The North East in the 21st Century

England’s North East : 21st Century

A new millennium. New hope and new bridges. As well as new developments in towns and cities there are political changes too. New authorities are established representing the Tees Valley and North of Tyne and in national politics, the dominance of the Labour Party with its strong regional links under Blair and Brown gives way to a new Conservative ascendancy from 2010. ‘Brexit’ – the exit from the European Union becomes a major divisive political issue.

BALTIC, Sage Gateshead and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge
BALTIC, Sage Gateshead and Gateshead Millennium Bridge © David Simpson

👈 1990-1999 | Timeline | The 2020s 👉

Jan 1, 2000 – New millennium

The new millennium is welcomed with a street theatre extravaganza in Newcastle and thousands of private parties elsewhere. As the clock strikes midnight, the North East erupts in a frenzy of fireworks.

May 2000 – Centre for Life

Her Majesty the Queen opens the new Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne. It is a science village focused on life sciences and genetic research with its partners including the neighbouring Newcastle University and the NHS. Part of the site includes a popular science-based visitor attraction which hosts events and exhibitions.

Centre for Life, Newcastle
Centre for Life, Newcastle © David Simpson

June, 2000 – England out of Euro 2000

In football, England fail to progress beyond the Group Stage of the UEFA Euro 2000 football tournament. Despite a goal from Newcastle-born Alan Shearer in a 1-0 victory over Germany at Charleroi in Belgium, England lost their other group games to Portugal and Romania.

29 Sep, 2000 – Billy Elliot

The movie Billy Elliot set in County Durham during the 1984-85 miners strike is released and will prove a critical success, nominated for three Academy Awards. Adapted from a screenplay by Tyneside writer Lee Hall it features the story of a young working class boy with a passion for ballet. The film stars Teesside’s Jamie Bell. Billingham-born Jamie receives the BAFTA award for best actor in a leading role. Scenes were filmed in Easington, Dawdon and Seaham, in County Durham along with Ellington and Lynemouth in Northumberland as well as Middlesbrough and Newcastle.

Nov 2000 – Robson-Venables duo at Boro

Former England manager, Londonder Terry Venables is brought in by manager Bryan Robson as Head Coach at Middlesbrough following poor results and the two form a managerial partnership for the Teessiders.

Dec 2000 – Teesquay Millennium Bridge

The Teesquay Millennium Bridge, an elegant cable-stay structure, opens across the River Tees at Stockton. It links the heart of Stockton town centre to the modern developments on the Thornaby side of the river where once there had been shipyards and ironworks. A little to the south along the riverside towards the Victoria Bridge had also been the home to the Cleveland Flour Mills. In the late 1980s much of the area on this side of the river was a wasteland where Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher made her ‘walk in the wilderness’.

Teesquay Millennium Bridge
Teesquay Millennium Bridge © David Simpson

2001 – Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The beautiful Gateshead Millennium Bridge opens across the Tyne between Gateshead and Newcastle. It is a footbridge with two arches. One arch lies flat, linking the quaysides of Newcastle and Gateshead, forming a crossing for pedestrians and bicycles. The other arch forms an elegant span high above the Tyne. The whole structure can be tilted when required to allow vessels to pass through.

Gateshead Millennium Bridge
Gateshead Millennium Bridge  © David Simpson

2001 – Lemington Bridge

A bridge opens across the Lemington Gut which enters the River Tyne to the west of  Newcastle.

Jun 7, 2001 – Election landslide for Blair

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party win another landslide victory in the general election. There are no changes in the party political representation of the North East constituencies which apart from Hexham and Berwick upon Tweed remain solidly Labour. Even the constituency of Scarborough and Whitby in North Yorkshire, which Labour gained in 1997, remains in Labour’s hands.

Jun 12, 2001  – Boro boss McClaren

York-born Steve McClaren is appointed Middlesbrough FC manager, succeeding Bryan Robson and Terry Venables. McClaren had been Assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Sep 11, 2001 – US Terror attack 911

A terror attack in the United States this morning involving four hijacked passenger planes will prove to be a world changing event. The planes targeted the two towers of the World Trade Centre in New York along with the Pentagon in Washington and attempted an attack on the White House. Just under 3,000 people were killed including all those on board the planes with most of the fatalities in New York where over 2,700 lost their lives.

Jan 2002 – Blyth Power Station closes

After more than forty years, Blyth’s coal-fired power station at Cambois closes and its landmark chimneys are demolished. It consisted of two power stations A and B which could be seen for miles along the coast.

2002 – Renewable energy at Blyth

Blyth becomes the headquarters of the National Renewable Energy Centre, established by the regional development agency, One North East. It will focus on the development of new and renewable forms of generating power such as offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.

2002 – BALTIC opens

BALTIC, an impressive gallery of contemporary art opens at Gateshead Quays. Overlooking the new Gateshead Millennium Bridge, it occupies the former Baltic Flour Mill building, commenced in the 1930s. The flour mill was not completed until the 1950s due to the interruption of the Second World War. This iconic building makes a splendid setting for the gallery and has superb views across the city of Newcastle and the Tyne.

Baltic Gallery
BALTIC, a former flour mill © David Simpson

June 21, 2002 – England out to Brazil

England are defeated 2-1 in the quarter finals of the World Cup by Brazil in Shizuoka, Japan. Newcastle United’s Kieron Dyer came on as a substitute in the 56th minute, though Middlesbrough FC’s Gareth Southgate, the only other North East club representative in the squad, remained on the bench.

