ALAN WRIGHT: There is no place like Hartlepool

Alan Wright (right) being iinterviewed by Nick Garnett of BBC Radio 5 Live programme on Hartlepool Headland this morning
Alan Wright (right) being iinterviewed by Nick Garnett of BBC Radio 5 Live programme on Hartlepool Headland this morning

I love seeing new places and travelling for a living certainly gives me plenty of chances to do that, but there’s also a lot of pleasure in having your feet back on familiar ground.

As you probably saw in your Hartlepool Mail, I was on the Headland last week on the other side of a microphone for BBC Radio 5 Live.

Our spot for a chat was about a hundred yards from where I was born and it really did feel like home.

I was due to be on air at about 10.30 in the morning, but, as often happens in live broadcasting, circumstances intervened.

That morning the big FIFA corruption story broke, and our piece eventually happened at about 12.30, about two hours late.

The couple of hours of waiting time turned out to be a real pleasure, with good company from my interviewer Nick Garnett and a steady stream of passers-by enjoying the sunny morning.

Our spot on the Town Wall, just opposite the Andy Capp statue, became a social hub and, to Nick’s surprise, I seemed to know just about everyone who walked by.

The highlight was a chance encounter with old friends Jim and Joan, and we were hooting with laughter as we shared funny tales of years gone by.

The vantage point looking over Hartlepool Bay was an ideal starter for looking at the town’s history and future.

I said on the programme that the change in basic industries was best summed up by the occupations of the fathers of my friends when I was at school on the Headland about 50 years ago.

With a few exceptions, the dads would be employed by a small group of industries – the coal mines, the shipyards, heavy engineering, the steelworks or the chemical business of ICI.

Most of those areas have now declined or disappeared, but the adaptability of our area is something we can rightly crow about.

As a bit of homework for the 5Live team, I took along the programme for the Hartlepool Business Awards which had taken place at the nearby Borough Hall just a couple of weeks before.

The quality and range of the local businesses in there was a good mark of how far the town has come in recent years.

One point which also came up in our discussion was the “engineering gene” which I’m sure exists in our region.

One of my childhood memories was of Meccano sets on Christmas morning when my dad and my uncles would take over my miniature engineering set and argue about the basic principles needed to build a crane or whatever.

It’s no surprise that companies like Nissan and Hitachi have set up home here – there are skills and 
abilities in the North East which are well ahead of the pack.

Of course, there are problems to be overcome, but I firmly believe that a chance to talk to a national, and indeed worldwide, radio audience should focus on proud proclaiming of what we do best rather than a festival of moaning.

The days of holding out a begging bowl to London are behind us; the jobs and wealth being created here can actually be a positive for the whole country.

Above all, though, a couple of hours spent on a sunny morning on the Headland really made my week.