EA: You’re a Northumberland native. What was it like to come home and explore the place you grew up as a child?
PG: It was absolutely brilliant to return home and discover things that I never knew existed. I’m extremely passionate about the North East and particularly my native Northumberland, so when the opportunity to get involved in this project came up I jumped at the chance.
EA: Tell us a little bit about your childhood in Northumberland?
PG: I had a wonderful childhood. Born in Hexham and growing up in Corbridge, I couldn’t have asked for more. My parents ran the village Optometrist’s and I spent my weekend kicking a ball around a field or walking our dog down by the river. As a teenager me and my mates would often pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and camp out for the weekend, or build rafts and meander down the Tyne. I’m going to sound old now, but we were always outside. There was such little reliance on phones and computers.
EA: Can you tell us about the mini-series, Untold Stories: Northumberland?
PG: The new mini series is four documentary-style films made by the National Lottery designed to showcase where its funding goes across Northumberland. Each episode focuses on a different community project or initiative right here in the community and sheds a light on the work they are doing to actively transform and improve the lives of local people.
Many people don’t really know much about National Lottery funding in their own community. We always hear about big, national projects like the London Olympics, but in actual fact the National Lottery invested over £5 million into local good causes in Northumberland in 2017 alone, which is brilliant!
There is such a wealth of amazing initiatives here that have become integral to our community and so we really wanted to raise awareness of this – the series is designed to make people feel even prouder than they already are to call Northumberland home.
Viewers will be taken on a journey around four key projects operating in Northumberland – from Blyth Tall Ship, an amazing initiative that is recruiting young people and training them in engineering qualifications; to Hauxley Nature Reserve – a stunning wildlife centre that has been totally rebuilt by local volunteers after an arson attack.
The series meets the amazing people who run the projects, as well as those people who have benefitted from them as a result of being involved – whether that’s by gaining full time employment, learning new skills or overcoming personal issues and building confidence through trying new things. It really is amazing.
Follow the campaign across all of the National Lottery’s social channels: Facebook: @LotteryGoodCauses, YouTube: @LotteryGoodCauses, Twitter: @LottoGoodCauses and Instagram:@nationallotterygoodcauses.
EA: What have you learnt from the projects featured in the series?
PG: I’ve learnt that there is so much more to be proud of in Northumberland than I realised. I’ve always felt incredibly privileged to be from a town that has such heart and soul – but this has opened my eyes to a whole host of amazing things I didn’t even know existed.
All the projects I visited taught me something different and inspired me in unique ways – from the amazing young people I met in my hometown Hexham, at the Hexham Youth Initiative – a programme that has been supporting children and young adults for more than 20 years; to Museums Northumberland bait – a unique project that aims to introduce more people to art and culture.
EA: Is there anything in particular that stands out to you?
PG: If anything stands out to me, it’s how moving it was to be a Northumberland native, visiting all these projects which are there to better you, make you feel more a part of your community, and offer you support when you really need it. I’ll never forget how proud and inspired I felt, and that I’m able to share that through the mini-series.
EA: How can people get involved with a National Lottery funded project?
PG: Viewers can learn more about how they can get involved with, and volunteer, at the different projects featured in the mini-series by visiting the following websites:
BlythTall Ship, bait, Hauxley Nature Reserve, Hexham Youth Initiative.
You can also learn about the great National Lottery initiatives taking place in the North East by taking a look at the National Lottery Good Causes website.
EA: How did on-location shooting differ to live studio work?
PG: Working on location is really different to being in a studio – you’re having to react to lots of different things that are happening around you. Whether that’s filming on a real tall ship in Blyth on a freezing cold January morning, or chatting to a group of 20 teenagers and trying to beat them in a game of pool!
It’s exciting though – you get to meet so many different people and you never know where a conversation is going to take you. I ended up chatting to people who really opened up to me about their personal stories and how the National Lottery projects have helped them through difficult times, and it was actually really humbling.
I have to admit though, being in a studio would definitely have been a lot warmer!
EA: Will you be watching the series back?
PG: Absolutely! I’ve already seen a couple of episodes and they’re great so I’m really excited to watch the whole thing and be able to share with friends and family.
EA: Who will you be watching with?
PG: Definitely my family. I have two young children growing up in Northumberland and it’s really important to me that they feel connected with and proud of their hometown. Even though they’re still young, I think by watching the series they’ll start to appreciate just how amazing Northumberland is.
Plus, it’s a nice way to show them what kind of stuff Daddy does for his job!
EA: What are your favourite things about the North East?
PG: The people are without doubt the region’s greatest asset! I work four days a week in London but also travel across the UK and beyond hosting events and meeting people, but there is nowhere where you receive the same warmth and comfort than back home.
EA: And finally, your ‘luxe places’ in the region?
PG: There is so much to do in the North East that I love. You can often find me wandering down Gosforth High Street stopping for a coffee in Cafe 95 or a pint in the Gosforth Hotel. There are so many great restaurants as well! House Of Tides, Peace and Loaf and Cafe 21 are amongst my favourites. Taking in sport with my family is probably my favourite pastime though. Watching Newcastle United, Newcastle Falcons, Newcastle Eagles or Durham County Cricket Club; we are spoiled for options when it comes to top end live sport in the region.