IT was George Osborne’s Big Idea to showcase the best of the North of England as part of his Northern Powerhouse initiative.
The former Chancellor has long since left 11 Downing Street, but the show will go on – and yesterday, the organisers of the Great Exhibition of the North unveiled their programme.
The summer-long celebration, billed as England’s biggest event of the year, will take place in Newcastle and Gateshead, with the Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs as the opening attraction.
The twin centres of the self-styled Geordie Shore secured the deal after beating rival bids from Bradford and Sheffield. Halifax and Harrogate were among the other towns in the running during the early stages.
John Lennon’s last piano, the original Postman Pat models and the Turner Prize-winning artist Lubaina Himid are among the varied attractions at the festival, which will celebrate “great art, culture, design and innovation from the North” and be financed with £5m from the Government’s Powerhouse fund.
Broadcaster Lauren Laverne, who is from Sunderland, will curate a “Great Northern Soundtrack” with concerts by northern musicians at the Sage, Gateshead.
Ms Laverne said: “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the vast array of talent the North of England produces, across a breadth of styles and genres.
“I’m proud to be representing a series of gigs that highlight the wealth of talent the North has to offer.”
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of the tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire and chairman of the Great Exhibition, said: “As well as being a showcase for some of the best creative and inspiring talent from the North of England, our diverse programme tells a pioneering story and one that will help change the way the world views the North.”
Other attractions will include a musical journey along the banks of the River Tyne, staged by Opera North, and Robert Stephenson’s Rocket, with a virtual reality recreation of the early steam train age.