Oct 10, 2002  – Wilkinson for SAFC

Former England caretaker manager, the Sheffield-born Howard Wilkinson is appointed manager of Sunderland AFC. He replaces the dismissed Peter Reid. Manager Reid, who had been appointed in March 1995 had been in charge at Sunderland for 353 games.

Nov 2002 – The Gate

A new entertainment and leisure complex called ‘The Gate’ opens along Newgate Street in Newcastle featuring restaurants, bars, a cinema and casino. This glass fronted development stands close to the site of the Mayfair Ballroom music venue that was demolished in 1999. The development’s neighbour, in a rather contrasting architectural style is the huge Art Deco co-op building of 1932.

Newgate Street, Newcastle
Newgate Street, Newcastle, The Gate complex (2002) and Art Deco Co-operative building of the 1930s © David Simpson

2003 – Dalton Park

A ‘factory outlet’ style shopping centre opens at Dalton Park, close to the A19 in east Durham between Seaham and Murton. Out-of-town shopping centres, both great and small, have become an increasingly common feature over the last decade or so and compete with traditional town centres. In the noughties and twenty-tens these shopping centres and town centres will increasingly face competition from online retail. These challenges will cause much rethinking on the role and future of traditional town centres.

March 12, 2003  – McCarthy for SAFC

After disastrous results Howard Wilkinson is replaced as Sunderland AFC manager by Yorkshire-born Irish International Mick McCarthy who had previously managed the Republic of Ireland national side from 1996 to 2002.

March 20, 2003 – Iraq invaded

A coalition headed by the United States supported by troops from the UK along with others from Australia and Poland invades Iraq. US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister, Tony Blair hope to disarm Saddam Hussein’s Iraq regime of its Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and end the Iraq leader’s support of terrorism. Saddam Hussein’s rule is noted for extreme brutality but the focus on eradicating chemical WMDs and a failure to actually find them and prove their existence (despite apparent intelligence before the invasion) in Iraq is elusive. The war and its casualties place Blair’s support of the invasion under intense criticism that will have a lasting effect on his popularity .

2003 – Sunderland down

Sunderland football club are relegated from the Premier League after a run of four seasons in the top flight. In the first two seasons they secured a 7th place finish in the league partly due to the prolific goalscoring of Kevin Phillips who was awarded the European Golden Boot in 1999-2000 for his 30 goals that season.

Nov 21, 2003 – US President visits region

The brief state visit of US President, George Bush to Britain includes a trip to North East England. After visiting the Queen in London, the president heads north and lands by helicopter at the County Durham village of Trimdon Colliery, the home to Prime Minister, Tony Blair. After visiting the PM’s house and meeting Mr Blair’s neighbours, the President heads to Sedgefield in an armed motorcade and joins Mr Blair for a pub lunch of fish and chips in the Dun Cow before heading home on his jet from Teesside Airport.

The Dun Cow, Sedgefield © David Simpson

2003 – Wilkinson Sports Personality

Newcastle Falcons Rugby Union star, fly half Jonny Wilkinson is voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. Wilkinson, who was born and raised in Surrey joined Newcastle Falcons in 1997 fresh from completing his A’Levels at school, despite gaining a place at Durham University. His international career has reached great heights this year winning the World Cup; Six Nations Championship; Triple Crown and the Grand Slam with England.

Feb 29, 2004 – Boro win League Cup

Middlesbrough Football Club defeat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the League Cup final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, collecting the first major trophy in their history. Goals come from Cameroonian, Joseph-Désiré Job and Dutch international Boudewijn Zenden. Back in 1997 Middlesbrough had reached the FA Cup final and League Cup final, both for the first time in the club’s long history. Boro lost them both as well as suffering a relegation to boot. It has been a long wait for the Boro fans for whom a trophy is finally lifted to their roars by club captain Gareth Southgate. Middlesbrough Football Club was established in 1876.

22 Apr, 2004 – End of an era for brewery

Scottish and Newcastle Brewery’s site in Newcastle upon Tyne closes. The Newcastle Breweries had occupied this Tyne Brewery site in the Gallowgate area of the town from before the official foundation of the Newcastle Breweries company in 1890. Although brewing had taken place on the site since 1868, the Newcastle Breweries traces its foundation back to 1770 with the establishment of a brewery in Gateshead by John Barras and his partner William Johnston. Another John Barras took over Newcastle’s Tyne Brewery site in 1884. The famous Newcastle Brown Ale invented by Colonel Porter, was brewed here from 1927. In more recent times the brewing of the Brown Ale was moved across the river to the Federation Brewery site at Dunston, Gateshead. The bottling of this beer would subsequently move to Tadcaster in 2007 and then to the Netherlands in 2017.

Newcastle Brown Ale © David Simpson

2004 – Sage Gateshead opens

Sage Gateshead opens on the Gateshead quayside. Constructed from curved panels of stainless steel, it is a centre for music and conferences with state of the art acoustics.

Sage Gateshead
Sage Gateshead © David Simpson

June 24, 2004 – England out of Euro 2004

In football, England are defeated in the quarter final of UEFA Euro 2012 by Portugal 6-5 on penalties after the game ended 2-2 in Lisbon.

