The North South Divide: Does It Exist?

Ever since I can remember as a child, there has always been a perception, rightly or wrongly that within this Scepted Isle there has always been, and always will be this view that the South is full of Southern softies, living the life of Riley, and that quite frankly it’s grim up north, full of cloth cap wearing somewhat angry northern folk. Now, of course these are well established stereotypes, that in truth have absolutely no real hard core evidence to back them up. And then I got to thinking about popular culture and those terrible Sitcoms of the seventies, that actually highlighted the divisions that presently have been splitting us apart for the last three years, since the Brexit word appeared. Which almost instigated the second English civil war, but luckily for us we are all far too sedentary to bother going to kill each other. No, we are clearly much better off staying in and watching Downton Abbey. Going back to the important issue of the north south divide being kept alive and kicking, it is only some 20 years since a very dear chum of mine, who was a professional actor and very proud northerner from Saint Helens. Who, in addition to working as an actor at the world famous Wigan Pier, he auditioned and was selected to play the lead in a new sitcom, that was designed to focus on the difference between the North and South, it was called Meat and Two Veg, which made me laugh a lot back in the day. Sadly the pilot crashed and burned and was never aired, so back to Wigan Pier it was for my mate.

I suppose for myself being born in Brighton ( and you don’t get more physically Southern than that unless you count the Channel) but was trained up North ( Manchester, Rochdale, Harrogate, York, Leeds, Bradford, Malton, Chorley, Preston, Blackpool), this allowed me to get a good feel for what life is like to live up north. And to be honest I really enjoyed it life was cheaper, the beer was fine, food was alright and overall it was pretty good. However ironically I have lived in the Midlands/ Worcestershire and Herefordshire for most of my younger and middle years, I also had access to a flat in Poplar High Street for a number of years that gave me a real flavour for living in that there London Town. And quite frankly it was not a nice place to be at, it was a dangerous area to be fair, sitting snug in Tower Hamlets one of London’s most deprived areas. Funny really as it is exactly where “Call The Midwife” is based with its lovely nuns delivering them there cockney sparrows in the heart of Bow bells, albeit in a different generation as it is based in the sixties. Which for the nuns and young was far from swinging and much more slumming.

So, what do I think as we meander into 2020, well to be quite honest it is in my own view far less an issue than it used to be. And there is a good reason for this, the old issue has been replaced by newer more challenging divides across this nation, for example the complete unraveling of the United Kingdom, as Scotland, Wales, and Ireland/ (not Northern Ireland )find themselves seeking to declare independence and maintain membership of the European Union. Just what the queen must be making of all this I dread to think, the poor lamb has ruled over a United Kingdom and a generally unified Commonwealth for decades without any issues. Until recently when localism has been the new black, and vested political ideologies have instigated referendum and the desire to leave the EU, and by default fracture this Union that has stood strong for some 400 years.

As for me when I reflect upon life, there is one unifying force that will quite literally help alleviate the north south divide by making the communities closer and quicker. HS2 has the power to unlock not only the northern powerhouse but to also stimulate communities from the north to the Midlands and so to the South, I remain an advocate if for no other reason than the benefits of social unification and economic stimulation, and the fact that we keep our identities both national and local. We will however wait and see if Jon Snow the leader of The North from Game OF Thrones continues to know nothing ( although I thought Sean Bean was a much more authentic grumpy northerner because well quite honestly that is what he is, and I like that both the actor and the man. Just check out his recent adverts for Yorkshire Tea.

Written by Austin Birks

January 8, 2020

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