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The Regional Democracy Think Tank for West Yorkshire

Regional Democracy - a recent timeline from West Yorkshire

Regional Democracy comes from below, it's about being positive and actively taking responsibility. Devolution by necessity comes from above, ceding responsibility from the top downwards. Maybe the two will meet on the way.

Here is a first attempt at a timeline of Regional Democracy as it relates to where we live, West Yorkshire. They are developments from within the region for the region, initiatives not dependent on those who already hold power nationally.

Autumn 2011 - Hannah Mitchell Foundation (HMF) is formed, ‘working for a fair and prosperous North of England within a federal Britain’

Spring 2012 - HMF launches publicly. Its’ website archives are a key record of many developments towards Regional Democracy.

Summer 2012 – HMF’s first AGM

2012 – Yorkshire Devolution Movement (YDM) is launched, ‘campaigning to secure a directly elected regional assembly for Yorkshire’.

June 2013 - Hannah Festival 01 takes place, including the launch of the first Hannah Directory. This is bottom up, asset based, unsubsidised, creative activity to build consciousness of what we would now call "regional democracy". The Hannah Mitchell in Hannah Directory is from Hannah Mitchell in Hannah Mitchell Foundation, in 2013 they were directly connected. The kickstarter is a key document.

Summer/Autumn 2014 - Hannah Directory conversations took place at the Star and Shadow (Newcastle) and Leeds Summat.

April 2014 - Yorkshire Party formed to contest the European Parliament elections as ‘a progressive political party made up of autonomous local groups and individuals who are united by a shared belief that Yorkshire needs a voice at European, national and regional level’. It was originally called Yorkshire First.

October 2014 – Potentially the earliest documented use of the term "regional democracy" by a West Yorkshire activist in recent times, HMF founder Paul Salveson.

May 2015 - Following responses to the ‘Yorkshire free, fair and fun for all?’ video in October 2014 and this subsequent Culture Vulture article  in August 2015, a group starts to come together at the JUST West Yorkshire offices in Bradford through social media and personal contacts. The group were positive about democracy that could bring about real change closer to where they lived but also felt that debates about ‘devolution’ had been all about those who already held power, whether political or in business. The group wanted to engage a more diverse range of voices in the debate about the future of their region and was partially inspired by the way that new voices and ideas became a big part of the debate about the future of Scotland.

Spring 2015 - "*Doing devolution without permission from politicians.*": Hannah Directory conversations at Notwestminster (Huddersfield) and Festival of Debate (Sheffield). "There is a new enthusiasm in England for devolution to local and even regional government, but ordinary people can't yet see how they can get involved and help make it happen. In this workshop we will listen to each other, talk, and come up with ideas together to start doing devolution from the bottom up as soon as we walk out of the room."

June 2015 – Northern Citizens’ Convention organised by HMF and others in Huddersfield

November 2015 – The group meeting at JUST West Yorkshire made the conscious choice to talk about ‘regional democracy’ rather than devolution and organised the 'What Kind of region do we want to live in?' event in Manningham. This included videos & photoboards of people around West Yorkshire talking about their responses, and an Open Space model ie. no hierarchy of speakers or fixed agenda where all could suggest themes/discussions. 40% of attendees at that event were female and virtually none of the attendees had attended a 'devolution' event before. Following the event, this group became a loose network of people in West Yorkshire called Same Skies. This network is positive about regional democracy, open to working with people from all parties and none and actively tries to engage diverse voices. The network also runs the 'We Share The Same Skies' collaborative blog of hopeful ideas and the related Twitter account.

January 2016 – University of Leeds hosts the ‘Power to the North’ event where Leila Taleb first starts to share Same Skies’ vision for Regional Democracy publicly.

April 2016 – Same Skies’ first explicit ‘Regional Democracy’ workshop takes place at Leeds Summat.

May 2016 - Same Skies members publish an article adding more detail to their vision for Regional Democracy.

June 2016 – HMF launch the Northern Network , ‘an open network of people in the North committed to social justice, tolerance and democratic reform for an inclusive, creative and decentralised North’. This eventually becomes the Northern Umbrella and aims to 'create an alternative Northern Powerhouse partnership that is genuinely inclusive'.

July 2017 - In response to the lack of women in leadership positions participating in a Northern Powerhouse conference in Manchester, Tracy Fishwick and Jo Miller organise an alternative conference in Doncaster.  The event draws attention to the lack of diverse opinions and experiences represented in the Northern Powerhouse plans and launches the People’s Powerhouse movement.

August 2017 - In Keighley, Same Skies begin a series of Regional Democracy workshops at markets around West Yorkshire. Visitors and stall holders are asked to draw maps of their own neighbourhoods, especially the good stuff, and talk about their hopes for the future of the region. The aim is to put all of the maps together, building up a regional picture from below. A picture starts to emerge of what communities in West Yorkshire want their regional democracy to help preserve and/or to develop.

July 2018 - The Northern Umbrella jointly organises a meeting in Manchester that aims to 'unite the North against Brexit'.

August 2018 - The Yorkshire Post newspaper plays an increasing role in advocating for devolution on the basis of 'One Yorkshire'. The campaign is officially launched at an event hosted by the Archbishop in York.

November 2018 - Philip Hardstone organises the inaugural meeting of the cross-party Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament in Huddersfield.

November 2018 - The People’s Powerhouse holds its convention in Bradford and launches a charter ‘to transform the fortunes of the North and its people’. The movement aims 'to shape the debate around the Northern Powerhouse, to ensure that people and communities are at the heart of the Powerhouse plans, not the periphery'.

April 2019 - Same Skies launch their book, 'What Kind of Region Do We Want To Live In?'. The book brings together different elements of the idea and practice of regional democracy, including essays by 18 different people who live and/or work in West Yorkshire, a longer piece, “What Do We Mean By Regional Democracy?”
co-written by the main organisers of Same Skies, and photographs, hand drawn maps and tweets from Same Skies market events. It was launched in Leeds at Colours May Vary and in Halifax at the Book Corner, from where hard copies of the book are available. It is also available as a free PDF from here.

June 2019 - The Yorkshire Post joins with 33 other newspapers across the North to launch the 'Power Up the North' campaign. In particular it 'called on leaders to:

  • Deliver a fundamental shift in decision-making out of London, giving devolved powers and self-determination to people in the north
  • Commit funding immediately to make Northern Powerhouse Rail a national priority
  • Overhaul the region’s road and rail network as a part of a wider environmental plan,  with devolved funding and powers
  • Put full weight behind a bespoke Industrial Strategy for the north of England to enable every sector of the economy, from manufacturing to farming, to flourish
  • Make additional investment available for the north’s schools, colleges and universities to boost skills training
  • Set out a programme to build a new generation of social housing and affordable homes
  • Accelerate investment in the north’s digital infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, and support creative industries
  • Commit that the government’s ‘shared prosperity fund’, intended to replace EU structural funding, be fully devolved in long-term tranches to enable strategic decisions of scale rather than areas having to bid in for smaller amounts, piecemeal.
  • Elevate the post of Northern Powerhouse minister to cabinet status, with full powers, as a clear signal that they intend to take this region seriously.

July 2019 - The Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament is officially launched in York with speakers including Philip Hardstone, Natalie Bennett, Simon Duffy, Diana Wallis, James Blanchard and Arnie Craven. The cross-party group is 'campaigning for a referendum on the future of our county, with a devolved parliament and administration at its heart'.

This is a working document originally drafted by Andy Wilson. What are we missing? What else should we add? Please contact us with your ideas below or via Twitter.

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