My North East: Roger O’Brien

June 2, 2016

Roger O’Brien is the director of AMAP, The Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice, at the University of Sunderland. AMAP aims to inform, inspire and innovate in engineering and advanced manufacturing, working in a range of areas including low carbon vehicle development, manufacturing technology, supply chain and product design. Roger has lived in the North East for the majority of his life, and is a passionate advocate for the region’s strengths and unique advantages.

I have been fortunate to have travelled extensively throughout my career taking me to lots of interesting places around the world. However, still nothing quite beats flying home over the North East coastline or travelling back over Newcastle’s historic bridges to get the feeling of being home.

Tynemouth is undoubtedly my favourite area of the North East. It has everything in such close proximity; good pubs, cafés and restaurants, history dating back centuries to the roots of the area at Tynemouth Priory, great beaches, and bracing walks along the seafront and pier.

I would highly recommend Riley’s Fish Shack at King Edward’s Bay. It’s something different and offers great fresh food in a great setting.

The North East should be proud of its contrasting coast and countryside landscapes, rugged beauty and easy access. We are so fortunate to be in a region that has this great natural attraction and scenery on its doorstep, which, in turn, offers scope for so many activities and pleasures.

I enjoy the corporate facilities that the major sporting venues in the region offer, from Durham’s Riverside Ground to Kingston Park and our major football venues. They all offer something different.

The best view in the North East has to be that of the Tyne Bridge from the viewing gallery at Baltic or from Six restaurant. As a Geordie it just couldn’t be anything else, really, could it? Except perhaps a packed St James’ Park – but it’s best not dwell on that at the moment!

What ‘makes’ the North East for me is the innovative culture which dates back through history.Great inventors and industrialists, names like Swan, Stephenson, Armstrong, Parsons, are all names steeped in our regional heritage, creating a legacy that lives on. We still have that spirit to rise to the challenge, finding new innovations and technologies. Much as it became unpopular for a time, we in the North East still make things and we are seeing those manufacturing sectors drive future success with a new breed of inventor and innovator.

The Cluny, in Newcastle’s Ouseburn, is a great small music venue. It gets an exciting and wide range of bands performing there, from up-and-coming acts to more established names. The Cluny has great sound, a friendly atmosphere, and with a good bar thrown in, what more could you want?

I love driving from Haydon Bridge along the A686 through Alston, over Hartside, on into Melmerby, and then onwards to Penrith. Not only is it a great drive but it also takes me over to my boat in the Lakes for some sailing and relaxation.

If I could change or build anything in the North East, it would be better transport links and infrastructure. The region needs to be better connected north and south, as well as to the west, too. It’s hard to believe that in 2016 there isn’t an east-west dual carriageway, all the way across the country, anywhere between the M62 and the M8. Improved transport infrastructure is vital to help our region and our industries thrive and compete.

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Supporting role: Craig Bell and Darren Hammond