01 September 2016
The opening seconds of this promising 10-parter, which began last Monday and ends next Friday, found Melvyn Bragg perched on top of Hadrian’s Wall. The suspicion that his account of the “pivotal” role of northern England in our affairs might lack a certain amount of objectivity was confirmed when Lord Bragg, a Cumbrian, straightaway began on a roll call of the area’s achievements over the past millennium and a half, its economic lustre, its proud non-conformist leanings – spiritual and otherwise – its sense of humour, its incontestable status as the seedbed of our national culture.
While various professional northerners (Dames Bakewell and Dench, Michael Parkinson, Ian McMillan) were already on display, they played little part in this first instalment, which focused on the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria. But where exactly was the North, geographically speaking?
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