London-based Sunday Times columnist Katie Glass recently ventured Up North and was shocked to find more there than whippets and chips with gravy. Well, duh. Here, four Standard Issue writers stop polishing the cobbles with flat caps for long enough to explain why they love the north, celebrate its achievements and care about its future.
Claire Goodwin has a few words of northern bluntness in response to Katie Glass’s surprise at discovering that glittery manicures, chain restaurants and – god forbid – hipsters exist outside of London.
You wrote a natty little piece about the north. Well done for being both provocative and the star of your own clickbait campaign. To be fair, I have to admire your brass neck; writing something vile for attention appears to be the new journalism (you may mistake your crassness for provocativeness, which it isn’t).
Your admiration for us pigeon fanciers does indeed shine through, in part, and balances the rest of the wanktastic comments about glitter nail polish and Harvey Nicks. So maybe you do believe your own shit.
On the glitter nail polish note – it’s naff. Whether you are from London or Leeds.
Just to let you know – I’ll try not to patronise you like I assume you patronise your boyfriend, as well as your readers – the north has a few more bits and bobs of interest you might find cute. There are a few quirky little places of note called Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sheffield; plus some smaller places, but these might scare you, so, you know, baby steps and all that.
These other places also have Jamie’s Italians. Isn’t it great to go somewhere new and gravitate only to things you are familiar with? I bloody hate trying new things. I suppose that’s the thing about London; it’s full of chain stores and restaurants because no one else can afford the rent. You could be anywhere. So comforting. I’m glad you chose to have your dinner in a department store; I hate supporting local business.
Please come back soon: we love the glamour and intelligence of people from the Big Smoke!
PS Viz is one of the cleverest magazines you are ever likely to lay your hands on. Read it: you might learn something.
Claire is a speech therapist, baker, cake decorator, sometime radio guest and writer. She writes about food, being fat and living with mental health problems @bake_therapist
When Lucy Reynolds met the north, it embraced her warmly. Fifteen years later, she’s still here.
“Ey up petal! Y’alreet flower?” I first heard this greeting when I was in the midst of homesickness at university, moping around and wondering why I had moved up north.
It was spoken by a lovely Yorkshire dinner lady called Jane in the college canteen and it made me cry. Not just because I was sad and pining for home, but because that greeting was so inherently kind and friendly and it was exactly what I needed – a bit of Yorkshire warmth.
That one moment of kindness made me feel instantly better, even though I can’t say the same for Jane, who had to console a student whose tears were dripping into the lasagne tray.
From that day forth, I began my love affair with the north and I am proud to say that I still live here, 15 years on. The warmth, kindness and dry humour of northerners never ceases to amaze me. It makes me incandescent with rage when tosspots who get a nosebleed when they go anywhere north of the Watford Gap try to mock or denigrate the glorious north.
“I told him that we only manage to hear the radio, or as we like to call it up north, ‘T’speaky box’, when we have fired up the generator, which is powered by whippets and shire horses.”
As a native Lincoln girl, I had never grown up with the north/south divide being an issue. In the Midlands, we are slightly forgotten – a veritable no man’s land. Neutral. We are Switzerland but without the creamy chocolate. It was only when I moved to Yorkshire that I started to notice the differences and, more importantly, others’ views on the north.
For example, one day while my southern friends drove me around London, the ubiquitous ear worm that is Pharrell Williams’ Happy came on the radio. After a cursory comment about how much I liked this song, my friend’s husband said: “Oh… so this song has made it up north now.”
It took all my strength not to wrench the steering wheel out of his hands and cause a multi-car pile-up while chanting “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire.” Instead I politely laughed and told him that we only manage to hear the radio, or as we like to call it up north, ‘T’speaky box’, when we have fired up the generator, which is powered by whippets and shire horses.
It is this kind of assumption that the north is five steps behind the south which used to slightly bemuse me but now just pisses me off. Until that is, southern friends complain about rent and house prices… then it’s no holds barred hilarity all round.
Lucy is a teacher whose dream as a child was to be WWE Wrestling Champion. That dream is still alive. @MissReno1981
Alice Fleetwood salutes Liverpool, a northern city with both a past and a future.
This northern city has the largest clock in the land, where time stretches from number to number and alongside it is the river that brought the first cargo from America and nearby is a building that inspired America’s skyscrapers and a hospital that started the cure for malaria and was the first to use X-rays to diagnose medical conditions, the first to employ female health workers and to use gas and air for childbirth.
And the people, once divided by religion and sport (being the same thing to most inhabitants), now stand unified in a fight for justice. How they like to talk, these people, which is why the first ever radio broadcast and the first ever Atlantic telegraph cable was sent from here and why the world’s first ever automatic telephone exchange was opened here.
The people are cultured and clever, which is why this northern city produced the first public lending library, the first public art gallery, the first arts centre, the first newspaper-printed crossword and has had the most number ones in the charts. The people are kind and caring, which is why this northern city founded the first societies to prevent cruelty to children and animals.
You might only see young girls with their bronze tans and fake nails in designer stores, maxing their credit cards and driving the latest car in white; you might only see the boarded-up streets and the drinking culture and not the streets with the most listed buildings outside of London and the city as the Capital of Culture. But in this northern city, in one of those boarded-up streets or designer stores, there might be a young boy or girl who will be next on this great list of triumphs from this great northern city… History, not surface, makes a city.
Alice Fleetwood is a football-loving, vegetarian, birdwatching leftie but not a social worker as you might presume. @Aliceliverpool
Justine Brooks casts a sceptical eye over whether the government’s much-touted ‘northern powerhouse’ is such a bright prospect for northerners.
During the last election, there was a lot of talk about the ‘northern powerhouse’ and HS3. HS3 is an interesting idea. It means that decision makers think that high speed links within the north are more important than even higher speed rail links to London (HS2).
Currently the 170-mile train journey from York to London takes just under two hours while Leeds to Manchester (45 miles) takes the best part of an hour and Leeds to Liverpool (74 miles) around two hours. So they do have a point.
Which made the post-election news that the first baby steps – the electrification of the Leeds to Manchester line – will be delayed (aka the ‘northern powercut’) just plain disappointing. How on earth can any kind of cohesiveness be achieved without actual grassroots connectivity?
“What are people actually coming north for? Honestly? Because it’s cheaper than London.”
Devolution is an interesting idea too. The current government is not the first to advocate or try it (see John Prescott’s Northern Way initiative). Through devolution our northern economy will really rise up and thrive and cast off the last vestiges of a heavy industry economy, moving forwards to compete on the world market.
Or will it?
What are people actually coming north for? Honestly? Because it’s cheaper than London. Rents, house prices, coffees. Which is presumably why the BBC has moved north and why a number of law and accountancy firms are doing the same. It’s all about price.
The next question is: are proper devolution strategies and effective infrastructure actually going to develop out of the Cities Devolution Bill? The Bill has to get it right and there are masses of issues that just don’t appear to have been bottomed out. Meanwhile northern real estate gets snapped up by southern pension funds, meaning that devolution could just be a massive land grab for outside investors – actually pushing those lovely low prices up…
One thing is certain: in order to harness economic prosperity, northern cities need to get their acts together and take control of the process rather than just selling out.
Justine runs a PR and marketing agency in Leeds and lives with an 11-year-old Kylie fan, a 38-year-old Guns ’n’ Roses fan, a lurcher called Lionel and two cats called Axl ’n’ Slash. She mostly wears earplugs. @JustineFBrooks3518 Views
Some of Standard Issue's brilliant women's carefully crafted words for your reading pleasure.