BBC Radio 4 is to air a ten-part series with Melvyn Bragg, telling a story of the North of England, from the end of Roman rule to the present day.
Travelling around and reporting from the North – including Northumbria, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Liverpool and Manchester – he focuses on the pivotal historical moments and cultural contributions from the region, which have helped shape Britain’s place in the world today.
Opening the first programme Melvyn Bragg says: “This is the story of the North, one that has the history of most countries. The area has twice the economy of Scotland, if it were a country in its own right it would be the eighth biggest economy in Europe, and it’s been the scene of the greatest revolution in the world – the industrial revolution; the retreat of one empire – the Roman military, and the advance of another – the Roman church. Invasions from the East by the Vikings, and from the South by their cousins the Normans, the former enriching the English language, the latter marching up from London to destroy much of the North and leaving centuries of bloody rebellion and justified resentment.
“It’s here in the North that the original culture of England was founded after the Romans, the dissent and non-conformism bred great inventions, and that a particular sense of humour was developed… I think it’s a wonderful part of the world and like most people who’ve been born and brought up in the North I feel this is as much a country as any more neatly geographically defined place on the planet… And it’s not a bad time to look at the roots of northerness in this referendum year when there’s been much talk of a North-South divide, there’s no doubt that being northern matters greatly to people in 2016.”
Gwyneth Williams, Controller, BBC Radio 4, says: “Radio 4 recognises and celebrates the rich and diverse cultural history of the UK. In this spirit I am thrilled to broadcast this significant and timely series on the North from Melvyn Bragg, one of our most brilliant and distinguished broadcasters. Driven by Melvyn’s personal passion these programmes explore identity and meaning as well as history, culture and ideas drawing on an extraordinary cast of characters to make up a living and unforgettable picture of the North.”
The Matter of the North will broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 9am (Monday-Friday) from Monday 29th August – Friday 9th September and wasproduced by the BBC Radio Production North team based in Salford.