Obsessing with the ‘North-South’ divide means the Midlands is overlooked
Meet Hanisha Sethi, our Midlands reporter
For long enough, the East Midlands (and its people) have been too modest about our historic achievements.
As a child attending school in Nottingham, I always took pride in reading D.H Lawrence, and learning about the mining community he grew up in, that shaped his writing with rawness and precision. That pride later transitioned into boasting to my ‘southern’ friends if any mainstream artist had Midlands roots, such as the melodic, folksy notes of Jake Bugg.
Over the past year, the arts, cultural, and entertainment sector in the East Midlands has been hit as hard as any other region by Covid-19, with many on furlough or losing their jobs. Independent theatres, museums and music venues have sat in darkness, and are only now beginning to welcome guests. Communities have called for more money to be pumped into the arts by local mayors and councils.
Sadly, this is also reflective of other industries that shape our Midlands communities. According to the Business Confidence Monitor for Q2 2021, the East Midlands was joint-highest in the proportion of businesses operating below capacity. Profits fell by 5.7%, which is the sharpest fall in the UK, and biggest drop suffered by the East Midlands on record.
But business owners are optimistic about recovery. As the vaccine rollout continues on its successful path (Derby currently remains head and shoulders above its East Midlands neighbours in immunising its adult population), there is confidence and hope that businesses will bounce back with a stronger mentality, and greater public support.
How the East Midlands recovers from the pandemic is also an opportunity to address the long-running decline of the industrial base which has contributed to regional inequalities, and the growth of insecure and low-paid jobs. A TUC report published during the pandemic stated 7% of the East Midlands' employment is in ‘at risk’ occupations. So it’s vital to question if every government investment project for the area comes with a plan for good quality jobs, with decent pay and security.
As we also face the realities of Brexit, companies are balancing regulatory requirements and transportation concerns, with new customer demands. The East Midlands Airport is only second to Heathrow in terms of cargo, handling over 320,000 tonnes of flown cargo each year. The importance of this to the both the regional and national economy should not be underestimated.
But there’s already a sense of post-Covid recovery in the region. Leicester City’s historic FA Cup win was not just a glimpse of a return to normality, but further proof of a bursting pride among local fans that was reminiscent of the Premier League win in 2016.
GB News will follow these successes of the East Midlands, highlight concerns, and raise awareness of the stories that need to be heard. The beating heart of England need not be anonymous, but be named and celebrated in national culture.