I’ve lived in the North East for most of my life, though in more than one area within it. I grew up in Middlesbrough, then after starting a family I moved to North Yorkshire and now live in central Newcastle. Each place has been great to live in and had its own selling points. Middlesbrough is great for the local humour, North Yorkshire is good for an active life (it’s so beautiful you just want to be outdoors all the time) and Newcastle is rich and varied in the cultural life it’s got on offer.
The best thing about living and working in the North East is the quality of life it offers. We’ve got some of the most affordable housing in England (although the availability and affordability of housing is still a challenge) and easy access to beautiful cities, countryside and coastline. We’ve also got pioneering hospitals and great schools. Bringing it all to life is the natural and simple warmth of the people.
The North East is a brilliant place for talent and innovation in the digital and creative sector in which I work. We’ve got truly world-leading digital expertise with the likes of Teesside University and a buzzing community of creative entrepreneurs. It’s really fast-moving and exciting to be a part of this movement that’s gaining momentum all the time.
A favourite place to eat is The Fork in the Road in Middlesbrough, set up by Teesside businessman and philanthropist, Andy Preston. It’s not just the food that keeps me going back, even though it’s great. It’s the fact that it’s staffed by former offenders who are being taught new skills that will help them find work and a positive role in the community. If you didn’t know this, you would just think ‘great little restaurant’.
We’re spoilt for choice in the North East but Durham Cathedral has got to be one of the most iconic landmarks. It’s the epic scale of imagination that it represents and the staggering resilience of its architecture that have still got the ability to create shock and awe. People have the same response to the progressive architecture of North East buildings like Sage Gateshead, but the cathedral tops my list for its history and its timeless ability to stop you in your tracks.
I enjoy all of the art galleries and theatres of Newcastle. I often visit the Laing, Shipley, Baltic and Side Gallery, to name but a few. There are some really inspiring exhibitions, talks and events in these galleries which turn them into so much more than ‘hands off’ viewing spaces. The Laing’s recent Paul Nash exhibition was really fantastic. We are also so lucky to have great theatres like the Theatre Royal, Northern Stage and Live Theatre. I’d also give a big shout out to the Tyneside Cinema for everything it brings together; as well as its work with budding film makers and artists, it’s just a very convivial place and I love a good big screen movie.
If I could build one thing in the North East it would be better and faster transport links within the region. Newcastle to Middlesbrough by train takes too long! But also links to other major cities in the UK, especially in the North, too. It would be better for business and would be a counterweight to the influence of London and the South. Elon Musk’s futuristic and visionary transport Hyperloop might make that happen one day, hopefully with the help of some of our region’s many brilliant businesses with world-leading engineering, software and battery technologies. There is very little that this region can’t do!