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A warm Geordie welcome

An introduction from Baroness Grey Thompson, Paralympian, Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords, Chancellor or Northumbria University

I was first introduced to NewcastleGateshead through sport. I remember seeing the Great North Run on TV from my home in Cardiff and it was this huge event – the world’s largest half-marathon in terms of the number of people taking part. I never imagined I would go on to win the wheelchair race a record eight times.

When I first came to North East England in 1989, I also never thought I’d end up making the region my home. But something about the place and the people got under my skin.

North East England has a rich and diverse industrial history not dissimilar to my home town in South Wales. Both areas were rich in salt, coal and other minerals that powered the Industrial Revolution and had shipbuilding and maritime assets that were the envy of the world.

That industrial heritage used to come to the forefront of my mind every time I drove past the flare stacks of the Teesside chemical plants on my way home to Redcar, where I first lived with my husband when I moved here in the late 1990s.

North East England seemed like a long way away when I first started coming up from Wales. But being surrounded by all of those industries and the amazing people who worked in them, I never felt far away from home.

The thing I like most about living here is the people. There’s a Geordie warmth that you can’t help but love – people are very welcoming but also laidback. Wherever else I might go, people always stop and talk to me about sport or politics. But here, people just walk past and go, “you alright Tanni?”

There’s something so endearing about the informality of that. It’s friendly but it’s also inclusive. I’ve found that people in North East England just embrace me living here and I’ve embraced them right back.

There’s also so much to do here and it’s all accessible. You can do the coast and the countryside in the same day. You can be tucked away in the cosy corner of a country pub one minute and be browsing the shelves at one of two huge shopping centres the next. NewcastleGateshead is a place where all of these contrasts come together – modern and historical, understated and luxury, business and pleasure. The access for wheelchair users is really good as well.

The regeneration of NewcastleGateshead is something that’s been most impressive in the time that I’ve been here. Nowhere is it more apparent than on the Quayside. The transformation in the past 25 years has been incredible.

Take a trip down to the NewcastleGateshead Quayside today and it really is thriving with great bars, restaurants, markets, Sage Gateshead and BALTIC, arts venues and a community of businesses that are world-leading in what they do.

The Quayside is also the place to see the magnificent views of NewcastleGateshead’s iconic seven bridges. From Gateshead Millennium Bridge to the Swing Bridge and my personal favourite the Tyne Bridge, it’s a must-see.

As an athlete, the Tyne Bridge will always hold a special place in my heart – the atmosphere on Great North Run day when you’re crossing the river is like no other race in the world.

North East England is a beacon for sport, with brilliant facilities for athletes of all disciplines. It’s also a beacon for skills and education, with world-class universities, one of which I’m very proud to be chancellor.

As Chancellor of Northumbria University, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of students who want to come here and no doubt NewcastleGateshead’s booming lifestyle offering is a part of that. But the key to attracting and retaining the best talent is for universities to help students find good jobs when they graduate.

The strapline at Northumbria is ‘Take On Tomorrow’ and that’s because we’re always looking forward – as are our students. In fact when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurship, students in North East England are among the most proactive and fearless, earning both Northumbria and Newcastle universities a place in the top three nationally for graduate start-ups.

North East England is evolving, our businesses and universities are thriving and NewcastleGateshead is a city on the up. There’s never been a better time to bring a conference or event here.

The content and photography in this editorial section were produced by North East Times.

"There’s a Geordie warmth that you can’t help but love... Wherever else I might go, people always stop and talk to me about sport or politics. But here, people just walk past and go, 'you alright Tanni?'"
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