2004 – ‘Science Central’ for brewery site

Chancellor, Gordon Brown announces a major development of what is called Science Central on the former Newcastle Breweries Tyne Brewery site near St James’ Park. Initially its development is slow. It will be rebranded as Newcastle Helix in 2018.

Newcastle Breweries site
Stone within the Newcastle Helix development near St James’ Park marking the location of the Newcastle Breweries site © David Simpson

2004 – Locomotion

A new museum called Locomotion hosting an impressive collection of locomotives at Shildon in County Durham, is opened by Prime Minister, Tony Blair. It is a branch of the National Railway Museum.

Locomotives at Shildon
Locomotives at the National railway Museum, Shildon © David Simpson

Sep 13, 2004 – Souness NUFC manager

Newcastle United Chairman, Freddie Shepherd dismissed Bobby Robson as Newcastle United manager on August 30 following a poor start to the season. John Carver briefly takes charge before the appointment of Scot Graeme Souness on September 13.

Nov 2004 – North East devolution ‘No’

A referendum on whether or not an elected regional assembly should be established for North East England resulted in an emphatic ‘No’ vote. The vote included all the local council areas from Redcar and Cleveland to Berwick upon Tweed. Of these Darlington was the least in favour where only 14.8% of voters said ‘Yes’. Derwentside (in north west Durham) and Durham City had the most ‘Yes’ votes but still with only 42.4% and 40.6% respectively voting in favour. Durham-born political adviser, Dominic Cummings has been a key figure in the North East Says No (NESNO) campaign against the regional assembly.

Jan 26, 2005 – Region’s last mine closes

Ellington Colliery in Northumberland closes. It is the region’s last remaining colliery. The closure of this large mine, known as the ‘Big E’, brings an end to centuries of deep mining in the North East of England, although opencast mining still takes place across the region.

2005 – Sunderland up

Sunderland Football Club are promoted from the second tier league (now confusingly renamed ‘The Championship’) to the Premier League.

May 5, 2005 – Reduced majority for Blair

Prime Minister and Sedgefield MP, Tony Blair conclusively wins a third general election for Labour although his majority is now reduced. However, there is no party-political change in the North East constituencies. Nevertheless, Labour do lose the seat of Scarborough and Whitby in neighbouring North Yorkshire to the Conservatives. In the far north, Conservative MP, Peter Atkinson retains the seat of Hexham while Liberal Democrat, Alan Beith retains Berwick upon Tweed. These are the only two non-Labour MPs in the region other than those in the solidly Conservative constituencies of North Yorkshire.

2005 – Britain’s best park

Saltwell Park in Gateshead is awarded the accolade of Britain’s best park.

Saltwell Towers, Saltwell Park Gateshead
Saltwell Towers, Saltwell Park, Gateshead © David Simpson

Feb 2, 2006 – Roeder appointed

Newcastle United appoint Londoner Glenn Roeder (initially as a caretaker) as a replacement for the dismissed Graeme Souness. Roeder, a former player for the club who has been recently appointed as Youth Development Officer is officially appointed as manager in May.

March 6, 2006  – McCarthy sacked

Mick McCarthy who had secured Sunderland AFC’s promotion to the Premier League in 2005 is sacked after a run of poor results. Sunderland stalwart, Kevin Ball takes charge for 10 games as caretaker.

2006 – Sunderland down

Sunderland Football Club are relegated from the Premier League back into ‘The Championship’ after a single season.

10 May, 2006 – UEFA final woe for Boro

Middlesbrough Football Club under the management of Steve McClaren, are defeated by Spanish club Sevilla in the UEFA Cup final held at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It is the first appearance in a European cup final for both clubs.

Jun 7, 2006  – Southgate Boro boss

Former Boro player, the Watford-born England international Gareth Southgate is appointed Middlesbrough manager by chairman Steve Gibson after Steve McClaren leaves to become England manager.

July 1, 2006 – England out to Portugal

England are knocked out of the World Cup in Germany following a defeat to Portugal in the quarter final. Included in the England squad are Middlesbrough-born Stewart Downing (who actually plays for Middlesbrough FC) and Wallsend-born Michael Carrick. Neither played in this game, which was settled by a 1-3 penalty shoot out victory to Portugal after the game ended 0-0.

Aug 30, 2006  – Roy Keane’s Sunderland

Following the departure of Mick McCarthy in March, Kevin Ball had been appointed caretaker for 10 games before Niall Quinn was officially appointed as manager for a brief spell. Today Sunderland announced the extraordinary appointment of Irishman Roy Keane, the multi-trophy winning former Manchester United captain and Irish international. It is Keane’s first appointment in a managerial role.

27 Jan, 2007 – MIMA

The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) opens in Central Square near Middlesbrough Town Hall. It is situated near Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Bottle of Notes sculpture which dates from 1993. The new gallery includes the Middlesbrough Collection featuring works from earlier galleries in the town.

Centre Square with Middlesbrough with MIMA to the right
Centre Square, Middlesbrough with MIMA to the right © David Simpson

2007 – Sunderland promoted

Sunderland Football Club, under manager Roy Keane, are promoted from the Championship back into the Premier League after a single season, following their relegation last season.

2007 – City Campus East

The City Campus East building of Northumbria University is completed and becomes home to the schools of law, design and business. It is linked to the city centre by a brand new footbridge which crosses both the central motorway and East Coast Main Line railway.

