Shining a light on everything County Durham has to offer

Mike Hughes joins Durham County Council  Chief Govt John Hewitt and Chief Amanda Hopgood on a tour of the county – by day and by night time

READ this and inform me this isn’t a spot you’d love to go to: “Home to breathtaking landscapes, outstanding cultural attractions, unparalleled grassroots sport, world-first heritage, spectacular events, world class research and a growing sector of artists, entrepreneurs and creatives.”

That’s the factor about County Durham: the whole lot it has, from revered heritage to the most recent buildings is nearly one of the best there’s. This entire place – greater than 530,000 individuals residing in about 250,000 households unfold over 862 sq. miles – is the epitome of a county.

The truth that it has the lot should infuriate different areas, however the county’s secret – led by the County Council and its latest heads, Chief Govt John Hewitt and Chief Amanda Hopgood, is steadiness.

Amanda Hopgood

A lot of the enchantment right here is inherited historical past, however it must be curated, protected and promoted after which something that’s added to the county, buildings, companies or methods must be in concord with what’s there already.

That may be a balancing act, simply as a lot because the day and night time economies need to be balanced so that every works with its specific viewers and likewise supplies loads of overlap in order that these coming right here for the day wish to keep for the night time.

Lumiere and the Capital of Tradition bid for 2025 are key to offering this steadiness, however in addition to such main landmarks there must be an ever-growing listing of causes to go to and keep.

Extra balancing acts for John and Amanda.

John stated: “Throughout the peak season, we have got the scholars who’re within the metropolis which is the place a whole lot of our night time time economic system is and what we have tried to do when it comes to funding is simply construct one thing across the wider facet of life, very a lot attempting to create a day and an evening life that appeals to a wider viewers.

The Northern Echo: John HewittJohn Hewitt

“So you will see there’s a whole lot of funding occurring round Milburngate on that facet of the river, which could be very a lot about our leisure provide and simply attempting to increase that, notably in Durham metropolis in order that it turns into a way more various provide to individuals who wish to come to Durham Metropolis for the day trip.

“It really is about the balance and it’s been very challenging through Covid as I’m sure you can imagine, but we will absolutely be keeping that going and getting the safety aspects right across the county so that we can focus on what our individual towns and villages have to offer.”

For Amanda that is about utilizing all of the attainable instruments and techniques at their disposal to make every customer, resident and investor really feel there’s something for them right here and that their particular wants are being recognised and sorted.

She informed me: “As difficult as it’s, there must be one thing for everybody.

“So for those who had been to take a look at Durham Metropolis but in addition additional afield, as somebody of their 50s I may exit with my husband for the night time or we may exit with {couples} or I may meet up with my associates within the afternoon .

“We have got the whole lot from champagne bars to conventional pubs and supper golf equipment in addition to fabulous eating places and the Everyman cinema coming. But additionally, it doesn’t matter what age group or demographic throughout the county we have got individuals who journey, so we have now the likes of The Impeccable Pig at Sedgefield and the Raby Hunt outdoors Darlington

“We have got Michelin starred eating places or fish and chips up the coast, so why depart the county and go as much as Newcastle for a thriving night-time economic system.

“We will never spoil the assets we have,” added Amanda “however will reap the benefits of them as we develop with them.

“There will not be many locations on this nation that it is possible for you to to take a seat like it is possible for you to to in a kind of new eating places in Milburngate with the enduring view of the cathedral and the fort.

“I will guarantee that the restaurants with those views will practically be booked out every night – the perfect merging of history and heritage and brand.”

However it’s an unavoidable level that as these households, {couples} and solo guests plan their journeys out, they need to really feel secure and welcomed, not in danger as we have now all seen in so many dreadful incidents. Amanda is eager to advertise the area as a secure place to go to, with the assist of the Secure Durham Partnership, whose imaginative and prescient is summed up as ‘Durham is a county where every adult and child will feel and be safe’.

The Crime and Dysfunction Act 1998 positioned a statutory responsibility on native authorities to type a Partnership to sort out crime, dysfunction, anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and different behaviour adversely affecting the native atmosphere and to cut back re-offending.

The Secure Durham Partnership says on its web site ‘Being and feeling safe both in our homes and within the wider community impacts on both our emotional and physical wellbeing. It also directly impacts on our personal resilience as well as impacting overall on a community’s resilience, confidence and cohesion.’

