A major new hospitality and tourism campaign celebrating the North East’s culinary history, heritage and innovation has been launched to help the region bounce back in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

‘Coming Home’ is a series of four one-minute films underpinning the North East’s reputation as a high-quality food and drink destination not just regionally, but nationally and globally.

The first film backed by a new interpretation of ‘Meet Me on the Corner’ by local music legends Lindisfarne, centres on North Shields Fish Quay and follows the zero-emissions journey of one of the region’s most prized natural food resources – langoustines – from the sea to being served at the acclaimed Träkol restaurant under the iconic Tyne Bridge in Gateshead.

The awareness campaign is the brainchild of Food and Drink North East (FaDNE) supported by Visit County Durham, Gateshead Council, and Newcastle University’s H2020 Strength2Food consortium of EU academic partners.

Coming Home is being promoted across multiple social media channels, with future films set to focus on Durham, Northumberland and Teesside’s unique food and drink offerings.

Such campaigns usually cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds but FaDNE, which is a self-funded community interest company championing the region’s food and drink heroes and brands, has created the Coming Home initiative for a fraction of the price thanks to the goodwill of partners and board members, many of whom have donated their time and expertise for free.

Des Kennedy, a director of FaDNE, said: “The fact that so many people have been willing to come together to help create the Coming Home campaign is a testament not just to how highly-regarded the North East’s food and drink and tourism sectors are, but recognition of the dramatic effect Covid-19 has had with many businesses struggling to see what their future looks like post-pandemic.

“Now, with businesses opening up again after lockdown and potentially at their most vulnerable, we believe the time is right to take a proactive approach to boost these priceless assets.

“Food, hospitality and travel are facing unprecedented challenges, and whilst the Government’s support has been welcome and many businesses and jobs have been saved, with the pandemic set to be with us for the foreseeable future, countless enterprises will undoubtedly again be confronted with difficult times.

“Rather than waiting around for funding to come to us, FaDNE has decided to take a grassroots approach and get on with it.”

Newcastle University Business School, Gateshead Council and Visit County Durham have all committed cash to the campaign, while Defra has pledged to promote Coming Home’s message nationally.

Michelle Gorman, Managing Director of Visit County Durham, said the distinctiveness of the area’s produce is extremely important to the county’s economy, with visitors spending £353m on food each year. She said: “Initiatives like Coming Home not only support local producers, but they also encourage people who live here, and those visiting, to sample the best we have to offer.”

Matthew Gorton, Professor of Marketing and Co-ordinator of the H2020 Strength2Food Project, added that Newcastle University was delighted to be supporting the Coming Home campaign and to be working “with FaDNE to improve the economic, social and environmental impacts of local foods systems in ways which create meaningful benefits for consumers in the North East.”

Dave Stone, owner of Träkol, added the pandemic would undoubtedly cause untold damage to the hospitality industry. “Now, as we come out of lockdown, it’s more important than ever to come together to champion local businesses and independents and to shout about all that’s good about our regional food and drink offer.

“The Coming Home campaign does just that, and we are delighted to support it.”

Coming Home focuses attention on the North East’s strengths: namely the region’s great produce, iconic landmarks and spirit of innovation, whilst encouraging people from both within and outside the area to show their support.

Mr Kennedy said: “We decided to concentrate on North Shields Fish Quay in our first 60-second film because it is justifiably famous for the high quality of the langoustines landed there. It is the story from sea to plate and ends with the tagline ‘feels like coming home’.

“The North East is renowned for its friendliness, and we want people to know that’s what they can expect; that welcoming ‘coming home’ feeling.”

Lindisfarne’s Meet Me on the Corner sung by locally-based music student, Elizabeth Liddle, was chosen as the backing track because “it encapsulates friendship, the meaning of home and, to quote the song’s writer, Rod Clements, having dreams enough to share,” explained Mr Kennedy.

FaDNE was launched in February this year and is made up of local business owners and experts who understand the challenges the food and drink sector is facing, and who are working together to solve them.

Mr Kennedy said: “For too long the North East’s food and drink sector has been overlooked. While other regions have flourished we’ve hidden our light under a bushel. This dynamic sector is full of innovation and ideas and with the right support it can continue to grow and provide highly-skilled jobs local people need while becoming central to our region’s tourism offer.”