East Campus University of Northumbria
East Campus University of Northumbria, Newcastle © David Simpson

10 May, 2007 – Blair announces resignation

In a speech at Trimdon Labour Club in County Durham, Tony Blair announces his resignation as both Prime Minister and leader of the Labour party. In June, Blair is succeeded as Prime Minister and Labour leader by Gordon Brown.

May 15, 2007 – Big Sam Magpies manager

Newcastle United appoint Sam Allardyce, known as ‘Big Sam’ as their new manager following the departure of Glenn Roeder earlier this month. Allardyce, whose playing career included a stint at Sunderland had previously been manager of Bolton Wanderers, a club for which he had made 198 appearances as a player.

Nov 2007 – ‘Couple’ at Newbiggin

A curious new sculpture called ‘Couple’ at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea created by artist Sean Henry features two identical standing couples. A small version of the couple (a female and cloth-capped male looking out to sea) stands on the shore and is duplicated in a much larger version of the couple standing on an elevated structure out at sea.

'The Couple', Newbiggin
‘The Couple’, Newbiggin © David Simpson

Jan 16, 2008  – Keegan Returns

Sam Allardyce is sacked as manager of Newcastle United and replaced by Kevin Keegan in his second stint as manager of the Magpies.

July 23, 2008 – Canoe crime couple jailed

In one of Britain’s most notorious fraud cases, a husband and wife, John and Ann Darwin, were sentenced to jail for falsely claiming life insurance from the faking of Mr Darwin’s death. In March 2002, Hartlepool resident, John Darwin had gone missing off the coast at nearby Seaton Carew after canoeing out to sea, where the wreckage of his kayak was later found. For a time, following his reported ‘death’ Darwin hid in a bedsit next to the family home and the couple planned to move abroad, with Mr Darwin using a false name. The couple began their move to Panama in 2006. However, changes in Panama visa identity laws forced Mr Darwin to return to the UK where he reported to a London police station in December 2007, claiming to have amnesia.

Seaton Carew beach and the Redcar steelworks across the other side of the Tees
The beach at Seaton Canoe with the Redcar steelworks in the distance © David Simpson

2008 – Gateshead heritage

St Mary’s church in Gateshead near the Tyne Bridge becomes a heritage centre for the town.

Sept 4, 2008  – Keegan resigns

Kevin Keegan resigns as Newcastle United manager. There have been tensions between Keegan, club owner Mike Ashley and Director of Football, Dennis Wise. Keegan was frustrated by the model of running the club and the impositions of having to sign players he might not want. Dubliner, Joe Kinnear is appointed on September 29. Kinnear has not managed since his departure from Nottingham Forest in 2004.

Dec 4, 2008  – Keane resigns

Roy Keane resigns as Sunderland manager. He later mentions differences with the club’s wealthy American shareholder Ellis Short and club chairman, Niall Quinn. Keane is succeeded by Ricky Sbragia, a Scotsman of Italian descent.

2009 – Great North Museum

The Great North Museum opens in the former Hancock Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne. It includes features from the earlier museum but with a much more modern feel.

Great North Museum, Newcastle
Great North Museum, Newcastle © David Simpson

2009 – Infinity Bridge

The Infinity Bridge opens across the River Tees at Stockton-on-Tees. It is named from its resemblance to the scientific symbol for infinity.

Infinity bridge, Stockton.
Infinity bridge, Stockton © David Simpson

Apr 1, 2009 – Shearer in charge at NUFC

Alan Shearer becomes an interim manager of struggling Newcastle United after the contract of Joe Kinnear comes to an end. Kinnear had taken ill in February and had to undergo a heart-bypass operation, with Chris Hughton undertaking the manager’s role in his absence.

2009 – Newcastle United and Boro down

Newcastle United and Middlesbrough football clubs are relegated from the Premier League into the Championship. Sunderland only just finish above their rivals, in sixteenth place. It is Newcastle United’s first exit from the Premier League in which they have played for sixteen consecutive seasons. Middlesbrough have been in the league for eleven consecutive seasons.

May 24, 2009 – Hughton Magpies manager

London-born former Irish international, Chris Hughton is appointed as manager of relegated Newcastle United, succeeding Alan Shearer. He has previously managed the Magpies as caretaker on two occasions.

June 3, 2009 – Bruce Sunderland manager

Corbridge-born and Wallsend-raised Steve Bruce is appointed manager of Sunderland by club owner Ellis Short. Bruce joins from Wigan Athletic as Sunderland become the seventh club in the managerial career of the former Manchester United and England international player.

July 31, 2009 – Farewell Sir Bobby

The world of football mourns the loss to cancer of Sir Bobby Robson, the Sacriston-born (and Langley Park raised) former footballer and football manager. Robson, who managed England and clubs such as Ipswich Town, Barcelona and FC Porto, was one of Britain’s most successful football managers. Later in his career he would manage his boyhood heroes, Newcastle United from 1999 to 2004. In March 2008, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation cancer research charity had been established in his name.

Oct, 2009  – Strachan succeeds Southgate

Gareth Southgate is dismissed as manager of Middlesbrough by club Chairman Steve Gibson. He is replaced by former Scottish international Gordon Strachan.

