10 reasons why it’s not grim Up North
I suppose it should come as no surprise that Shula Archer (off The Archers, in case you’re wondering) is northist. She was first in with her request to withdraw her stake in the family farm when her brother announced his intention of selling up and moving to Northumbria as she couldn’t see the point in having an investment in a farm ‘up North’. You could almost hear the shudder in her voice as she uttered the words — and she’s from the Midlands, for heaven’s sake.
So for those who’ve rarely stirred beyond the confines of the M25, here, in no particular order, are 10 reasons to love the North.
Town halls: Manchester, Rochdale, and Leeds are but three examples of these fabulous expressions of civic pride. Rumour has it that Hitler would have had Rochdale’s town hall dismantled, shipped back to Germany and rebuilt if he had won.
Laughs: I once spent a week in the ‘parents’ dorm’ of a children’s hospital in Liverpool, and realised I was in the presence of highly talented raconteuses. For further evidence, see Morecambe and Wise, Peter Kay, Sarah Millican, George Formby, Ken Dodd, etc., etc.
Scenery: There’s lots of it and it’s not all like the Lake District; there are the shimmering sandflats of Southport, the Celtic twilight of Lindisfarne, and the views from the Transpennine Express for a start.
Booth’s supermarkets: Going since 1847, with lots of lovely local fish and meat, home grown cheeses and other confections. Sadly, Knutsford in Cheshire is their southern-most branch.
Theatres: Liverpool’s refurbished Everyman Theatre, cradle of some of our most distinguished actors, has just won the 2014 Stirling architecture prize; Manchester’s Royal Exchange provides a futuristic space capsule in a grand old commercial building, ready to transport you anywhere; and the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough supplies productions to London and around the world.
Language: It’s just more vivid, expressive, and unpredictable than Down South. Who can fathom the deep mystery of ‘I’ll go to the foot of our stairs’ as an expression of surprise? (And why does an internet search for enlightenment about its origins bring up an ad for Ugg boots?)
Friendliness: This is related to the reason above, of course, but my totally unscientific research confirms that there are fewer faces like slapped arses and more convivial conversations on trains north of a line between Colwyn Bay and Skegness.
Food: Lancashire and Wensleydale cheeses, black pudding, Eccles cakes, Yorkshire rhubarb and Yorkshire parkin, Craster kippers – what’s not to like? One delicacy I haven’t tried, though, is black peas served in a cup at Stalybridge station buffet. You won’t find anything like that at Guildford station.
Trams: It’s hard to believe that trams used to come all the way out to my part of South London, but in Manchester they’re back, triumphantly so. Somehow, the gentle tooting of trams is a wonderfully atmospheric part of the aural landscape — and they get you from A to B swiftly, too, of course. The DLR and Croydon Tramlink combined only cover about a third of the distance covered by trams in the north.
Art: There’s a lot of impressive art built into the abovementioned town halls, of course, but elsewhere you can hardly move for superb collections in inspiring buildings, from traditional municipal galleries like Manchester Art Gallery, to private collections like the amazing Bowes Museum, to the adventurous programmes of the Baltic on the banks of the Tyne, not forgetting Liverpool’s numerous galleries, including a Tate.
Oh, and if you like football, there’s quite a lot of that Up North, too.
So all power to the Northern powerhouse . . .