Amanda provides: “The SDP works throughout companies and so police, college, council, all of us work collectively and a whole lot of the pubs signal as much as that and we put issues in place by means of licensing.

“We’ve individuals out on the streets each night and when college students begin right here they’re given details about the place to go when it comes to lit walkways and secure routes. However we stay within the twenty first century and you’ll by no means assure somebody 100%, however it’s essential not me that I might be comfy strolling round Durham by myself and night time.

“I’ve got a 23-year-old daughter and John has a younger daughter and I know they would do the same. I couldn’t say I would feel safe in ever city in the UK, but I do in Durham, partly because it is quite compact, so you’re never far away from anyone.”

John says the outdated and the brand new are each important for the county to thrive as extra jobs arrive and new companies make selection about their future bases.

“It’s that shift in considering that we’re speaking about and I do know Amanda and the brand new management are actually eager to proceed the narrative round extra and higher jobs throughout the county, so we’re nonetheless very eager on the Aykley Heads web site being developed after which when it comes to individuals coming in for jobs, they’re impression on the economic system, which is basically essential for us going ahead.

“And for those who take that dialogue to the following logical step, we have at all times been very eager on a culture-led regeneration as effectively, so it is an opportune time to speak about Lumiere and the Metropolis of Tradition bid, which is elevating the profile of the county already.

“We all know we have got a little bit bit of labor to do round how we be a part of issues up throughout the county in order that any individual can spend a complete day and night time doing various things in County Durham, however that is an ambition that we have got to make {that a} a lot larger and higher expertise constructing on the work that we have already finished.

“And then in terms of big shifts, something like Milburngate just takes us to the next level.”

So far as landmark moments go, they don’t come a lot larger than Milburngate, Lumiere and the Metropolis of Tradition, every of which carry their very own influences to the entire county.


An enormous £120million growth on the banks of the River Put on within the very coronary heart of Durham. There will probably be 60,000 sq. toes of retail and leisure, 230,000 sq ft of Grade A places of work, 600 automobile park areas, 153 residences and a Premier Inn resort.


A competition of lights taking hundreds of tourists on a night-time tour of Durham Metropolis Centre and locations like Raby Fortress and Ushaw Faculty.

The Northern Echo: Lumiere


The primary Lumiere mild competition occurred in Durham in 2009. Initially deliberate as a one-off, with the assist of Durham County Council and different sponsors, producers Artichoke have introduced the occasion again to the North East each different yr since then.

In 2017, a document 240,000 guests got here to Lumiere in Durham having fun with a programme that combined family-friendly interactive installations with groundbreaking inventive commissions, stand alone mild sculptures and floodlit landmarks.

Amanda says it has widespread advantages: “It is the additional that Lumiere brings as effectively, with the individuals who get engaged with it within the months main as much as the occasion after which out into communities, the place we work with our Space Motion Partnership and our colleges and with a whole lot of people who find themselves creating the installations

“They can then come out with their families and see it and we can see people’s personal pride in where they are from and where they live, saying ‘ look – that’s me on there.’”

The AAP that Amanda works with lives as much as its identify – it’s for 26 areas of the county, and it takes motion by collaborating and dealing collectively. The partnership consists of members of the general public, representatives from Durham County Council, city and parish councils, police, hearth, well being, housing, enterprise, college and voluntary organisations.

Collectively they work with communities and organisations to satisfy the wants of the neighborhood, figuring out native priorities and actions required to sort out them. In addition they allocate funding to native organisations and assist their growth.

Metropolis of Tradition:

Durham is one in every of eight areas longlisted to be UK Metropolis of Tradition 2025. The group behind the bid goals to safe the title for the entire of County Durham, together with town.

They are saying: “We wish to be on the centre of the nation’s cultural life in 2025 and to ensure that individuals from throughout the county and past reap the advantages that this standing would carry.

“Culture has long been the beating heart of life in Durham. Our communities are built on the strong foundations of industry, a tradition of independence and the desire to come together to celebrate and create and we believe that culture belongs to everyone – we are equally proud of our internationally recognised festivals and heritage, as well as the culture we create in our daily lives.”

Success would place communities on the coronary heart of a year-long programme of occasions and actions that might result in a long-term enhance for the economic system and have a long-lasting impression on the county’s future.