Nov, 2009 – Durham Lumiere

The first Durham Lumiere light festival is held in the city of Durham. Commissioned by Durham County Council, it is the creation of London creative company Artichoke and will become a biennial event attracting thousands of people.

Durham Cathedral, Lumiere 2009
Durham Cathedral, Lumiere 2009 © David Simpson

2010 – Newcastle United promoted

Newcastle United football club are promoted back into the Premier League after just one season in the Championship.

6 May, 2010 – Cameron’s Conservatives

Conservative, David Cameron is the Prime Minister following the defeat of Gordon Brown’s Labour party in the general election. However, the only party political changes in the North East are Labour’s loss of the Stockton South constituency to the Conservatives and Redcar to the Liberal Democrats. Hexham remains a Conservative seat and Berwick upon Tweed remains loyal to Liberal Democrat, Alan Beith, who has held the seat since 1973.

June 27, 2010 – England out to Germany

England are defeated 4-1 by Germany in the ’round of sixteen’, knock out stage of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The squad includes Northallerton-born Michael Dawson and Wallsend-born Michael Carrick though neither played in the game. None of the players in the England squad are players with North East club sides at the time of the tournament.

10 Jul, 2010 – Manhunt ends

A manhunt ends with the death of fugitive, Raoul Moat at Rothbury. Moat was released from Durham Prison on July 1 and at Birtley, two days later, shot and injured his ex-girlfriend, killing her new partner. He then shot and permanently blinded a police officer at West Denton and threatened to go on a killing spree. With 160 police officers on the case, Moat was traced to Rothbury in Northumberland, hiding in the countryside. After a standoff, Moat took his own life, despite the pleas of football star Paul Gascoigne who had visited Rothbury and tried to encourage Moat to give himself up.

Rothbury from Lordenshaws
Rothbury © David Simpson

Oct 26, 2010 – Mowbray’s Boro

Middlesbrough manager Gordon Strachan leaves the club by mutual consent following a run of bad results on October 18. Saltburn-born former Middlesbrough player, Tony Mowbray becomes Boro manager.

Dec 9, 2010 – Pardew NUFC Manager

Former Southampton, Charlton and West Ham manager Alan Pardew, a Londoner is appointed manager of Newcastle United

2011 – Tyne Tunnel Two

A second Tyne Tunnel has opened alongside the original to improve the efficiency of traffic flow.

2011 – Turner Prize

BALTIC in Gateshead hosts the prestigious Turner Prize for contemporary art, the first time the event has been held outside London or Liverpool.

2011 – Geordie Shore

A new reality series on MTV called Geordie Shore commenced in May of this year based on the American MTV series Jersey Shore. Filmed in Newcastle upon Tyne it follows a group of young male and female housemates and their often volatile romps and relationships. Three prominent reality stars in the early series of the show are Tynesider, Vicky Pattison; Wearsider, Charlotte Crosby and Teessider, Holly Hagan. The first series was filmed in a terraced housed in Jesmond near Newcastle Civic Centre with a later special in Magaluf, Spain. From the second series the show was filmed mostly from a location in Wallsend with some special overseas series featuring the housemates in the exotic locations of Mexico, Australia and Greece . By 2016 viewing figures would be over a million but later series would see a gradual fall in audience numbers as the decade progressed.

2011 – Chinese Northumbrian Water

The Northumbrian Water Group which supplies water and treats sewage across the whole region (except for Hartlepool) is acquired by the Chinese, Hong Kong-based company Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings.

Dec 3, 2011 – O’Neill’s Sunderland

Steve Bruce is fired as manager of Sunderland AFC by Sunderland’s American owner, Ellis Short after poor results and is replaced by Northern Irishman, Martin O’Neill who previously managed Aston Villa. Despite growing up in Northern Ireland, O’Neill had supported Sunderland as a boy.

2012 – Lady of the North

The 1,300 feet long Northumberlandia or ‘Lady of the North’ sculpture is completed near Cramlington within a 44 acre park on a reclaimed opencast coal mining site.

Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North
Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North © David Simpson

June 25, 2012 – England out of Euro 2012

In football, England are defeated in the quarter final of UEFA Euro 2012 by Italy 2-4 in a penalty shoot out after the game ended 0-0 at the Olympic Stadium, in Kyiv, Ukraine.

2013 – Higgs Boson Particle proven

The existence of the Higgs Boson Particle, an important feature of theoretical physics first proposed by the Newcastle-born theoretical physicist, Peter Higgs, is proven by the Large Hadron particle collider near Geneva in Switzerland.

Mar 31, 2013  – Di Canio at Sunderland

Italian Paulo Di Canio is appointed manager of Sunderland by club owner Ellis Short as successor to the dismissed Martin O’Neill as the club teetered close to the relegation zone.

2013 – Redcar Beacon

Described as a ‘vertical pier’ the helter-skelter like Redcar Beacon is a new feature of the Redcar seafront.

Redcar Beacon
The Redcar Beacon © David Simpson

2013  – Mass grave at Durham

A mass grave is discovered on Durham’s Palace Green near the cathedral, identified as members of the Scottish Covenanter army taken prisoner by Oliver Cromwell’s forces following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. Cromwell had shown little regard for the prisoners or the sanctity of Durham cathedral which he had utilised as a prison.

Sep 22, 2013 – Di Canio dismissed

Paulo Di Canio is dismissed as Sunderland AFC manager due to his brutal style of management which drew numerous complaints from players.

