On contribution and respect

‘Silicon London is first choice of base for Google, Facebook and other tech giants

The capital’s young workforce and wealth of start-ups are behind last year’s doubling in demand for office space for IT firms’

The Guardian 02/02/2012 

The Notts-Derby coalfield,the Lace triangle,Crewe loco works, coal in the valleys,shipping on the Tyne and Clyde,pots in the Potteries,cars in the midlands, specialist light engineering in Birmingham,cotton in Manchester, fishing in Hull, Terrys and Rowntree in York……….the economic roll call of honour that formed the backbone of this country even in my lifetime.Learnt by rote for what was then Geography GCE.Places, people, industry,productivity,culture and respect.

Recently I happened to see some of the films made by the Government during the Second World War about life in Britain and watched for the umpteenth time the GPO film unit shorts, including ‘the Night Mail’.

What struck me as a theme running through was that in spite of the received pronunciation of the narrators  and the obvious London perspective on the world (every other place but the capital is ‘somewhere else’) there was clear respect to be accorded to the workers of the English regions for the contribution they made to the national economy.It was clearly understood that the lives of the comfortably off in the South East of England could not be sustained without the toil and graft of  those living elsewhere.Naturally this respect did not extend to anything like sympathy for their politics or culture, but however grudging it might have been, there was a real sense that unlike today ‘we were all in it together’ in a very real and inter connected way.

Those in the regions were not seen as ‘dependant ‘ (either on welfare or public subsidy)  .People living in proud towns like Bolton,Gateshead, Walsall and Hartlepool  had authentic,productive and meaningful lives of their own, however tough the conditions in which they lived. They could hold their heads high in the   publicly recognised knowledge that their contribution was valued.

So to today and the headline story that begins this article.Most if not all coverage of exciting,valid new economic activity focuses on the South East ; stories to do with industry elsewhere focus on contracts lost (Bombardier,BAE) and asset stripping takeovers (Cadbury).There is no  sense that what people are doing in their day to day working lives in Middlesbrough or Kilmarnock is in any way linked to the fortunes of those savvy hip entrepreneurs huddled over their americanos in cafes around Old Street.Their eyes are on each other and their counterparts in the US and China.They may have grown up in  Knowsley or Cumbernauld, but have migrated to make their contribution  to the global economy in the only place in the UK that is recognised as counting – London.

And for those who choose to live in far flung Bury and Consett, what do they make of their lives within this hyped up, M25 centric world they now live in? What do they see as their contribution to this new world economy?

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One thought on “On contribution and respect

  1. Matt Smith says:

    As one who has lived in Consett, Gateshead and now Blaydon, I see the contribution of my local region as no different to anywhere else. None of these places are “Proud Towns” and any sense that they once were is forgotten. Consett has been a land of unemployment ever since the Ironworks shut and its last bastion of industry, the Ever Ready factory has been gone some 15 years. The impact of industry on the landscape is mostly gone. Visual evidence of the mines, shipyards, cokeworks, brickworks, ironworks etc. is hard to find except for grasslands that “Developers” cannot build on because of landfill and pollution. Even the Dunston Staithes aren’t intact and are barely seem to register on the local consciousness.

    A far cry from an industrious past. Loads of stuff was made in Tyneside. For example, from the late 18th century to the mid 20th century, glass manufacturing was a huge industry on both banks of the Tyne. There’s many blamed Thatcher for the loss of our industries, but the sad truth is that her impact was just a final nail in a coffin that began to close in the 1960s.
    Now unemployment is huge, agriculture is forgotten, heavy industry is non-existent, light industry is marginal, even our position as low-rent call centres and administrative offices is quickly vanishing as corporations outsource to foreign parts and the Civil Service downsizes.

    Slightly related to your comment on the the RP accents and London-centric perspectives in film footage. I’m perpetually bothered by the absence of regional accents and dialect on regional television and radio. Even news broadcasts from Tyne Tees Television there’s no chance you’ll ever hear a discernibly Tyne or Tees accent.

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