For the past four years a story has accreted on this blog. It’s a meta-narrative, a story about stories.
Looking back, I believe the arc began with the partial collapse of Leeds’ Temple Works. That’s what led me to encounter the people who made this city, and then to talk about them in pixels, in print and in person.
Along the way, I have questioned what it means to tell a story in the place where it happened. I have celebrated the often overlooked asset of narrative capital, the capacity of a population to imagine and make a future out of the stories they inherit from the past.
And for a while now I’ve felt as if this arc is drawing to a conclusion, only I don’t know how it ends.
It’s something about England’s North. Not the North of cliches, of ‘Wuthering Heights’ and flat caps and “Good Honest Broadband from Yorkshire”, but rather the future of the North. Not the future of economic development and high speed rail and devolution of power, though all of those things make a difference. It is something about a new idea of the North, a social and cultural and technological way of being that grows out of all that has happened here thus far.
As evidenced by the paragraph above, I am rather better at saying what it isn’t than what it is, so in a bid to hasten the moment of closure, I have taken two steps.
First, I have begun to collate my talks and blog posts into the structure of book, which I plan to release under the same Creative Commons license as this blog. It will be a tentative, provisional book, one with version control and footnotes, but I feel this will help me to get the ideas in my head out of alpha and into some shape where others can engage more easily with the emergent arc.
Second, with Imran Ali and Andrew Wilson, I started to collect examples of what the New Idea of the North might look like. We made a Tumblr and started to throw in stuff that seemed relevant. We’ve had a couple of sessions where we tried to wring meaning out of all the stuff we’ve collected. I think it’s helping but we’re still not there.
So please take a look at the Tumblr, tell us what you see. I can’t wait to find out where it leads us.