“To change the conversation, we have to change who is part of it”

Convention of the North

Earlier on this month we attended Convention of the North, which was held in Rotherham at the Magna Centre.

The event was organised by the 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) from across the North who refer to themselves collectively as the NP11. In attendance amongst a 100 strong audience were representatives from the 11 LEPs, the Northern Metro Mayors, Ministers, government agencies, the Northern Powerhouse, CEO’s and leaders of local government

We were invited to take part in the programme; both in a plenary session named ‘Our Northern Future’ and in a lunch time Fringe session we named ‘The people are the Powerhouse’.

As a country we are in political turmoil and constitutional crisis, and behind the event planning was an atmosphere of electioneering without any official purdah restrictions being in place. With whisperings of the PM intending to deliver a speech at the event, this made for a very difficult decision for the Steering Group. Should the People’s Powerhouse accept the invitation to take part in the programme or should we protest by not attending?

This conflict was something that we discussed as a Steering Group at length and revisited several times as there were additional developments such as the prorogue of parliament in the lead up to the event. As a collective we decided that we would make the most impact if we were there to deliver our message and join in the conversation. There were members of our Steering Group who made the decision that they would not be attending the event, which we fully supported.

We made the most of our 10 minute plenary slot where Steering Group members, Edna Robinson, Ed Cox and Arianna Giovannini set out our vision for a North that works for all people and communities, one where the conversations are not dominated by white men in suits and the decisions about our future are not dictated in Whitehall. We set out the principles in our Charter as building blocks for change and celebrated those communities and initiatives where the change can already be seen in action. 

We continued this conversation in our Fringe session ‘The people are the Powerhouse’ where we asked those who attended some simple questions that explored our Charter principles in more detail. We heard from many people that the current economic model is not working for most people and places, and that people feel disengaged and left out of decision making. Our intervention in the plenary session has led to homelessness and rough sleeping being flagged as an issue for the manifesto for the North.

Overall our consensus is that attending Convention of the North gave us the opportunity to deliver our key messages and principles to an audience of leaders and decision makers. It allowed us to demonstrate that our views are strong and widely held, and that we have no intention of going away or quieting down. Although some in attendance may not be ready to hear our point of view yet; there were many who were, and who came to find us to share their views on how we must involve more and different voices in shaping the future of the North if it is to deliver fair and meaningful change.

It was announced during the closing of the event that Convention of the North 2020 will be held in Liverpool. If the event is to build on its attempts to widen the type of people involved in the devolution debate and achieve greater and genuine diversity and inclusion, then the 2020 event must –

  • Widen its target attendee list to include more third sector, voluntary and community business representatives
  • Include and involve more young people
  • Make greater attempts to diversify speakers that moves beyond an obvious ‘BAME slot’
  • Commit to a 50:50 gender balanced programme
  • Involve citizens in its policy decision making process through a Citizens Assembly
  • Widen the policy areas to include those that affect people and communities such as; homelessness, well-being, hate and knife crime

To learn more about our work and to join in shaping a Powerhouse that focuses on people and their voices visit our website or contact us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  for more information.

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Read our latest guest blogs here or search for them by subject on the menu below. We are always looking for guest contributors for our blogs so if you’ve got something to say please email with a brief synopsis of what you’d like to write about and how it relates to our our five pillars of change.

* These blogs are a collection of thoughts and opinions from people living or working in the North. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the People's Powerhouse.




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