Oct 8, 2013 – Poyet appointed

Gus Poyet is appointed manager of Sunderland AFC as successor to Paulo Di Canio. The former Uruguayan international whose playing career included over 200 appearances for Zaragoza in Spain and over 100 appearances for Chelsea left his managerial role at Brighton and Hove Albion to join the Black Cats.

Nov 13, 2013 – Karanka’s Boro

Middlesbrough appoint Spaniard, Aitor Karanka as their new manager. As a player his former clubs included Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid. Tony Mowbray had departed from Boro after a run of bad form.

2014 – Blue Tower

New high rise buildings are appearing on the west side of Newcastle city centre in Barrack Road near St James’ Park football ground. The latest development, completed this year, is the distinct blue-coloured Newcastle University student accommodation called The View. It is inevitably nicknamed ‘Blue Tower’. The building stands close to the Newcastle University Business School and Sandman Signature boutique hotel, both of which opened in 2011. The new developments stand at the entrance to the Science Central area (later renamed Newcastle Helix), a major development on the former Scottish and Newcastle breweries site.

Barrack Road. Newcastle © David Simpson

Feb and Mar 2014 – Russia annexes Crimea

Russia invades and annexes the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

May 2014 – Tommy recalls ‘Great War’

One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, a corten steel sculpture by artist Ray Lonsdale goes on temporary display in the town of Seaham in County Durham, recalling the British soldiers or ‘Tommies’ that served in that war. It will be purchased by the people of Seaham later in the year and go on permanent display at a new location in the town in 2015.

'Tommy' by Ray Lonsdale.
‘Tommy’ by Ray Lonsdale at Seaham © David Simpson

June 24, 2014 – Brazil World Cup

England fail to make it beyond the group stage in the football World Cup held in Brazil. Two lads from the North East are included in the squad, Liverpool’s Sunderland-born Jordan Henderson and England reserve goalkeeper, the Hexham-born Fraser Forster who plays for Celtic. England fail to win any of the group games, losing to Italy, and Uruguay followed by a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica.

July 17, 2014 – Plane down over Ukraine

A Malaysian airlines flight heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur is shot down over the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine by Russian forces resulting in the death of 298 people on board. The Donbas is a focus for military conflict involving Russian separatists in Ukraine close to the Russian border. Ten Britons die on board the plane including Tynesiders Liam Sweeney and John Alder who were on their way to New Zealand to watch Newcastle United play in pre-season friendly games.

Aug 1, 2014 – Norman Cornish

Former coal miner and artist Norman Cornish of Spennymoor (born 1919) has passed away leaving an extraordinary legacy of much-loved paintings featuring the life of communities in the Durham coalfield.

Norman Cornish

Dec 29, 2014 – Pardew leaves NUFC

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew leaves the Magpies to become manager of Crystal Palace. John Carver takes temporary charge and will be at the helm for the next twenty games.

March 17, 2015 – Black Cats’ Advocaat

Dutchman Dick Advocaat replaces the dismissed Gus Poyet at Sunderland AFC who are teetering close to relegation. Advocaat is an experienced manager who has managed PSV Eindhoven and a number of national sides including Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates. He will successfully steer Sunderland to safety in May.

7 May, 2015 – Conservatives win again

The Conservatives under Prime Minister, David Cameron win the general election. In the North East Labour still dominate and the constituency of Redcar, previously Liberal Democrat, is retaken by Labour. Hexham of course remains Conservative but for the first time since 1973, Berwick upon Tweed also votes for a Conservative candidate. The Liberal Democrat MP, Alan Beith, who had held the Berwick constituency since 1973 did not stand in this election. A most striking aspect of the election is the almost complete dominance of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in constituencies north of the border. The leader of the SNP since November 2014 is Nicola Sturgeon who has family roots in the North East (of England). Her grandmother, Margaret Mill was born in Ryhope to a shipwright who resided in one of the single-storey ‘Sunderland cottages’. Margaret married Scotsman, Robert Sturgeon at Ryhope in 1943 before moving north of the border.

Old Bridge, Berwick.
Berwick-upon-Tweed. The Berwick constituency which includes much of northern Northumberland, including towns and villages such as Alnwick and Amble was a Liberal Democrat constituency from 1973 to 2015 © David Simpson

June 10, 2015 – McClaren’s Magpies

Steve McClaren is appointed manager of Newcastle United as successor to temporary appointment John Carver. The York-born former Middlesbrough and England manager was recently dismissed by Derby County,

2015 – Keel Square

A new square called Keel Square opens in the heart of Sunderland as a focus for a number of new cultural developments. These will include the conversion of the nearby former fire station into a new hub for music, culture, drama and dance.

Keel Square. Sunderland © David Simpson

Oct 9, 2015 – Big Sam Sunderland’s man

Sam Allardyce is appointed Sunderland manager following the resignation of Dick Advocaat. Allardyce, a former Sunderland player had managed Newcastle United from May 2007 to January 2008 and subsequently managed at Blackburn Rovers and West Ham before his Sunderland appointment.

Oct 12, 2015 – Steelworks close

The Redcar steelworks close on Teesside with a loss of around 2,000 jobs. It brings an end to an epic era of iron and steel making on Teesside.

