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Civil Service

A celebration of the North

Head shot of Sue Owen
Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary, DCMS

Every year, Civil Service Live gives us a fantastic opportunity to get together, learn from one another, celebrate our achievements and share what drives, challenges and motivates us. So much gets covered – from supporting disabled people into work, to negotiating Brexit, and ways we can use digital technology to work smarter. I personally always return feeling energised after participating in these events across the country.

Civil Service Live 2018 logoIn July, Civil Service Live 2018 will arrive in the North East, in Newcastle, bringing with it the usual array of speakers, workshops and inspiration. But there will also be something extra special for visitors this year. That’s because this summer, Newcastle and Gateshead will be hosting the largest event of 2018 in the region – the ‘Great Exhibition of the North’. So, if you're attending CS Live, why not check this event out too?

While it may sound like something from Game of Thrones, the Great Exhibition of the North is actually a free, 80-day celebration of the North of England (22 June to 9 September 2018). Aimed at families, but with something for everyone, it will tell the inspiring story of the North – its culture, its character and its amazing creativity. Newcastle and Gateshead were selected to host following a competition led by DCMS in 2016, which attracted bidders from as far afield as Scunthorpe, St Helens and Whitehaven.

Great Exhibition of the North support logo

Amazing experience

Backed by over £6 million of government investment, the exhibition begins on 22 June with an event featuring a new anthem of the North by poet Lemn Sissay, a free concert by the Kaiser Chiefs, and the unveiling of the UK's largest water sculpture on the Tyne. It will culminate on 9 September with the Great North Run – the world’s biggest and best half-marathon – and a closing ceremony celebrating the women of the North and their achievements.

Visitors are guaranteed an amazing experience, with opportunities to see Stephenson’s Rocket returned to its Northern birthplace (and to experience what riding it was like through virtual reality); witness the best in northern art, from David Hockney to Damien Hirst and 2017 Turner Prize winner, Lubaina Himid; and hear a cutting-edge northern soundtrack, curated by BBC 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne. There will also be a weekly expo of emerging technology and even a Gaming Expo, showcasing the newest and best games technology.

The event will boost business in the North through a three-day business summit, with a keynote address from Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England.  It will also leave a legacy through three exciting new cultural regeneration projects in Blackpool, Bradford and the Lake District, as well as a new fund to support the cultural sector and creative industries of the North of England.

Celebration on the Tyne

Great story

So why a Great Exhibition of the North? Well, because the North has a great story to tell, one that has been an inspiration to the world for centuries. This stunningly diverse and beautiful part of the country – and the great people who live, work and study in the North of England, including more than a quarter of all UK civil servants – are among the UK’s best assets and the success of the region will be pivotal to the future of the country.  

The event will be a vital contribution to the Northern Powerhouse programme, showcasing all of the industries and sectors we represent in DCMS and meeting a wide range of aims including boosting participation in arts and culture, building a stronger society through social action, using our soft power assets across the world and of course growing our economy. By shining a spotlight on the bright future of the North, it will also change perceptions of the region including (we hope) from Northerners themselves. The event builds on the amazing success of Hull’s tenure as UK City of Culture 2017, which you can read about here.

Great Exhibition of the North logo on side of Virgin trainGreat Exhibitions don’t come around very often!  So I’m looking forward to heading to the exhibition during the summer, and you are all invited to join the celebrations in Newcastle and Gateshead, too. More information about all the events and activities is available at

Places at Civil Service Live 2018, the biggest learning event of the year for civil servants, are still available. You can register here.

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