Leaders in arts lend their support

THREE leading lights of the North’s cultural community are adding their support to Northern Rock.

THREE leading lights of the North’s cultural community are adding their support to Northern Rock.

Bosses at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, Bowes Museum in County Durham and at Monster Productions are rallying around the bank and its charitable foundation.

The Northern Rock Foundation receives 5% of the bank’s profits and has donated cash to all three organisations, just three of the 1,523 grants totalling £175m it has made in 10 years.

Its money has allowed the glass centre to present exhibitions of international importance, helped Bowes Museum repair its roof and let Monster Productions bring theatre to thousands of children.

National Glass Centre chief executive Katherine Pearson said: “The Northern Rock Foundation is a trusted and visionary partner of the National Glass Centre and many other organisations and communities in the North-East. Their approach to partnership working is exemplary. We have benefited not only from funding, but their ambition, creative input and ongoing support and commitment to our organisation.

“Our partnership with Northern Rock Foundation – £170,000 over two years – has enabled us to present a truly international programme of exhibitions that explored the diverse qualities of glass through art, design, film and new media. It enables us to make some of the best contemporary art in glass in the world available to North-East audiences and support artists based in the region to create and present work within an international context.

“Northern Rock Foundation is an innovative investor in society – they listen, they think and they act in partnership. I am a passionate supporter of the Northern Rock Foundation and its team of outstanding and committed staff.”

Ruth Robson, head of marketing and development at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, said: “The museum receives generous support from the Foundation to stage its excellent exhibition programme and in 2005 received a substantial grant to help with much-needed roof restoration work.

“The museum is proud to support the bank and the foundation through these difficult times and values all that they do to enable greater access to arts and culture around the region.”

Monster Productions artistic director Ieuan Einion is also joining The Journal’s campaign to back the Rock by opening an account.

He said: “We are an ethical company, often providing theatre for young children who might never have had the opportunity to attend the theatre otherwise. We firmly believe that the Northern Rock bank is also an ethical company, giving as it does 5% of its pre-tax profits to the Northern Rock Foundation, its charitable wing. Over the past five years, we have received something in the region of £100,000 from the Northern Rock Foundation.

“This money has been effectively used to support the attendance at the theatre of some of the region’s poorest children and also to allow our company to develop an entirely new strand of work for babies and pre-school children.

“Without the support we have received from Northern Rock, our company might today not be in existence. We are but one of the many examples of the far-sighted generosity displayed by the bank and its charitable arm.

“I urge all people loyal to the North-East and its institutions and culture to display faith in Northern Rock by investing in the bank. To this end, I am going to move a goodly proportion of my savings from where they now lie to the Northern Rock.

“If we all do the same, people power will have proved to have outflanked the Jeremiahs who are crying for the destruction of a very important part of the North-East’s fabric and wellbeing.”

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Hundreds vote with their feet at Great North Run

NORTHERN Rock received a vote of confidence from hundreds of people in the Great North Run yesterday.

As well as their nominated charity, many runners showed their support for the Rock by wearing T-shirts backing the bank.

Staff from The Journal handed out the bank’s Rock Steady T-shirts.

And BBC Two journalists were on hand to film a programme about the groundswell of local support for the Newcastle bank for The Money Programme, to be shown next month. The Journal’s sales support manager Andrew Naylor, who was at the start handing out T-shirts, said: “Even now the panic has gone, people still want to show their support for Northern Rock.

“We gave away more than 400 T-shirts, which is most of what we had left after the phenomenal show of support from Newcastle fans at St James’s and Falcons fans at Kingston Park. People were wearing these just to show they care, and that’s a great thing to be part of. We had people who have money in the bank who came up to us to say they refused to panic and kept their money in the bank, and people who thought The Journal had done a great job in backing a North-East institution.

The Journal editor Brian Aitken said the paper was proud to help the bank. “The Great North Run is an iconic event and it is fitting that we used the day to make a show of support for another North-East institution, Northern Rock.

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Great North Runners show their colours

GREAT North Runners showed their support yesterday by sporting Rock Steady T-shirts – including many employees of the bank.

Steven Alexander, 24, of Seaburn, Sunderland, a Rock mortgage adviser, said: “There were a lot of employees down here today. It was good to see them not just racing, but watching and supporting us too.” He ran for Cancer Research UK and the Great North Air Ambulance.

Mel Carey, 41, of West Road, Fenham, Newcastle, is a project manager at the Rock. He ran for the Sunshine Fund of our sister paper the Evening Chronicle, but wore Rock colours. “It was a hard decision between the two, but as I’d raised the money for the charity, I thought this would show how we’re all pulling together as a company. The Northern Rock Foundation has agreed to double the £300 I raised for charity.”

Anthony Lumley, 48, of Woodbridge in Suffolk is a product sales manager for Northern Rock in London. He said: “I was running for Traidcraft, but chose to wear the Northern Rock T-shirt as I’ve been working for the company for 22 years.

“Much of the catering at Northern Rock is from Fairtrade companies, which is part of the reason why I supported Traidcraft.

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Treasury says US hedge funds can bid for Rock

NORTHERN Rock could fall into American hands after the Treasury cleared the way for two US hedge funds to enter takeover talks with the bank.

The Treasury, which has effective control of the Rock because of its emergency funding, says US groups JC Flowers and Cerberus can approach the bank. In the next few days, the funds will pitch their takeover proposals to Northern Rock’s investment banking adviser Merrill Lynch.

The US investors are the latest linked to a Rock takeover. Last week it was reported Lloyds TSB had been asked by the Treasury to consider a bid.

But the group is not expected to do so unless the Government extends to new owners its guarantee to keep Northern Rock afloat.

It is believed the Cerberus-led consortium will focus only on the bank’s mortgage book, but JC Flowers and Lloyds would keep the group intact, with a Lloyds takeover likely to sacrifice more jobs.

Northern Rock’s accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers has rejected accusations of a damaging conflict of interest.

The firm came under fire yesterday as it emerged it had earned more for helping the Rock sell on its loans and borrow funds in the wholesale markets than for auditing it.

Northern Rock’s annual report reveals PwC in 2006 got £500,000 for auditing, but £700,000 in non-audit fees for securitisation transactions and raising wholesale funding. Tax Justice Network’s Richard Murphy said: “It’s a complete conflict of interest.”

Lib Dem spokesman Vince Cable said: “I would worry about the fact that the auditor appears to be making enormous fees from what turned out to be the most disastrous aspects of the Northern Rock situation.”

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