Thursday, 21 January 2010

Sunshine mountain

True North deliberately accentuates the positive - 'Climb, climb up Sunshine Mountain' as we sang in the Sunday School at Gipton Methodist - and is thus vulnerable to criticism that everything is too radiant. I try to fend this off in the book, partly by pointing out how so much writing about the North is the exact opposite, steeped in gloom; and partly by calling in aid the sort of stories about bad things which I have covered for the Guardian up here since 1987.
The latter process has been hugely helped by careful statistical work, particularly from Government departments but also from extremely painstaking groups such as the Coalfields Community Campaign, now retitled The Alliance. A consortium of local authorities in former - and still existing - coalfield areas, it has produced endless, excellent data. A couple of examples: The Other Half of Britain and It's a Matter of Life and Death, both published in 2008. Look for The Alliance as publisher after June 2007 and the CC prior to that.The Audit Commission is first-rate too. When I chaired the old National Lottery Charities Board in Yorkshire and the Humber, I soon discovered how important audit is as a means of checking on non-elected public bodies. The commission's A Mine of Opportunities - local authorities and the regeneration of the English Coalfields, published in November 2008, makes extremely interesting reading. A good example of an academic book which makes sensible and responsible use of highly detailed statistics is Corporate City - partnership, participation and partition in urban development in Leeds, edited by Graham Haughton and Colin C Williams, and published by Avebury in 1996. I will be adding other examples to this post as I plough on through my groaning shelves...

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