Northern Powerhouse or an Empowered North?

There has recently been an excellent set of programmes on radio 4 about the North and what it means to be Northern. Some parts were hilarious and others deeply moving. Although we don’t want a North-South divide, neither do we want a homogenisation that sees a loss of identity. A Northern Powerhouse, (whoever it is lead by – George Osborne, Andy Burnham or Michael Bloomberg) is the last thing the North wants or needs. We don’t want the London model of trickle down economics. Who wants to end up with a trickle? There’s nothing worse than standing under a shower that doesn’t work properly! We don’t want the social cleansing of our cities and swathes of people feeling marginalised and forgotten. No. That is not the northern way. The North has a great history of social cohesion, people movements, social change and political debate. The promise of greater power that only serves to maintain a wounded and broken economic system, widening the gap between the rich and poor is not welcome here. We do not want to build a powerhouse. The land here remembers all too well the sweat, blood and tears of the powerhouses of the industrial revolution. If the government is serious about releasing more power northwards, then the power must be given to be worked with in a generative way, motivated by love, to create a fairer society for everyone. ┬áLife is already too fast paced, using human beings as commodities or fuel for the fire. No, we need to rediscover our humanity, to re-humanise our systems. We don’t want a pre-thought through model. We want to shape it ourselves and create the kind of society that aligns itself with our values. We are not robots or industrial machines. It is time for the fire of the North to ignite some conversations about what kind of future we might co-create rather than have something imposed on us, if it’s all the same to you, London!

Will You Love Me? (A Song of the Refugee)

I was recently at a gathering of people in the city of Lancaster talking among other things about what the city might be like if it was ‘healthy’. I had the privilege of listening to a singer/songwriter called David Benjamin Blower. He writes protest songs. He was singing one song about refugees/asylum seekers and in his opening spiel, he talked about how it can be easy to love form a distance, to feel moved and motivated to “do something”. But when people come to live in our neighbourhoods or in our homes, the challenge to us is to love at an entirely different level.

The response of governments to the refugee (we cannot and must not call those desolated by war “migrants”) crisis has been slow and lacking in humanity. David Cameron will announce today how many refugees we will now (under political pressure) welcome into the UK. We must not allow these people to put into some kind of awful detention centre or in any way be made to feel unwelcome.

My wife and I (along with countless other families across the UK) would welcome a family into our home. We’ve had destitute asylum seekers live with us before through the amazing Boaz Trust in Manchester and it has been an utterly humbling and richly rewarding experience. Even if it isn’t this time, and is full of inconvenience and pain, love compels us to embrace the “other”.

I’m not the world’s best singer/songwriter, but I’ve found over the last few months that I have written many protest songs…..I will be posting them on this blog (with HUGE thanks to my friend Andrew Towers at purple videos for filming them) over the coming weeks. This first one is written, putting myself (as far as I am able through imagination) in the place of a refugee and singing to the powers – to David Cameron, to Theresa May, to George Osborne, to the other leaders of Europe and indeed the USA…..Have a listen…..It’s called “Will You Love Me?”