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Industry News

Magic weekend to return

Tens of thousands of rugby fans will again descend on NewcastleGateshead as the Super League Magic Weekend returns to St James’ Park next year. It was announced last month that the annual two-day sporting spectacular, which drew record crowds and gave a multi-million pound boost to the economy when it was held at the home of Newcastle United for the first time earlier this year, will return on 21 and 22 May 2016.

Sarah Stewart, NewcastleGateshead Initiative chief executive, said: “The debut of Rugby League’s Magic Weekend in the city earlier this year brought a welcome influx of visitors and an excitement and buzz seen first-hand by our businesses and local people. As a result, its return to Newcastle in May 2016 is sure to be highly anticipated, especially as the destination is still riding high following the success of Rugby World Cup 2015.

“Hosting the Magic Weekend was a real highlight for the region, with record breaking crowds of more than 67,000 people attending games over the course of two days. NewcastleGateshead’s visitor economy saw a boost with around 80% of fans travelling from out of region, with many staying overnight, directly benefitting our hotels, restaurants, shops and bars, and injecting £4.2m into the local economy. Magic Weekend is a great occasion in the Rugby League calendar and we’re excited to welcome back not just the RFL, teams and fans, but also the lively atmosphere and passion that animated our city centre.” 
Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes, said: “It is great news for Newcastle that Super League Magic Weekend will be returning to St James’s Park.”

“It just proves the point that everyone who visits our city wants to come back, and we look forward to once again welcoming the thousands of rugby league fans who thronged the city centre last year.”

Widnes Vikings, who sported a one-off shirt at Magic Weekend this year in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, will kick the event off against Salford Red Devils on the Saturday at 2.30pm. Castleford Tigers and Warrington Wolves will square off at 4.45pm before the Grand Final rematch brings the curtain down on an action-packed first day.

Day two begins with Catalans Dragons and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at 1.00pm followed by Huddersfield Giants facing St Helens in the penultimate game of the weekend. Magic Weekend climaxes with the Hull derby, where the city’s bragging rights will be up for grabs between Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers.

Tickets for the 2016 Magic Weekend at St. James’ Park are already on sale, with day tickets priced from £25 for adults and £12.50 for concessions, and weekend passes available from £40 for adults and £20 for concessions.

To buy your seat visit or call the Rugby League Ticket Hotline on 0844 856 1113.

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Life CEO lands leading role

The chief executive of Newcastle’s International Centre for Life, Linda Conlon, has been elected to a top role with the global body representing science centres and museums. Linda becomes the first woman from Europe (and only the second European in its 42-year history) to be elected chair of the Association of Science and Technology Centres (ASTC). Based in Washington DC, ASTC’s members total more than 660 organisations from 50 countries, spanning the continents of the world.

They include the world-renowned Exploratorium in San Francisco; Miraikan, the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo; the UK’s Science Museum Group and Questacon, Australia’s national science centre. Globally, it is estimated that some 95 million people visit science centres each year.  

As chair of ASTC, Linda’s role is to promote excellence and innovation in learning outside of the formal environment of schools and academic institutions. She will also lead ASTC in its efforts to help members address critical global issues such as climate change where an understanding of and engagement with science is essential. 

Speaking about her new role, Linda said: “I am honoured and thrilled to be elected as Chair of ASTC. Science centres operate in different countries with different political regimes and different pressures but what unites them is a real passion for engaging people of all ages and backgrounds in science.
“Developments in science and technology are increasingly shaping the world in which we live and are moving forward at an unprecedented pace, frequently leaving people confused and sometimes afraid of what it means for them. Science centres are trusted by the public. They are very good at translating complex science in an engaging and meaningful way and making it relevant to people and the lives they lead. I believe that we have an essential role to play in building trust between the science establishment and the general public.”

ASTC provides a wide range of services. It offers programmes for its members to share best practice; it creates opportunities for professional development in the sector including an annual conference that attracts almost 2,000 delegates; and it conducts extensive research on trends in the field.

The following individuals have offered congratulatory messages:

Alastair Balls, Chairman of Life, said: “It’s a marvellous honour for the International Centre for Life that it’s Chief Executive has been elected as the Chair of ASTC. What ASTC will get from Linda is a straight-talking, sharp-eyed, energetic, highly personable leader, cool in a crisis, who will bring excitement to the role, make friends on your behalf and act as a statesmanlike envoy in the challenges on many continents in the period ahead.

“Science Centres are in the front line of public participation in the great events of the 21st century. This is a wondrous adventure and Linda is great person to lead us through its next phase.”

Bill Bryson, former Chancellor of Durham University and author of the award-winning science book, ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’, said: "This is splendid and exciting news. It is testament to the outstanding work over many years of Linda Conlon and of the great Centre for Life in Newcastle. I couldn't be more pleased."

