YORK’S Festival of Ideas has been launched with the first of a series of events exploring the impact of growing divisions in Britain.

This year explores the theme of “North And South”, and historian Peter Watson who wrote The Great Divide, kicked off the debate at the University of York last night.

The festival includes more than 120 events across the city with leading thinkers, scientists, writers and artists.

Seamus Heaney, the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet, broadcaster and novelist Melvyn Bragg, art critic and broadcaster Brian Sewell and Aardman Animations’ Peter Lord, the maker of Wallace and Gromit, are also among the speakers.

Today, the Ron Cooke Hub on the university’s Heslington East campus will host the Economics, Entrepreneurship And Equality day in association with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and York Professionals.

One of the speakers, Professor Danny Dorling, a professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, will argue that the north-south divide is at risk of becoming an accepted feature of the UK economy because of the recession.

He said: “It’s obvious it’s growing. If you go to Bradford or Barnsley, house prices are going down, while in London they’re going up. There are twice as many shops boarded up in Yorkshire as London.

“But it’s not much talked about now. We talked a lot about the north-south divide in the boom years, but in a sense we’ve got used to it.

“Now it’s getting wider in almost every way we measure it and it’s not news.” He said he thought people were just thankful there was some economic boom to boost national growth figures, even it was confined to the south-east.

He said regional centres had an increasingly servile relationship with London, with towns with fast links to the capital performing better.

Prof Dorling’s talk “North-South: From Divide To Chasm” will take place at 10.30am and he will take part in a panel debate “Two-Speed Britain: Myth Or Reality?” at 11.30am.

See yorkfestivalofideas.com for the full calendar of events and to book tickets.