There’s a gun smoke scent of independence in the air since nearly half of Scotland voted for it, despite the pleas of the British establishment. So why not here? The North of England is different to the south. We could run things better ourselves, and we’ve got history. This region was the power-house of the industrial revolution. There’s a higher level of Viking blood in the North, from before the Norman conquest to the time of the Danelaw. We’re different up here, and many are resentful of domination from London, on everything from arts funding to major road planning. The North has suffered more in the recession, and now without regional development agencies there’s no strategic northern planning. I‘m not expecting the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership to be people-powered. It seems to be about local leaders supporting business growth, with majority private sector involvement. What’s good for businessmen isn’t always good for the people. They meet in private and don’t seem to publish accounts or annual reports.

These would have been familiar arguments to activist suffragette Hannah Mitchell. Despite only two weeks of schooling, the Derbyshire-born Mitchell became a northern heroine. Imprisoned in Manchester for her militant votes for women campaigning, she went on to become a Labour councillor, still fighting for greater democracy and the public good until the 1950s, when Labour still meant socialist. Then in 2012 came the formation of the Hannah Mitchell Foundation, a forum for the development of devolved government in the North. Its general secretary, Professor Paul Salveson, says the North should have powers that regions in Germany and other parts of Europe enjoy.

Mitchell’s first name has also been given to the Hannah Directory, which is definitely something to watch. It’s a booklet, a social media frenzy and a celebration of northern creativity. Launched last year as a £2,000 Kickstarter project, it shares and celebrates co-operation between people and places in the North of England – skills, inspiration, new kinds of knowledge, social organisations, arts, businesses, scientific discoveries and anything else. To quote founder Andrew Wilson, “The North has changed. But change isn’t only a bad thing. It opens up new possibilities. Now we can make our North of England into anything we want it to be. It’s up to us. We just have to say we are going to do it, and then do it … There has to be talking, sharing and co-operating.”

Look out for the little dusky pink directories, which are free annual listings of intriguing organisations all over the North, from here to Newcastle. Distributed by hand, it’s all about cross-publicising in a mutually supportive network. If you’re a little Sheffield-centric, it’ll tempt you to look beyond the city boundaries to places within easy reach by rail. Who’d have thought there’s a socialist co-operative club venue near Huddersfield? A Yorkshire game makers network? A local train with live music? Edible manicure? You’ll have to read the directory to find out more.

Independence for the North of England may take some time to catch on, but you never know. Meanwhile let’s keep an eye on Sheffield. If you’re here, you’re a Sheffielder. There’s only now, there’s only us. Let’s make things happen.

hannahmitchell.org.uk
hannahfestival.com
alt-sheff.org

UNITED WE STAND
19-22 November, 7.30pm  |  Lantern Theatre

Ricky Tomlinson, couch potato father in northern comedy The Royle Family, was involved in a real legal injustice. Three trade unionists were jailed following the 1972 Builders’ Strike, as this play explains. It’s on this month at the small but perfectly formed Lantern Theatre in Nether Edge.
lanterntheatre.org.uk

LADIYFEST
29 November

Sheffield’s feminist/LGBTQ/DIY activist collective hold their major annual event this month. Practical workshops and discussions, food, info, creche, music and more. They welcome everyone to this and to their awesome range of gigs all year round. Stay up to speed online.
ladiyfestsheffield.wordpress.com

Alt Sheff