Paul Benneworth: Coming home to the North East is great - but even if you can't you can still keep in touch

Exiled Geordie Paul Benneworth on how he gets his fix of the North East he loves from his home in the Netherlands

Harry Pearson who is one of the attractions at Books on Tyne
Harry Pearson who is one of the attractions at Books on Tyne

Coming home for the Christmas holidays is a great pleasure for Geordie expats, only made better for me this year having a three-year old discovering the delights of Santa Claus. The Christmas break provides time to relax and really appreciate the people and places that makes my home region so dear to my heart.

Whether it’s the emotional togetherness of a derby fixture at St James Park with six Geordies on the pitch, or the tranquillity of Christmas lights in a dusky Cullercoats Bay, my break always overwhelms me with local pleasures to carry me through to the Easter return.

There’s no denying that being here is the best way to sample North East life. But thanks to social media’s recent rise, North Eastern émigrés can at least taste these flavours thanks to local creative types making excellent content freely available online.

Services like Twitter, Facebook and blogs offer platforms for individuals to share what inspires and drives them. And for all the mindless celebrity guff out there, there are those who perfectly capture the humour, the passion and the thoughtfulness central to our regional identity.

The nature photographer Phil Gates uses Twitter to share his carefully composed wildlife shots from County Durham and Northumberland, most recently featured in the Guardian newspaper’s “country diary”.

Focusing more on wildlife than dramatic landscapes, he captures perfectly the everyday natural beauty that is always near to hand in the North East towns and countryside.

With politicians often distorting themselves with an eye to the southern Press, it’s refreshing that Kevan Jones MP’s twitter feed shows a true affection for the people and the values he represents.

A mix of constituency work, socialist campaigning and the dramatic scenery he encounters around his home offer a promising future vision of how organised labour politics can both be transformed and revitalised in the 21st Century.

Planners have recently had a bad press being scapegoated for compulsory rural house-building and wind farms, so it’s great to see Mark Tewdwr-Jones using Twitter to argue cogently that sensible spatial planning is vital to make all our lives better.

Coming to the North East after a period observing and advising at the heart of Britain’s planning system, he’s using his platform to inspire a new generation to create truly sustainable communities, something critical to ensuring the North East continues its recent revitalisation.

Dan Jackson’s blog, Northumberlandia Irredenta, is the work of an amateur historian with a love of the present and an eye for everyday historical details.

Echoing traditions of Huw Benyon, his most recent piece “Aristocrats of Labour” eloquently traces the rise of a North Eastern working class intelligentsia that provided stability across regional communities in the golden post-war quarter century.

And finally, I have to mention my favourite sports writer, Harry Pearson’s blog, whose books on the quirkiness of our regional life captured through country fairs and amateur cricket have pride of place in my Dutch library.

With the same gentle affection, attention for detail and a sense of self-ridicule that makes The Far Corner so entertaining, in “The first thirty years are the worst”, he’s turned out twice-weekly columns since June that perfectly capture the unique role football plays in our region.

For those not enamoured of social media, it’s also great to see the Northern Correspondent magazine being launched, dedicated to publishing the best of writing about the North East. Now into its second issue, it’s definitely filling a gap for intelligent, entertaining articles that follow an agenda reflecting what matters to us.

We’ve got so much to be proud of as the North East, and with that, I wish you all the best for a healthy, wealthy 2015.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer