We've just had a wonderful Bank Holiday weekend chez Kane - taking in art, cyclocross, but most impressively, the Tall Ships Regatta at Blyth Northumberland. The enormous, beautiful ships were arrayed against the backdrop of Blyth's coastal wind farm and various huge sheds containing various parts of the renewable energy supply chain.
Mrs K grew up in Blyth and we squatted in her mother's house in the town for three years at the end of the 1990s when we first moved to the North East of England, so it was a bit of a nostalgia trip. It's had a tough time; a post-industrial town hit by poverty and and drugs – legend has it that its own inhabitants once voted it the worst town in England. It still has problems, but the establishment of the New and Renewable Energy Centre (in the building in the left of the pic), combined with the regeneration of the Quayside, has given it an air of hope. I don't have many positive things to say about our now defunct Regional Development Agency, One NorthEast, but this is one of them.
Newcastle University, where I took my first professional steps in Sustainability and got an MPhil in Life Cycle Engineering, had a great display showing their work on everything from designing new floating wind turbine concepts, through efficient propellor design, to the next generation of non-toxic ship anti-fouling systems. The building holding this exhibition has just been constructed to rehouse a 'Emerson Cavitation Tunnel' later this year – it will be used to test prototype propeller and tidal turbine designs.
The juxtaposition of this hi-tech, next generation clean technology work with the historical renewable energy systems of the tall ships was just lovely. The ships will live on in the memory of the people of Blyth, but the low carbon economy looks like the future for this ex-coal mining town.