One-Day Symposium: The New North East

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On Monday 13th July 2015 the Department of Culture (Faculty of Education and Society, University of Sunderland) will be hosting a one-day symposium focused on our region entitled ‘The New North East’. This interdisciplinary gathering will bring together scholars and practitioners working in the field of ‘cultural studies’ (broadly understood to include history, literature, linguistics, visual arts and media studies). It is hoped that the forum will allow participants to share developments in their disciplines, especially those which have opened up new avenues of research and/or shed new light on more traditional objects of enquiry in the study of North East England and North East Englishness. We hope the exciting range of talks will attract interest from academics, students and members of the public from across the region.

Location: Prospect Building | Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter’s | University of Sunderland | SR6 0DD


Registration (which is free of charge) is required. You can contact the convenor directly by email to reserve your place ( or by visiting the University’s online shop here (this requires you to register with the shop, if you are not already registered). Free light lunch and refreshments will be provided.


9.15-9.50 Registration and coffee in the Prospect Building foyer

9.50-10.00 Welcome in lecture theatre 007 (the venue for all talks)

10.00-10.40   Professor John Tomaney (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London) The Case for Insouciance

Where is the North East and what is new about it? This contribution will consider aspects of the history of the North East and the way the region has understood itself at different points in time. It will suggest that the North East has been made and remade periodically. Historically, the remaking of the region has been accompanied by reflection and intellectual openness. It will reflect on what is new about the North East today paying attention to the way we discuss our contemporary socio-economic and cultural situation. It will argue that we need to speak about the North East in a less strident, more open way and to listen to what others say about us. In short, it calls for the debate about the region to be characterised by insouciance.

10.40-11.20  Dr Natasha Vall (School of Arts & Media, Teesside University) Cultural Regeneration and the New Localism: Historical Perspectives on Cultural Policy in the North East

Recent analyses have pointed to the opportunities for growth within diverse and peripheral places, such as the North East, which sustain a complex mix of cities, small towns and rural villages. This shifting perspective has also witnessed a growing focus on the role of place as crucial to nourishing sustainable urban and regional futures. However, our understanding of place making within the creative economy is emergent and the growth and sustainability of the ‘creative class’ in peripheral places is not immune to further financial buffeting. The North East is ideally placed to offer critical insights regarding the challenges to, and opportunities for, innovation and sustainability in such places. The transition to the post-industrial economy has seen the creative sector emerge as a key driver. This paper will argue that in the North East this was rooted in a particular historical experience where local arts managers, museum curators as well as creative practitioners, formed partnerships with political and economic interests that drew on the reservoir of place to militate against the historically weak legacy of private arts patronage.

11.20- 11.40 BREAK: Refreshments in the Prospect Building foyer

11.40- 12.20  Bill Griffiths (Head of Programmes at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums) ‘We’re all curators now’: Museums and the New North East

Museums are perceived as guardians, or sometimes creators, of a traditional narrative of ‘place’. However, increasingly, there is greater engagement with communities and individuals that allow for more nuanced, or simply sometimes different, versions of the ‘history of place’, often through new interpretations of existing collections. This talk will explore the concept of co-curation as a means of developing strong dialogues to allow museums to better reflect the North East as seen and experienced by the diverse population of the region.

12.20-1.00  Dr Adam Mearns (School of English Literature, Language & Linguistics, University of Newcastle) Old Wine in New Bottles: The Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English

The Diachronic Electronic Corpus of Tyneside English (DECTE, is a corpus of vernacular speech that combines legacy materials dating from the 1960s-1970s and the mid 1990s, with a monitor corpus consisting of interviews conducted since 2007 by undergraduate and postgraduate students as part of a continuing learning and teaching initiative in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics at Newcastle University. In addition to outlining the history and development of DECTE, and in particular some of the challenges involved in the digitization of legacy materials from earlier dialect studies, this presentation highlights two elements of this corpus-building programme: (1) the ways in which the dataset has been used for longitudinal studies in language variation and change; and (2) the project’s public-facing multimedia website, The Talk of the Toon (, which focuses more on the interviews as narratives, exploiting the potential that the collection has as an archive of oral history, charting various aspects of life in the North East for an audience beyond the narrow academic context.

1.00-2.00 LUNCH: Prospect Building foyer

2.00-2.40  Professor John Kippin (Northern Centre of Photography, University of Sunderland) Post the Post-industrial Landscape: Some Thoughts on Representing the North East

I will look at a range of approaches that I have developed in response to the contextual landscape of the region. The conceptualisation and construction of the ‘post- industrial landscape’ is an enduring one. It aligns with the collapse of modernism together with a re-evaluation of positivist philosophies as the defining movements of the late twentieth century and provides a useful platform from which to consider both landscape (as art practice) and as a palimpsest, providing visual evidence of our economic structures, culture imperatives and society in general. On the ground, much of what constitutes ‘post-industrial’ landscape has matured into something resembling a ‘post post-industrial’ landscape, a condition that struggles to synthesise form and function in a meaningful way. This new landscape is the province of the developer and aligns more readily with high modernism together with earlier positivist ideas manifest in the post-world war two era and developed by successive governments throughout the so called ‘white-hot era of new technologies’ in the 1960s and 70s. How, then to consider these major developments within an art context? What might these considered responses be, and how do we make them coherent and accessible through the various media that we favour?

2.40-3.20  Ian Wylie (Editor of the Northern Correspondent) The Northern Correspondent

The North East – like any other – is a region that deserves and need its stories to be told and heard in depth, but the opportunities to tell and hear these stories are fast diminishing. In the past decade, 20% of the UK’s local newspapers have closed. Cuts in the numbers of journalists (including ‘northern correspondents’), the production of local newspapers or regional programmes many miles from the communities they serve, and our growing use of social media mean that we’re more likely to know what’s going on in New York or New Zealand than in Newcastle. This talk will ask, how are our lives and communities in the North East reflected and debated by local and London-centric national media outlets? How should we communicate about the North East’s needs and aspirations? And what are the opportunities and challenges that arise with the decline of traditional, regional media and rise of social media and ‘citizen journalism’?

3.20-3.40 BREAK: Refreshments in the Prospect Building foyer

3.40-4.20 Professor Sean O’Brien (School of English Literature, Language & Linguistics, University of Newcastle) Poetry Reading

Sean O’Brien is one of the country’s most well-known and highly regarded poets. He has published eight collections of verse: The Indoor Park (1983); The Frighteners (1987); HMS Glasshouse (1991); Ghost Train (1995); Downriver (2001); The Drowned Book (2007); November (2011) and The Beautiful Librarians (2015). Ghost Train, Downriver and The Drowned Book all won the Forward Poetry Prize; the latter also won the 2007 T. S. Eliot Prize. Adaptations and translations include Aristophanes’ The Birds for the National Theatre, Dante’s Inferno, and the work of the Cape Verdean poet Corsino Fortes. He has also dramatized Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and Graham Greene’s Ministry of Fear for BBC radio. His first novel, Afterlife, was published in 2009. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

4.20-4.50  Panel discussion



Dr Michael Pearce (

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