bradford and Sunderland. It seems a bit of a kick in the teeth and rather ironic considering that Liverpool is the European City of Culture this year. I’ve never been to Bradford so couldn’t possible comment. The third city is what made me laugh though.
Sunderland is near enough to being my hometown. I didn’t live there, but I went to school there, I support their football team and (perhaps most importantly) this is where I went out in my teenage years.
The report says: "Sunderland demonstrates just how hard it is to regenerate such a city. It is time to stop pretending there is a bright future for Sunderland and ask ourselves instead what we need to do to offer people in Sunderland better prospects."
To be honest, Sunderland doesn’t have much to recommend it, but hometowns are like families – it is fine for you to mock them yourself, but you don’t want to hear anyone doing it. Newcastle has a certain glitz and even something resembling cosmopolitan about it these days, but not so Sunderland. Actually I’m making an assumption, because on my fleeting visits to the north, I’ve not set foot in Sunderland in years. There isn’t anything there really and while money was poured into making Newcastle what it is today, Sunderland was left to rot (this is a source of local animosity as well as the football rivalry).
So is Sunderland beyond saving? I got out of there 11 years ago and did exactly what the report suggests people there do, move to London, Oxford or Cambridge. The jury is still out on whether that was a good move in my case, but I can’t see it is a viable solution for most people. Beside most people being very happy in the north, I don’t think we’ve got much more room down here.