Perhaps this morning wasn’t the best of times for a photo shoot. By nine thirty when we had all gathered to have our pictures taken the moon had made its way across the sun. Our two greatest celestial bodies had combined to turn day back into night. I know that the eclipse, however partial, had been all over the media but somehow we’d overlooked it in the arrangements. It was only a temporary delay though and in the event, because of cloud cover, it wasn’t much of a spectacle.
The occasion for our gathering was the latest superfast broadband launch, this time in Thornley, a village East of Durham, mid-way between the A1 and the A19. It’s another place that I couldn’t say I had ever been to. As with many of the villages in this part of Durham, Thornley has a long history associated with coal mining. Of course the pit and all of its workings have long gone and the land cleared and made good. Thornley Village Centre, where our event was held, was built upon the reclaimed land.
If my understanding is correct development of the village was overshadowed by the rise of the nearby new town of Peterlee but there are new house appearing in the so-called bottom of the village.
I like coming to these events. They give the Digital Durham Programme a chance to remind ourselves what this is all about, connecting real people to improve their lives by helping them to access services rather than being a technical or paper exercise. Sometimes a lot of locals turn up and sometimes there are fewer yet it is always a good opportunity to get our story out and a picture or two in the press. Alli arranges for some children from the local school to turn up. They make a better photograph and they go back and tell their parents about what they have been involved in (they did get to see the eclipse though and we were all careful not to look at the sun, what there was of it).
The real prize for the programme is better access to digital services for the people of the region. We all know that life is going that way for those that have and what I don’t want is the same social deprivation issues being reinforced by lack of broadband. I can’t describe this as the glamour end of the job though. Trudging around the streets putting leaflets through doors, attaching notices to signposts, hanging banners on walls and raising the flags whenever the opportunity arises is the stuff that in the end is going to make all the difference.
Our take up of superfast broadband is nudging ahead of all of our expectations, in no small part to the efforts of the team. The programme overall is approaching half way and we have just signed a further extension which will take us to the high-nineties availability across the county. It was nice of the sun and moon to put on a show to mark the occasion.