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IPPR - Female speakers in majority at first summit of North’s civil society

The first summit for civil society in the North of England will take place next week – with a majority of female speakers.

IPPR North’s Whose Powerhouse is it anyway? conference brings charities, social enterprises, leaders from large and small businesses, faith groups, the public sector, entrepreneurs and grassroots activists together.

Through debates, workshops, panel discussions and keynote speeches, attendees will develop ideas to make sure the Northern Powerhouse amounts to more than “white men talking about trains behind closed doors”.

Taking place in Newcastle on 30 March, the conference will aim to take back control of the Northern Powerhouse agenda, so it is powered by the North itself and is more than a Whitehall buzzword.

The conference is part of IPPR North’s Future of Civil Society in the North programme. While it pre-dates protests last month of a Northern Powerhouse conference in which all the speakers promoted were men, such events make the conference highly topical.

IPPR North’s conference will help pave the way for the Peoples’ Powerhouse conference on 9 May, which IPPR North and a coalition of sister bodies are organising, coordinated by Tracy Fishwick with Jo Miller, chief executive of Doncaster council, and Donna Hall, chief executive of Wigan council.

Sessions at the one-day conference include:

  • the launch of IPPR North’s Third Sector Trends report, which examines the state of the voluntary sector in the North based on a survey of more than 3,000 organisations
  • a keynote address on young people from Ruth Ibegbuna of the Reclaim Project, which works to engage working-class kids with politics and develop their leadership skills
  • discussion on equalities and gender in particular, with speakers including Eve Holt of Diva Manc which works to include women in the Greater Manchester devolution debate, and Simone Roche of Northern Power Women which looks at including female entrepreneurs especially in the Northern Powerhouse
  • workshops designed to equip charities, businesses and others to engage with devolution and the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

Speakers, in alphabetical order by surname, include:

  • Sara Bryson, Citizens North East
  • Professor Tony Chapman, Durham University
  • Ed Cox, IPPR North
  • Chris Dabbs, Unlimited Potential
  • Rhodri Davies, Charities Aid Foundation
  • Warren Escadale, VSNW
  • Abigail Gilbert, New Local Government Network
  • David Hardman – former Councillor for Jesmond
  • Jane Hartley, VONNE
  • Eve Holt, DivaManc
  • Ruth Ibegbuna, RECLAIM
  • Roxy Legane, RECLAIM
  • Nadeem Murtuja, JUST Yorkshire
  • Simone Roche, Northern Powerwomen
  • Hugh Rolo, Locality
  • Katie Schmuecker, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Emma Stone, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Jane Streather – Newcastle council, Millfield House Foundation
  • Jane Thomas, Sheffield Fairness Campaign
  • Rob Williamson, Community Foundation
  • Sally Young, Newcastle CVS.

The event takes place on 30 March in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and is both free and open to all, including charities, businesses and individuals. A final few places remain but booking is essential.

Sarah Longlands, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said:

“For the Northern Powerhouse to thrive, it must be about much more than white men talking about trains behind closed doors.

“Vital as transport connections are, they won’t by themselves do much for many parts of the North which have yet to feel the kind of progression from their industrial past we’ve seen in places like Manchester over recent years. The Brexit vote surely highlights this.

“The fantastic protests over the lack of female speakers at a Northern Powerhouse conference showed that there is huge appetite for a truly Northern Powerhouse: not as some Whitehall policy, but as a wholescale reinvention of the North by the North – which draws its strength from the diversity of our diverse people.”

Tracy Fishwick, project director of the Peoples’ Powerhouse conference, said:

“A lot of people feel they haven’t got a voice in the debate and events like the Peoples’ Powerhouse convention and this Third Sector Summit are trying to open up the conversation.

“Growth is about people, and people must be included in the discussion.”


Ash Singleton,, 07887 422 789.


IPPR North is the dedicated think-tank for the North of England.

The following URL links to the sign-up page:

IPPR North has long argued that the Northern Powerhouse must be inclusive: of people of all genders, ethnicities and sexualities, not just white men; of all parts of the North, not just its big cities, and deliver inclusive growth and great public services, and not a smokescreen for austerity cuts.

All media are welcome to attend and can accredit by contacting Ash Singleton on the above or by replying to this email.

A press release outlining the findings of IPPR North’s Third Sector Trends report, which is being launched at the conference, will be circulated next week.

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