I'm involved in a research process which looks at how artists might contribute to imagining The N*rth now.
By way of a "hello and getting to know you" I was asked to write briefly about "What aspects of the project's aims are you, at this stage, most passionate about?"
I launched into this, which is not the cheery hello that was called for, and is about 200 words too long.
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Re imagining, and making connections outside of The Arts. I think it's quite a hopeful time to be doing this. As I read the other day "‘We live in wonderful times. We’ve reached the end of the neo-liberal dream and state domination. It’s time for citizenship, imagination and growth.’"(from here)
But, that was said by Maurice Glasman, who couldn't be more of a London-patriot (in a good way) if he tried. If you asked him where he lived, he'd talk about a real place, London, not a geographical abstraction. He has civic pride. London tells a very powerful story about itself which gets its power not least by using a real name.
Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds. That is a powerful list of words. When you say it like that it's a litany. For a birth or a death? People often talk about the 21st century as "the century of the city", about cities as "our greatest invention", cities as self organising systems from which most human wealth, culture and innovation comes. Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds. Those cities made the world once.
So re imaging the N*rth means saying the words, even if it takes a bit more breath. Making the effort to use real names is about respect. People don't live in abstractions, they live in places. An abstraction like "The N*rth" makes human lives too easy to dismiss. "Those people who don't work in banking and can't afford interships for their kids? Don't worry, that's The N*rth. It's like that there."
And it's about self respect. What did "the N*rth" ever motivate anyone to do except cry into their beer?
If nothing else, abstractions always make bad writing. We need to begin with an investment in narrative capital (more on narrative capital here).
Say the names: Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds. Now your head is wired differently. A process of re imagining has started.