Our durability is in our culture


By James Ramsbotham

Chief Executive, North East England Chamber of Commerce


Trustee of the Gillian Dickinson Trust

If you have ever been working in some far flung part of the world and suddenly seen a clearly identifiable North East image (one of our castles, or cathedrals, or bridges, or other icons such as the Angel of the North) you will know how it lifts your spirits and makes you feel proud.

I recently spoke with someone who had lost the sense of taste – all food was the same to them.  They remained well fed and physically strong but their state of mind was very depressed.  It is much easier to feed the body than the soul – to do so we need a strong and vibrant culture.  It enriches every aspect of our lives.

Great civilisations are built by strong economies but their durability is in their culture. 

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In a time when there is increasing focus on mental wellbeing there is an ever greater need to ensure we have a vibrant cultural scene to nourish the soul.  

NewcastleGateshead – part of the vibrant economy and rich culture that North East England a great place to live

However, if future generations are not able to appreciate the cultural offer which is available they will be unable to take maximum benefit.  I believe that the North East offers such a great quality of life because of its vibrant economy and the richness of its culture. 

I really hope that everyone can fully engage with both – we will all be better as a direct result.

In order for the Region to attract and retain the very best people to build our future economic prowess we need to provide emotional and physical nourishment.  We need to inspire everyone by providing the greatest cultural mix possible. 

We all know how much more productive we are when our sports teams (particularly football) are performing well at the highest level.  We all know how certain music touches our emotions – it raises spirits and morale.  Arts and culture can be so transformative in public and private space.  We feel a sense of belonging and such things give us a real lift.  So many art forms do this for us. 

We are not all the same and we are inspired by many different things so we need the widest mix of options.  It makes us proud to be part of this great region and inspires us to do more to contribute towards its future.

We want our children to be equally passionate about the North East. We want them to be able to deliver to their full potential, to feel fulfilled and to make their mark as they carve out their own lives and careers. 

Make Something Brilliant a new City of Dreams programme, supported by Gillian Dickinson Trust

We need to encourage their creativity and their determination to make a difference.  No matter what they do, they will be more fulfilled if they feel inspired and motivated.  Such emotional wellbeing comes from so much more than the humdrum. 

Innovation and creativity in the business world is crucial for our future success and it is the product of the widest range of experiences far beyond the classroom.  Our natural and built environments, our physical endeavours in sport or recreation, our joy in music and performing arts together with our appreciation of sculpture, drawing, painting and creative writing all contribute to our emotional breadth and depth. 

Too many of our young people have insufficient opportunity to appreciate and benefit from the wonders that are on offer in their own neighbourhoods.  There is real beauty in so much around us, if only we could see it.  Sometimes we need to deliberately stop to take it in, and often we need others to point it out to us.  We are the richer when we do appreciate and absorb the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings that are available to us. 

City of Dreams, initiated and led by NewcastleGateshead Cultural Venues with around 50 other partners, aims to make this a reality for each and every one of us and especially our children.

The Gillian Dickinson Trust – established by my Aunt Gillian as her legacy to the North East – exists to build artistic excellence amongst our young people. 

“Delighted to start things going” for City of Dreams, because “there is no quick fix” to enriching all our lives

How wonderful to be able to support City of Dreams in its endeavours to build greater cultural awareness and ability amongst future generations. 

This is a decade-long programme which will hopefully be sustainable long into the future – there is no quick-fix as this needs to be for life.  We hope that many will feel driven to become involved in the years ahead but we are delighted to help start things going and build a brighter future.

In ten years’ time I hope that we have enriched the lives of all of us. 

The aspiration is for all our cultural venues to be thriving and delivering for every person in the North East.  The buzz in the region from our wealth of drama, music, dance, art exhibitions, sport, creative writing, celebrations of heritage and so much more will be tangible – and we will have the greatest emotional wellbeing and economic productivity.  We will be the favoured location for future investment.

Will you be joining us?

There will be 2 launch events for City of Dreams on 18th September, both hosted at Northern Stage.



A special seminar for arts, culture, heritage and science organisations. This event will highlight the key insights informing the City of Dreams strategy, and allow time for discussion about how we can work together in the future, evolve our plans, and what challenges we might face along the way.


An exciting City of Dreams event for leaders in civil society, business, education, culture, the arts, funding organisations, and the voluntary and community sector. There will be presentations, announcements, performances and opportunities for networking.

To find out more stay tuned to this website, email us at info@cityofdreams.org.uk, or follow City of Dreams on Twitter

Follow James on Twitter,  or check out the North East England Chamber of Commerce and the Gillian Dickinson Trust



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