Steelworks pictured from Redcar beach
Steelworks at Warrenby pictured from Redcar beach © David Simpson

March 11, 2016 – Benitez for NUFC

Spaniard, Rafael Benitez has been appointed manager of Newcastle United. Recently dismissed by Real Madrid, Benitez has managed a number of big European clubs including Valencia, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Liverpool.

April 1, 2016 – ‘Tees Valley’ Combined

The Tees Valley Combined Authority is formed, combining the local authorities of Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees, Hartlepool and Darlington under a directly elected mayor.

2016 – Boro up, Newcastle down

Middlesbrough are promoted to the Premier League. Newcastle United football club are relegated from the Premier League into the Championship after a run of six seasons in the top flight. Sunderland under the management of Sam Allardyce escaped relegation from the Premier League, after finishing one place above Newcastle United.

23 June, 2016 – Region votes to ‘leave’ EU

The national referendum introduced by Prime Minister, David Cameron on whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union results in a ‘leave’ vote or ‘Brexit’ as the hotly-debated issue is colloquially known. In the North East there is a 69.3% turnout with 562,595 voting to remain and 778,103 voting to leave. The leading strategist and campaign director of the Vote Leave campaign has been the Durham-born political adviser, Dominic Cummings.

23 June, 2016 – Newcastle voted ‘remain’

Of the 12 North East local authorities (Newcastle, Northumberland, County Durham, North Tyneside, Sunderland, South Tyneside, Gateshead, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton, Darlington, Redcar & Cleveland), only the people of Newcastle upon Tyne voted to remain. The vote in Newcastle upon Tyne, which is home to two major universities, was 65,405 in favour of staying in the European Union and 63,598 voting to leave.

June 27, 2016 – England defeat to Iceland

After qualifying from the Group Stage, England depart from the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament in France, in the knock out stage, following a shock 2-1 defeat to Iceland in Nice.

July 2, 2016 – Kynren

The first performance of a spectacular new outdoor show called Kynren takes place near Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland. Financed and created by philantropist Jonathan Ruffer, Kynren is described as an ‘epic tale of England’ and features a crew and cast of a thousand local volunteers telling the story of English history.

Kynren
Kynren © John Simpson 2016

July 22, 2016 – Big Sam leaves for England

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce leaves Sunderland AFC to become manager of England. He had steered Sunderland clear of relegation securing enough points for safety and condemning local rivals Newcastle United (a club he once managed) to relegation. Allardyce would subsequently manage England for only one game (which England won) before he was outed by a newspaper for his involvement in a corruption scandal. He left the England job on 27 September by mutual consent.

July 23, 2016 – Moyes at Sunderland helm

Sunderland AFC owner Ellis Short appoints former Everton and Manchester United manager, David Moyes as the new manager.

2016 – Dockland housing

Modern housing developments have been approved on a sought-after riverside site that was formerly the home of the Smiths Sock shipbuilding company at North Shields. The development is to include around four hundred waterside apartments and over three-hundred family homes as well as shops, cafés, restaurants and water sports facilities focused around the three historic docks.

Oct 2016 – The Word

The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, a library and community amenities location in South Shields opens.

2017 – Football ups and downs

Newcastle United are promoted into the Premier League after one season in the championship. Sunderland are relegated from the Premier League after 10 consecutive seasons in the top flight. Middlesbrough are also relegated from the Premier League into the Championship, after just one season.

May 22, 2017 – Moyes resigns

David Moyes resigns as Sunderland AFC manager after taking the club to their first relegation in 10 years. He is succeeded by the Ripon-born Preston North End manager, Simon Grayson on June 29. Although Grayson’s managerial career has included Leeds United, he is a relatively little-known figure, that follows a long-list of mostly big name managers at Sunderland starting with Peter Reid in 1995.

June 9, 2017 – Monk’s Middlesbrough

Gary Monk becomes Middlesbrough manager. Previous manager Aitor Karanka had been dismissed in March.

May 22, 2017 – Manchester Arena bombing

Twenty-two people including an eight-year old girl were killed by a bomb at the Manchester Arena detonated by a terrorist (also killed), at the end of a concert by US singer, Ariana Grande. The fatalities included nineteen-year old Courtney Boyle and her step father Philip Tron, both from Gateshead and a young couple, seventeen-year-old Chloe Rutherford and nineteen-year-old Liam Curry, both from South Shields. Many others were injured including a number of children and young people.

8 June, 2017 – Conservatives win

The Conservatives under Theresa May, who became Prime Minister and Conservative leader in July last year after David Cameron stepped down, win a third general election in a row. There is little change in the political make-up of the North East constituencies, except that Labour gain Stockton South from the Conservatives and lose the Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland constituency to the Conservatives. Scottish Nationalists lose several seats north of the border but still retain a strong presence. Meanwhile Conservative, Ben Houchen has been elected as the first Mayor of the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

Transporter Bridge.
Transporter Bridge on the River Tees, Middlesbrough. The Tees Valley Combined area elected its first mayor, Conservative Ben Houchen in June 2017 © David Simpson

7 July, 2017 – Farewell Bradley Lowery

A young North East football fan whose infectious smile and joy for life had touched the hearts of the nation lost his battle with a rare form of neuroblastoma cancer. Six-year-old Sunderland fan and club mascot, Bradley Lowery of Blackhall Colliery in County Durham had become a mini celebrity in his short life, notably forming a close friendship with Sunderland footballer, Jermain Defoe. In August 2017, the Bradley Lowery Foundation was formed by Bradley’s mother, Gemma to raise funding, provide support and raise awareness of children in need of treatments that are not available through the National Health Service.

