Jill Cole, Director of Northern Heartlands shares her views on the project and what it entails….

As Director of Northern Heartlands, I am passionate about creativity, culture and heritage. To have the opportunity to nurture these through this project, in this beautiful and diverse area, is such an exciting prospect.

Northern Heartlands is truly a great place – not only does it include stunning landscapes but it has been inspirational in the origins of the industrial revolution, from the coal it generated to power the nation to the trains that transported us into another age. We have such a rich cultural heritage and as part of Northern Heartlands, we have the opportunity to embrace this through community engagement and creative projects to encourage a sense of place.

Over the next two and a half years, we will work to make people aware of how their landscape has been shaped by everything that has happened in the past, everything that is happening now and everything that might happen in the future.

To be honest, at times, I realise that the jargon around the cultural landscape approach can be off-putting for some. It’s part of our role at Northern Heartlands to cut through this and focus on our mission – to empower those who live and work here to have the confidence and resources to be able to influence policy and decision-making, without feeling like it’s too elitist or that they are unable to have an input.

I firmly believe that creativity underpins all we do. Without it, everything else suffers, be it health and wellbeing, the economy, housing and planning, science and engineering, education.   If we are not able to embrace creativity as a society, there is no flair, no excitement around what we can achieve, not just as individuals but also as a community as a whole.

Being creative is being human. And here at Northern Heartlands, we are passionate about stimulating a strong thread of engagement to explore and celebrate our humanity and our communities.

And it’s not just about making things happen over the course of the project. Though it runs from July 2017 to June 2020 part of our remit is to ensure there is a real legacy to each event and happening we generate. Helping communities to have the capacity and ability to continue anything that Northern Heartlands supports is fundamental in ensuring we’re not just here today, gone tomorrow.

And we’re not pretending this is going to be easy. We are determined to face the challenges head on. We will work to represent all, not simply those interested or excited by the arts. The geographical area is diverse both in terms of geography, industry and the social make-up of the communities we are working with. We are however going to be working hard to ensure we reach as many people as possible in a meaningful way. That’s where volunteers will be invaluable in the coming months and years.

We can’t pretend that we know all the answers. At times, it feels like we are still working to discover the right questions. But I know, with the dedicated, effective and enthusiastic team members here at Northern Heartlands HQ, we will be able to achieve a huge amount in the time we have available.

The success of this project will be determined because those achievements won’t simply be one-off events but will have a more meaningful, deeper impact that lasts longer than the project itself. That is what we are aiming for and I thank everyone who have been so positive and receptive over the last six months. Together, we will ensure that Northern Heartlands is the success that this great place so richly deserves.