The Great Exhibition of the North

By | Category: Travel rumblings
Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Last week it was announced that four destinations, Blackpool, Bradford, Newcastle-Gateshead and Sheffield have made the short-list to hold the Great Exhibition of the North.

Never heard of it? According to the Department of Culture etc. it “will showcase the great creative, cultural and design sectors across the whole of the North, and boost investment and tourism in the region.”  The Government is contributing £5 million towards the exhibition and a further £15 million to a legacy fund to attract further cultural investment in the North. It will run for two months in 2018 and quite what we will see is difficult to imagine since this is the first one.

Bradford's National Media Museum

Bradford’s National Media Museum

This follows on top of the cities of culture which both Glasgow and Liverpool used to great advantage to announce their appeal to the world. Yorkshire used the Tour de France to very successfully trumpet its wares to the tourist world.

Why is this Great Exhibition idea limited to the north of England? At the moment the government seems fixated by the idea of a northern powerhouse and the north to the detriment of everywhere else but I could be being unfair if, for example, there is a Great South West Exhibition planned for 2020.



But then, the Department of Culture is an English only department as this is a devolved issue. Why isn’t there a themed month exhibition proclaiming the benefits of a destination in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales? Some of the devolved tourism ministries are more aggressive than England in trumpeting the benefits of travelling there yet highlighting individual places rather than the whole country is unusual.

I am not talking about well-known locations that everyone knows like the Giants Causeway or Stonehenge but places that might not immediately spring to mind.

Take Margate as an example. A beach resort, it decayed until it became a byword for a resort that failed to move with the times, became tacky and run-down and, thus, attracted fewer and fewer people. Yet regeneration brought the Turner, revamped the rides and the benefits that drew people to the town in the first place were still there – the sandy beaches.

Shefffield's Cliffhanger Festival © Marketing Sheffield

Shefffield’s Cliffhanger Festival © Marketing Sheffield

Merthyr Tydfil was an industrial town that has suffered job losses and economic decline. Now it is surrounded by green land and isn’t too far away from castles, a waterfall and attractive walking country. Why isn’t there a Great Valleys Exhibition set to achieve the same as the Great Exhibition of the North.

Having sources of finance such as the Coastal Communities Fund helps certain areas but without a flagship event to trumpet the benefits to holidaymakers like you and me must surely be considered a lost opportunity.

To other countries and regions of the UK I say where are your equivalent events?

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