Matthew Bessant

This week, Izzy is joined by Varsity’s Digital Editor, Alex Oxford, as they tackle the north-south divide. The two begin by introducing Alex, a northern fourth year student studying MML at Homerton College, and she talks about some of the common stereotypes of the north and the south. From drinking too much, to not feeling the cold, Alex and Izzy talk about the possible class influences over the current divide, as well as the role of the media in deepening the gap. 

The hosts then talk to Daniel Fry, who is from Northern Ireland and studies History at Homerton College. Within the discussion of the North and South divide, Daniel gives listeners an overview of the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (the South) and the ongoing conflict in the North between unionism with the UK and nationalism (a reunited Ireland). He mentions the cultural differences that come with that political divide - such as the Irish flag, the Northern Irish flag and the Union flag - and the differing days of celebration for unionists and nationalists. With parents from either side of the divide, Daniel says that he is used to hearing both opinions, and that his friendship group is generally accepting of either side of the debate. Nevertheless, Daniel does think there is a generational gap in people’s opinions on the split, as there are still peace walls which operate in the country. 

Next, Izzy and Alex interview Sara Pocher, who is from Trento in Northern Italy and is studying Chinese. As Izzy is from Rome herself, she and Sara discuss their perspectives on the Italian North-South divide in comparison to the English one. Sara says that there is a strong cultural divide in Italy, which is most immediately noticeable in accents and language. There are perceived stereotypes about school and healthcare which are not necessarily objective but are well known throughout the country. The group discuss the importance of accents in identifying a person’s origin, as they are the first thing that you notice about someone. 

Alex mentions the common associations in England with accents and differing levels of education, whilst Izzy mentions how accents are often unfairly equated with class in Rome. The conversation moves on to talk about the pervasiveness of stereotypes, and how they can affect initial judgements of people. The group also discuss the North-South divide in Cambridge, and how it differs from that in Italy. They mention how the North of England is perceived similarly to the South in Italy, with structural reasons for perceived divides with differences at institutional levels and public funding. The conversation concludes with the mention that there is a ‘nuanced conversation to be had’ about these divides. 

Catch up on last week's episode...

Finally, the hosts talk to Georgie, a postgraduate studying History at Christ’s, who is from Hinkley in the Midlands. She mentions that she is not from the North or the South – and that the Midlands should be a category when discussing this division. Within this conversation, Georgie introduces Izzy to the ‘Greggs Line’ and the rural-urban divide as a potential new split to rival that between the North and the South. Georgie weighs up whether or not she identifies more with the North or the South, as she does not feel like the Midlands has a strong cultural identity within itself. She also mentions the connotations that come along with being Northern or Southern. Georgie also mentions that the South is not a monolith, and that there are divides within it, such as in areas like the South West. The group concludes the conversation with a summary, stating that conceiving the divide within England, and the UK as a whole, as merely a North-South issue is an oversimplification. 


Switchboard is Varsity’s flagship podcast. Episodes are broadcasted every Friday at 8:30pm on Cam FM, and are available on all major podcasting apps via Anchor. Transcript will be available here after the episode’s release.