John says placing within the bid was a daring choice, however the precise one. “We’re viewing this very a lot as a county bid as a result of town is actually the precise place, however it additionally about all of the cultural belongings we have got proper throughout the county that we predict are fairly distinctive.

“We in all probability have not shouted about that sufficient up to now, however it’s time to do this now and there’s actually a whole lot of work occurring behind the scenes to ensure we have now all our companions speaking about County Durham in one of the best ways we are able to to have success within the bidding course of.

“Everybody is behind it and there is a huge push across County Durham.”

“Our ambitions here are all about it being a destination rather than just a pass through,” stated Amanda.

“You can spend every week right here and never see the whole lot and there are only a few locations in Britain the place you could be 20 minutes from the coast and 20 minutes from an space of pure magnificence just like the Dales.

“And working completely alongside all these objectives and all this exercise are jobs – the thread that runs by means of all of it as a result of the extra you construct and promote, the extra individuals will wish to construct properties and careers right here.

“The hospitality and humanities and leisure sector create jobs usually as step one on the profession ladder and we have now an enormous quantity of scholars in Durham, so in the event that they had been to work right here then the possibilities are they may keep by means of the vacations as effectively in order that so we have now that economic system all yr spherical quite than simply for 36 or 39 weeks a yr.

“In order that’s actually key and essential, but in addition that when they’ve certified we’re actually eager to create extra and higher jobs when it comes to individuals who come to Durham for college however then keep and possibly arrange a enterprise or come to work for native companies.

“We don’t want any prospective workers heading off down south because they don’t think there’s anything here for them, when we know there is so much already and so much more to come.”

For each new paving slab laid there must be an outdated cobble protected, and John and Amanda – each born and bred within the county – are decided that its wealthy heritage will probably be enhanced by something that occurs on their watch, in order that individuals who come to the county for its heritage are additionally drawn to expertise its social life and people coming for the pubs, golf equipment and leisure can’t resist a stroll as much as the Cathedral the following day.

John says: “That’s a huge strength of our county and a big part of our City of Culture bid, that the heritage here is just second to none and Amanda and I both grew up through different generations of that heritage and all the changes following the decline of some of the manufacturing industries so we know we can do this, but it is really about just building on the strengths we’ve got.”

If companies really feel secure and supported and see the potential, then they’ll develop or relocate right here and produce their workers and their households, so the enterprise providing must be spot-on as effectively to finish the package deal.

Shining a light on everything County Durham has to offer

John tells me: “Aykley Heads is a key employment web site for us in attracting high-quality jobs, however throughout the brand new administration there’s a need to take a look at what is going on on proper throughout the county and take a look at the strengths we have got round our cities, our villages and the way can we construct on what’s there now.

“There might be some areas of the county where we need to think about something different to bring in other jobs because there are hundreds of millions of pounds going into lots of different employment sites and we are working on a town-by-town basis based on the masterplan we’ve got for those areas.”

The vary of employment within the county must be as various because the individuals and locations that want it, says Amanda:

“County Durham is a large place with numerous rural areas and a few of these areas do not have the employment that we want them to have, so it is actually essential that individuals rising up on the market and who wish to keep residing there have job alternatives domestically.

“Crucially, that may also assist us transferring ahead relating to local weather change if individuals aren’t having to journey 30 or 40 miles to go to work if we’ve bought models in Teesdale or Weardale the place individuals can get pleasure from that atmosphere of each residence and work steadiness.

“You do not have to remain in the identical home without end however you’ll be able to keep in the identical area and we all know that’s as a result of one measurement does not match all.

“We’ve a various panorama, a various inhabitants, so why should not we have now various employment alternatives as effectively in order that we could be sustainable for the longer term.

“We’ve seen what happens in generations gone, so if one area of work collapses, we don’t lose everything.”

No matter the brand new companies that arrive or vacationers who go to, what number of go to Lumiere or what the end result is of the Tradition bid, there’s a feeling right here about leaving a legacy to match the one which began centuries in the past.

The entire county – led by town – is a residing and rising a part of the previous and the longer term for the North East. There is no such thing as a full cease to this story as a result of each enterprise and resident must be supported, impressed and enabled to develop and construct on what has gone earlier than, not by crudely bolting one thing on, however by merging so seamlessly that the identical pleasure of place that John and Amanda have now remains to be there for generations to come back.


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