Over the past twelve months, Britain has navigated an increasingly toxic Brexit debate, the third general election in four years, and most recently, a response to the Covid-19 pandemic which has upended society, the economy, and the political agenda – and at times, further highlighted fundamental inequalities between London and the Northern region.

Now, with unemployment nationally at record highs, the Chancellor of the Exchequer warning of the possibility of an unparalleled recession post-Covid, and the Brexit transition date set to end in just 6 months’ time, there is a real danger that the wider public and business discourse on the accelerating positive changes needed for strong economy in the North will lose momentum and direction.

Our expert panel asks – in these uncertain and challenging times, what is the case for the devolution of economic powers to the UK regions? How can the different UK regions inspire, drive and retain economic growth now and for the future? And how can a post-Covid recovery, and post-Brexit realignment, ensure that investment, opportunities for businesses and jobs prospects can be enhanced beyond the South-East England, particularly for the North?


Nicky Chance-Thompson, DL

Nicky Chance-Thompson became a Trustee of the Piece Hall Trust in 2014 and took over as Chief Executive in April 2017. Nicky led the team to deliver a successful opening day on 1st August 2017 which attracted over 23,000 visitors and world media attention. Since opening, The Trust has achieved a record breaking 5,000,000 visitors, hosted the Antiques Roadshow and a high-profile visit by HRH The Prince of Wales. The Piece Hall has gone on to win a number of prestigious awards from RIBA and RICS and was included in Historic England’s top ten Industry, Trade & Commerce places that help tell A History of England in 100 Places. Prior to her involvement in the Trust, Nicky worked in the communications, music, retail and consultancy business for over 24 years. Nicky is the former Mayoress of Calderdale, was included on the coveted Northern Power Women Power List in 2018 and was named Yorkshire Businesswoman of the Year 2019.

Dr Steven McCabe

Steve has worked with organisations in both the private and public sectors in understanding how people are crucial when it comes to long-term development, innovation and creativity.
Steve is also a Senior Fellow of the University’s Centre for Brexit Studies, and regularly provides blogs and think pieces for the Centre. He has lectured at Birmingham City University since 1987, has authored three texts examining quality improvement techniques and produced numerous chapters in edited texts, conference papers and more.

His forthcoming book English Regions After Brexit will be published by Bitesize.

Henri Murison

Henri was appointed as the first permanent Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), which has been established by business and civic leaders across the North to drive our economy and is chaired by George Osborne. During the last decade, he has held senior public policy roles in both the public and private sectors across the North of England. He served as Cabinet member for Quality of Life at Newcastle City Council, leading on key issues including transport, planning and the environment. He also worked as Research Director at the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire and, most recently, led on Public Affairs at the Yorkshire Building Society, focusing on issues such as devolution in Yorkshire, housing and transport.

We are thrilled to host this exciting event, in partnership with the Emerald Foundation, which forms part of the Emerald Group Publishing Great Debates Series.


About The Host

Syima Aslam

Syima Aslam is the founder and Director of Bradford Literature Festival, which she established in 2014. In just five years the festival has grown to a 10 day literary and cultural celebration, welcoming 70,000 visitors to Bradford annually.

Under Syima’s directorship, BLF has made a significant impact on the country’s literary landscape, hailed as ‘one of the most innovative and inspirational festivals in the UK’, bringing together literature from all genres, promoting intercultural fluency, providing a platform for marginalised voices, and reflecting the changing face of contemporary Britain through a programme which celebrates diversity, empathy and artistic excellence.