In the Name of Hope. Northern Rocks 2014.


It was a normal Saturday night. The X Factor/Voice/Britain’s got Talent was on the telly. I was on twitter. Mr. Kidd was staring at the ceiling in existential angst. A DM from Emma Hardy popped into my in box. “Did you go to the thing in Southampton today – it sounded great”. I hadn’t been and nor had she. It was too far and we had a little moan that so much good stuff was taking place in the south. We should do one up here one of us said. So I tweeted it. And within 24 hours we were turning speakers away. Within weeks all 500 tickets had gone. We called it Northern Rocks. And it rocked.



I’m not going to write about who said what – already brilliant blogs documenting the day are coming out and Emma and I will reblog them on the Northern Rocks site. And within days the workshops will be popping up on YouTube. I’m going to write about what this event stood for.

It stood for the North. Rock solid, salt of the earth, no nonsense north.

It stood for independence. A reclamation of pedagogy, of practice; a chance for teachers to come together and genuinely discuss how they can become pedagogical activists, fighting for the education they know that children deserve.


It stood for coming together – rising above political differences of opinion, above binary positioning, above power struggles and ego in order to show unity. If Yorkshiremen and Lancastrians can do it, we can all do it.

photo copy 2

It stood for hope. Hope, don’t mope; reform, don’t moan.

It stood for generosity – of the spirit of good will. And that spirit was evident at every turn – the generosity of the panelists and speakers; of Leeds Met and Jo Pearson who donated the spaces; of Caroline Lenton at Crown House who donated the time and printing of the programmes; of Daniel Britton who set up our site and managed all our technology; of Cathy Cross who responded to my fears that the space would look bland by making a wall out of hula hoops, clothes racks and conducting tubing; the firewall of helpers who sacrificed their own day to troubleshoot, protecting Emma and I from stress by solving problems before we were even aware of them; the generosity of 500 people who gave up their Saturday to attend.


It stood for love. A love of learning. A love of children.

It stood for friendship. New friends and old ones stood in front of us as we quaked in our shoes and they made us feel we could do anything.


It stood for head-heart-hand humanity. We talked, we listened, we debated and learned. But we also made and played, laughed and sang.

Hywel singing

It stood for all that is good about our profession – collaboration and community.

Me and Mick

Whether you were right or left leaning, traditional or progressive, somewhere in the middle or in a muddle, there was a sense yesterday that we really were all in it together. And it was a beautiful thing. On Friday I said I would never do this again. But I found it was like child birth – despite all the screaming and the pain, when you hold that baby for the first time and look into its eyes, you know you would go through it all again, and more. So….watch this space and thank you from the bottom of my heart to you all.

13 thoughts on “In the Name of Hope. Northern Rocks 2014.

  1. It was an inspirational day, thank you to you and Emma for being brave and tenacious to make it happen. There was a powerful critical mass there yesterday who aren’t going away…

  2. Loved it, Debra! Thank you – and Emma. Made me proud to be a Yorkshire lass….

  3. So pleased we came from Nottingham, it didn’t dsappoint. So encourgaging to meet so many of our Twitter heros on the day, I hope they were encouraged to keep blogging and tweeting – it is just so helpful. And YES please let’s hold the date for more of the same next year. Keep it edgy, sparky and full of northern grit, and even northern gritty southern folks of like minds!! THANKS for all your hard work x

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