Lord Willetts, Chair, British Science Association and former Minister for Universities and Science (May 2010 - Jul 2014), said: "The British Science Association wants to see a world where science is recognised increasingly as an integral part of culture and society, and not something that is purely the domain of the professional scientist or academic. It is wonderful news, therefore, that someone from the UK has been elected to champion the role of science engagement internationally and I offer my warmest congratulations to Linda Conlon on her achievement."

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Science and technology are vitally important sectors creating jobs for the future which is why I promoted these strengths on a recent investment trip to China. The Centre for Life with its pioneering research is a key component in Newcastle as a Science City so I am delighted that Linda as chief executive has been appointed to this internationally important position.
“The fact that she is the first woman from Europe to be appointed as Chair of ASTC underlines her undoubted professionalism, and I wish her well in this exciting new role.”

Lucy Winskell OBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Business and Engagement) at Northumbria University and Trustee of the International Centre for Life, said: “I am delighted to hear about Linda’s appointment to this prestigious post. It’s fantastic news for the North East, where science and technology are so important to innovation and growth, as well as for the International Centre for Life, and of course, for Linda.

“It is a real pleasure to work closely with Linda and her team as part of Northumbria University’s ongoing and successful strategic partnership with the Centre for Life and I’m sure this appointment will help create even more opportunities for exciting international collaborations.”

Professor Roy Sandbach, Trustee, International Centre for Life and the North East LEP’s innovation lead, said: "Wonderful news! The North East is truly fortunate to have such a great representative in a truly important global role. Linda leads the Centre for Life brilliantly. She plays a vital role in the development of a regional culture that embraces science & technology. Her international appointment reflects and rewards her personal contribution and is certainly something for us all to celebrate."   

Professor Richard Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation, Newcastle University, said: "This is superb news and deserved recognition. It's good to see a champion for science, education and the North East honoured in this way.”

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Devolution deal for the region

A proposed devolution agreement that will transform the North East economy and bring new opportunities for businesses and residents has been agreed. Members of the North East Combined Authority and the government signed the agreement to devolve significant powers, funding and responsibilities to the region, representing a major change to the way in which decisions will be made in the future about transport, investment, funding, skills training, business support, housing and strategic planning.

The North East Combined Authority and a new elected mayor – to be elected for the first time in 2017 – will take control of the new devolved powers.

The agreement will see:

  • Up to £1.5bn pumped into a new North East Investment Fund. This will be targeted towards boosting economic growth and supporting the region to compete in international markets. It will include an initial funding allocation of £30m a year over 30 years.
  • The Combined Authority will work with the Government to identify ways for the North East to play a major role in the UK’s programme of business, cultural and sporting events.
  • The creation of an Employment and Skills Board to manage an overhaul of post-16 skills training and employment support in order to get more people into work, increase productivity, improve the life chances of young people and address the skill shortages experienced by North East employers.
  • From 2017, a new devolved approach to business support, which will simplify and strengthen the support available for business growth, innovation and global trade in the North East in order to deliver the ambition set out in the North East Strategic Economic Plan to create 100,000 jobs.
  • The establishment, in partnership with the NHS, of a Commission for Health and Social Care Integration. This will look at the potential for further integration of health services – including acute and primary care, community services, mental health services, social care and public health – in order to strengthen services, improve outcomes and reduce health inequalities.
  • An ambitious target to increase the number of new homes in the region. This will include the creation of a North East Land Board to identify potentially suitable locations for housing or economic development and the devolution of some statutory planning powers.
  • Devolved responsibility for the region’s transport budget along with responsibility for transport delivery, including infrastructure improvements and the development of smart ticketing across public transport networks in the area.

The agreement is a first step in a progressive process of devolution, which paves the way for opportunities for further devolved powers and responsibilities to the North East.

Final agreement remains subject to the Government’s spending review and the legislative process and is also conditional upon further public consultation and the agreement of the seven local councils which make up the combined authority.  

Chancellor George Osborne said: “This announcement shows that our revolutionary plans for devolution are gathering an unstoppable momentum. 

“The civic leaders of the North East have worked incredibly hard to reach this point and as a result today we are signing this historic agreement which will give the area significant new powers and investment.

“Once again the Northern Powerhouse is leading the way in our ambition to take power out of London and give it to the people who know their areas best.”

The North East Combined Authority, along with each of its constituent local authorities, will be asked to decide in early 2016 whether or not to formally approve and proceed with the proposed Devolution Agreement.

In the run up to those decisions being taken the North East Combined Authority is undertaking consultation across the whole of our region in order to give local communities, businesses and partners the opportunity to join the discussion and to give their views on whether it is the right thing to do.

For more information, see

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