Bradley Lowery remembered at Stadium of Light
Scarves and football shirts of various football clubs placed outside Sunderland’s Stadium of Light in July 2017 in memory of Bradley Lowery © David Simpson

6 Sep, 2017 – Farewell Mike Neville

North East regional TV mourns the loss of Mike Neville, who has been the face of North East regional news programming since 1962. Neville was a presenter for BBC Look North from 1964 to 1996 and a presenter with Tyne Tees Television from 1962-1964 and again from 1996 up until his retirement in 2005.

Tyne Tees Television studios. Gateshead
Tyne Tees Television studios. Gateshead © David Simpson

Nov 19, 2017 – Coleman’s Sunderland

Welshman Chris Coleman who had resigned as manager of Wales two days earlier is appointed new Sunderland AFC manager. In addition to the challenge of managing the club, he also has to contend with a TV crew filming a Netflix documentary series called Sunderland ‘Till I Die that focuses on the behind the scenes running of the club. The documentary had commenced filming while Simon Grayson was in charge, before Coleman’s appointment.

Dec 26, 2017 – Pulis for Boro

Tony Pulis becomes Middlesbrough FC manager just over a month after his dismissal by West Bromwich Albion. He succeeds Gary Monk.

2018 – Sunderland down again

Sunderland Football Club are relegated for the second season in a row, dropping down from the Championship into the third tier league of English football that is confusingly known as Division One. It is only the second time that the club has found itself in the third tier of English football. The club’s previous relegation to what was then called the Third Division came in the 1986-87 season from which they bounced straight back.

Apr 29, 2018 – Coleman dismissed

Welshman Chris Coleman is dismissed as manager of Sunderland AFC shortly as new owner Steward Donald takes over at Sunderland.

May 25, 2018 – Ross Sunderland manager

Scotsman Jack Ross is appointed Sunderland manager by the football club’s new owners. He has previously managed St Mirren.

July 11, 2018 – World Cup : England out

England are knocked out of the 2018 World Cup in Russia in a 2-1 semi final defeat to Croatia after extra time. The England team includes goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and fellow Wearsider, Jordan Henderson. However, none of the players in the England squad actually play for a North East team.

Nov 2, 2018 – North of Tyne Authority

The North of Tyne Combined Authority is established. The combined authority covers Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and North Tyneside. A broader authority had been proposed that would have included Durham County, the City of Sunderland and the Boroughs of Gateshead and South Tyneside, but those councils were not satisfied with the plan due to concerns over funding.

2018 – Northern Spire

An impressive new bridge opens in Sunderland linking Pallion on the south side to Hylton and Castletown.

The Northern Spire
The Northern Spire bridge across the River Wear in 2017 © David Simpson

2 May, 2019 – North of Tyne mayor

Middlesbrough-born Jamie Driscoll, representing the Labour and Co-operative parties is elected as the first mayor of the combined North of Tyne Authority.

June 14, 2019 – Woodgate for Boro

Middlesbrough-born Jonathan Woodgate becomes manager of his home-town club in his first managerial role, succeeding Tony Pulis whose contract was not renewed. As a player his clubs had included Boro, Leeds United, Spurs and Real Madrid.

June 17, 2019 – Bruce Newcastle manager

Corbridge-born and Wallsend raised Steve Bruce is appointed manager of Newcastle United. Bruce had managed Sunderland from June 2009 to December 2011 but has since managed Hull City, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday. Bruce was a Newcastle United supporter as a boy.

Oct 17, 2019 – Parkinson’s Sunderland

Lancashire-born Phil Parkinson, the former Bolton Wanderers manager is appointed manager of Sunderland as a successor to dismissed Jack Ross who had failed to achieve promotion from the third tier.

Dec 12, 2019 – Election surprises

The Conservatives win the general election under the leadership of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson MP, a former mayor of London. Generally known as Boris Johnson or simply and popularly known as ‘Boris’, he became Conservative leader and Prime Minister in June following the resignation of Theresa May. The general election throws up some very extraordinary results in several North East constituencies. Traditional Labour seats such as Blyth Valley, North West Durham and Bishop Auckland all fall to the Conservatives. Sedgefield, the constituency once held by Tony Blair also becomes Conservative. Darlington, Stockton South, and Redcar likewise turn blue. It is over a hundred years since the extent of the red colour on the political map of the North East of England has been so diminished. However, most of the geographically smaller but heavily populated constituencies of Tyneside, Teesside and Wearside still remain Labour as does the City of Durham. Even Tynemouth, which has a relatively recent history of electing Conservative MPs remains Labour too. North of the border, the Scottish Nationalists regain a number of seats lost in 2017 but do not match their exceptional performance in the 2015 election. The sometimes quirky, popular, appealing positivity and entertaining media charisma of Johnson coupled with general frustration for change and persistent divisions relating to Brexit are amongst the explanations for the unusual election results. People may simply want to experiment with any kind of change. The current North East Members of Parliament are listed here.

Mouth of the Blyth.
Mouth of the River Blyth. The previously solid Labour constituency of Blyth voted in a Conservative MP © David Simpson

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