Stuck-Up Southerners

WILL DALRYMPLE doesn’t understand why people don’t like the North

access debate north south

Despite its title, this piece will not be slagging off people who happen to live in the South. Neither will it extol the many, many virtues of the North.

It is so called and so subtitled to mirror a different article published by The Tab, as it is a response to that article (also, who could resist such a headline!) Just thought I’d make that clear.

Yesterday, Charlie Dowell wrote a piece expressing his irritation that those who live in the North seem to prefer it to the South – the poor ( a word I use in a decidedly non-economic sense) inhabitants of the Midlands were sadly excused from the matter.

My writing a response to this article is likely to raise a few eyebrows, and several more questions. For instance, it is entirely plausible that Charlie wrote the piece in order to ‘troll’; to enrage the local online community and thus have, as Alan Partridge might say, the last laugh. It was (possibly) a joke, so why take any notice of it?

I mean, if you take issue with a purely facetious and tongue-in-cheek piece of writing then you’re just fucking stupid. Or maybe not.

Better not- I might be trolling you!!!!

Better not – I might be trolling you!!!!

A serious point raised by several people is that an article which is at pains to point out the ‘dinginess’ of Northern cities, the superiority of the South and the ‘undoubtable shit[ness]’ of the North is damaging to the University, and to many who wish to study here at some point.

Regardless of the seriousness of intent, the article presses on the sore spot of the perception of Cambridge in places further outside the M25 than Charlie might care to venture.

The access initiatives put in place by the university struggle against the view held by many ‘up north’ that Cambridge is not for them, that there is no place for a Mancunian, Liverpudlian or Sheffield..ian, at a Uni so seemingly dominated by privately educated men and women from the South.

Many up North fear a frosty reception...

Many up North fear a frosty reception…

It’s not hard to see why- the rigorous entrance exams lead many to count themselves out of the running, being unwilling to compete with those educated at the best schools in the country.

Even state educated Southerners must stand a better chance; the sweeping shitness of the North must surely include standards of education.

In addition, the prominence of talented and famous individuals who emerge from Cambridge lead others to refuse to even entertain the notion that they are as gifted or capable as those who festoon the media.

Now you are very well placed to put this down to low self-esteem. However, when you couple these factors with the lingering possibility (one, in my opinion, inadvertently promoted by Charlie’s article) that, being from the North, you’re hardly likely to fit in with, get on with, or have anything in common with ‘stuck-up Southerners’ (a phrase I’ve heard in my native Sheffield more often than I’d like), you have a robust potential deal-breaker.

Access schemes have this (and much more) to deal with; the mutual phobia between ‘stuck-up Southerners’ and ‘stubborn Northerners’. An article like Charlie’s has very damaging potential.

Beautiful: but this beauty is not enough to convince everyone...

Beautiful: but this beauty is not enough to convince everyone…

Another very serious thing thrown into the mix in the article is the recent child-abuse scandal which occurred just across town from me in Rotherham. To suggest that such appalling and upsetting incidents are exclusive to the North is ill-judged and astonishingly unfunny.

It perhaps points to an ‘I’m not surprised’ attitude shared by certain denizens of the South when bad things happen or appalling human behaviour is exhibited in the North. This is an attitude which, if I thought widespread, would certainly have put me off applying to Cambridge.

It could well be that Charlie is pointing out the Northern negatives so as to highlight that everywhere suffers from a drawback or two – unlikely, as he sagely concludes that ‘the reality is the South has more to offer and is therefore better.’ With this in mind, I’ll conclude by talking about Sheffield, my home.

Sheffield is the greenest city in Europe; more trees per capita than anywhere else in the EU (see for yourself sometime, it’s lovely). The city boasts a thriving arts scene, with poetry and music festivals, and has given rise to giants such as the Arctic Monkeys, Def Leppard and Dick from Dick & Dom (kidding… kinda). It’s got an unusual infrastructure, being built on seven hills, and is swathed in the lush, stunning surroundings of the Peak District.

I’ve always been happy to have lived there, but maybe, just maybe, I’d have been happy living somewhere else. Who knows?

It’s worth considering, at any rate.