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

Let the people be heard

June 23rd saw our latest Listening Event take place. From East to West, Northerners joined our virtual discussion on how to bring about a “Greener” and “Fairer” North.

Listening Events were designed to amplify ordinary voices to ensure they reached influential ears, so positive change can happen. From Andy Burnham to Steve Rotherham, listeners at previous events have heard what you had to say about your community. A Greener, Fairer North Listening Event was no exception.

paul roseOur host, TV Presenter and Explorer Paul Rose, led the session with great enthusiasm and warmth; making sure to include as many people who wanted to speak as possible.

Listening to our audience’s speeches and contributions were our fantastic guests: Beth Farhat, Regional Secretary Northern (TUC), Cllr Clare Penny-Evans, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Public Safety at Newcastle City Council, and Clare Devaney, Strategic Lead for Place and Culture in the North, NP11. They listened and responded to the diverse voices that spoke on issues from their local parks to a Green New Deal for the UK.

The discussions that took place were passionate and productive. At the heart of each audience contribution were the questions “How do we, as normal people, use our voice to affect real change?” and “What options are readily available to us already?”

Often, our Northern communities can feel left behind; with no options on how to create a better future for ourselves. We often hear about “Levelling up” our towns and cities, but what does this mean for ordinary people?

Our Listening Events are a fantastic opportunity to hear from everyday people about what they can do with the power they already have.

We heard, for example, about the Great Big Green Week, which is a week of activities aiming to celebrate action on climate change.

letterClimate change is an issue that all generations care about, and this was particularly obvious at our event. We heard from three wonderful Year 4 pupils from Leeds who gave speeches they’d written on the environment and plastic pollution. (One of them can be read here!) The children are truly the future!

To ensure our Northern children have the resources to make change, it is also vital that funding imbalances are addressed. For instance, we heard from one audience member that there is a distinct lack of investment per head in the UK compared to other countries, sitting at a mere £180 per person in comparison to 2960 in the USA.

Our contributors did not stop at discussions of funding however, we also discussed the need to reimagine our public green spaces to directly reflect the people in our communities.

It was fantastic to Emily Moir from Groundwork speak about the need to redesign public parks with women and marginalised people involved in the planning process. You can watch her speech here! It was great to hear about her research that whilst green spaces do exist, they often aren’t as accessible for women and girls because many were created over a hundred years ago with no conception of modern societal issues.

Emily’s contribution led to questions surrounding how public spaces could be reimagined and how real dialogue with what ordinary people want for their spaces is frustratingly often skipped. One such example was a contribution at our event from Deborah Aydon, who hopes to see more lidos reopening, adding blue spaces to our green spaces. This in turn led to discussion that perhaps our public spaces need to be recognised as a statutory right by policy makers and local authorities.

People at the event spoke about how the economy and the environment are intrinsically linked and are not mutually exclusive to each other. The only way forward is highlighting the need for sustainable green jobs that are good for our workers and Northern communities.

Fundamentally, we do not have to accept one or the other.

The North can have both good work and green jobs, as they are often one and the same.

The only question that remains is how we get there. That’s where you come in. We will only create the future we want if you join in the ongoing discussion. We are stronger when we bring together our diverse voices in great numbers and demand a “Greener and Fairer North” for all.

We provide the platform, you provide your voice. Join us.

Sign up to the People’s Powerhouse mailing list to find out about future events and our annual Convention in the autumn.

Finn Oldfield
Social Media Lead
The People’s Powerhouse

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* News items 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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