I co-ordinate Hannah Directory, a yearly print publication, website and launch week of events celebrating the great stuff that people are doing in places in England’s north, and asking how even more of it can happen.
The directory is coming into its fourth year, and the 2016-17 edition launches in June. More than 70 people and organisations in places across the north have been involved so far, in Newcastle, Durham, Sheffield, York, Hull, Leeds, Otley, Huddersfield, Hebden Bridge, Halifax, Ossett, Wakefield, Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Preston, Barrow and Liverpool.
The directories feature great stuff happening in the arts, music, business, new kinds of social organisation and scientific discovery. Big Issue North is one example of the great stuff included.
But what is missing from that list?
One thing is sport and activity outdoors.
The outdoors is one of the greatest things about living in places in England’s north.
Our history of taking part in and watching sport played outside has given us some of the most famous sports organisations in the world.
We have an incredible range of natural experiences on our doorsteps. From the Peak District, which begins inside the city of Sheffield, to the Dales, the Pennines, the Lakes and the Northumbrian coast, nowhere in the north is more than a walk, a cycle or a bus ride away from amazing outdoor spaces.
These amazing spaces have been shaped by people as well as nature. Liverpool and Newcastle both have grand riverside views. Arriving in Newcastle on the train must be one of the most dramatic entrances to any city in the world.
Most precious of all, we’ve got so many parks and local playing fields.
It seems like there isn’t a town or city anywhere in England’s north that doesn’t have at least one fantastic civic park. Our parks are in use dawn till dusk by people of every age and every background. Just taking a stroll in the park is stepping into a cultural space the equal of any theatre in the region. This is recognised by cutting edge arts organisations. Octopus Collective, which features in Hannah Directory, make its home in the old park keeper’s cottage in Barrow Park and has put on music events open to all in the band stand and even an art installation with Liverpool artist Ross Dalziel, also in the directory, using crazy golf.
Hannah Directory celebrates organisations like Octopus Collective, which are making fantastic things happen in the places where they live and work.
This year for the first time, a sports and activity event in the same spirit will feature in the directory. It is a secret DIY marathon, organised by Pete Fitzpatrick, a fell runner from Hebden Bridge.
Pete’s marathon began with a post on Facebook. He said he’d never done a marathon, and wanted to do one. So he’d decided that on the morning of 24 April he was going to get the train from Hebden Bridge to another, secret location 26 miles away and run back again. Anyone who wanted to join him would be very welcome.
“Twenty-two people have signed up to run with Pete. And that’s it. We’ve got a marathon”
What I liked so much about Pete’s post was that he managed to make the run sound so friendly and welcoming, and at the same time it made a great contrast with the big commercial marathons. A marathon is, after all, just running.
Twenty-two people have signed up to run with Pete. Others have kindly volunteered to provide drinks at the half way point, and that’s it. We’ve got a marathon.
That is the perfect spirit for Hannah Directory, which celebrates people who crack on and make things happen.
I liked it so much, in fact, that I decided to take part myself and raise money to cover the cost of printing this year’s directory.
It costs about £1,000 per year, and I usually pay that from my own money. I’m struggling to find that amount this year though, so I’ve launched a crowd funding campaign, which has so far had contributions from 29 people in six days.
This year’s Hannah Directory still has some spaces left, and I’d love to find another couple of sports or outdoor activity organisations to fill them.
They just need to be independent, community minded, and doing great stuff. And if you fancy organising your own marathon, Pete is going to put up a website explaining what he’s learned from this one.
Whatever your interests in life though, why not have a walk in the park today?
Pete Fitzpatrick is running in support of the World Land Trust
Andrew Wilson is running for Hannah Directory