The view from the north-east

Robert Chesshyre ("Is there honey by the Tees?", 3 July) says that people in the south think of the north-east as a distant place. Yet Newcastle is less than three hours by train from London and 60 minutes from Amsterdam, London and Brussels by plane. When I lived in London, it took me over an hour to get to work every morning.

Just as the south-east has another side, so does the north-east. Culture here is booming, from our international music festivals to the new Baltic Mill Museum for Contemporary Art; from the futuristic Gateshead Millennium Bridge to the opening of Segedunum in Wallsend on North Tyneside (which is the finest excavated Roman fortress in the whole of the Roman empire).

Our city-centre properties are being developed by the warehouse-load; Newcastle is second only to Bath in the number of listed Georgian buildings in a provincial city; and Hartlepool Marina mixes leisure, residential and business in a stunning setting. The quality of life in the main is unrivalled. This is precisely why the whole region is getting behind Newcastle-Gateshead's bid to be European City of Culture in 2008. But while international journalists cover these stories, our local TV stations complain that London agencies come to the north-east only to look for poverty and deprivation.

Dr Mo O'Toole
MEP for the north-east of England, Brussels

Robert Chesshyre's article was both necessary and important. In 1994, between Newcastle and Seaham, County Durham, my 30-year-old Sedgefield-born taxi- driver told me that he was desperate to be trained in computers. I managed to get him on the one-year access course at Peterlee in 1995/96 and, in July 1999, he completed the BA business computing degree at Sunderland University. That's the good news. However, after applying for 160 jobs - with nine interviews - he is still unemployed.

Canon Eric James
London SE11

This article first appeared in the 17 July 2000 issue of the New Statesman, Special Report - Lost souls in the city in the sky