Mind The Gap: London Vs The Rest

Confirmed for BBC Two on 10 March at 9.00pm to 10.00pm

Ep 2/2

Monday 10 March



Given London’s dominance, Evan Davis asks what can the rest of Britain learn from the capital’s success? And can we create a city with the pull of London, outside London - a megacity of the north?

Evan takes a ride on the steep track at the National Cycling Centre, where Britain’s top track cyclists cluster, enabling them to become the world’s best. It becomes clear talented people do better working next to each other.

This helps Evan explain the story behind one of the scariest business announcements since the crash – drug giant AstraZeneca’s decision to move its scientists from a rural research park in the North West to the buzzing biomedical hub of Cambridge.

While this southern city bursts at the seams, Liverpool is suffering shrinking pains due to the loss of its historic role as a big global hub. In the boarded up streets Evan discovers the city has too many houses for its population.

He meets some of the area’s last residents who want their own houses demolished and the now-empty childhood home of Ringo Starr, in the face of opposition.

Evan tests his argument that some smaller cities will be spokes not hubs with the poet Ian McMillan who lives in Barnsley. He tells Evan it would “leave a lot of the country just sitting waiting for the telly to come on.”

In Manchester Evan finds a city evolving in the right direction. He visits the Coronation Street set, which has relocated its cobblestones to the media cluster growing up around the BBC in Salford Quays.

Searching for Britain’s second city Evan finds himself somewhere surprising. In Hebden Bridge, 30 miles from Manchester, he finds cafes that serve dogs and evidence a northern megacity stretching from Liverpool to Leeds is emerging, with people commuting across the region.

That raises the ultimate conundrum for Britain. London’s demand for infrastructure is always pressing and gets more of the funding, but east to west transport is sorely needed in the north if there is to be a counterweight to London.