THE month of June was filled with national pride as the 21st FIFA World Cup kicked off in Russia.

The song Three Lions could be heard anywhere, from pubs to back gardens, as England won match after match and put the hopes back into its supporters.

Special attention was paid to manager Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane as the pair looked to be an unstoppable force in football.

England’s 6-1 victory against Panama was their biggest ever at a major tournament and sealed progress to the last 16 knockout phase.

June was the month of the region’s large-scale events, beginning with Darlington’s Race For Life in South Park.

Over 1,500 women took part in the 5k race, some looking serious with sports watches attached to arms and ears plugged into music, but many seemed to walk, chatting happily in the sunshine, sometimes with young children tagging along.

Everyone showed up with their own personal story to tell and tributes to mum, nan, sister and auntie written on the backs of shirts.

Race organiser Lauren Robertson said: “The sun came out fortunately and it is always a lovely atmosphere here with a nice feel to it.

“We would obviously like to thank everyone for their support, particularly those who come back year after year.”

Mid-month saw the return of Bishop Auckland’s Kynren, with new scenes to mark the centenary of the women’s vote and the First World War.

The display of 2,000 years of England’s history saw the familiar touches of sheep and geese running, medieval battles and dazzling fireworks displays.

New scenes included a horse galloping around with its rider on fire, a Roman prisoner dragged at full pelt across the arena, a pitch invasion by angry suffragettes, the Beatles on their zebra crossing, and a menacing flypast by a shadowy enemy bomber.

The end of June saw the opening night of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Thousands of people descended onto the banks of the Tyne to enjoy a live performance from northern rock band Maximo Park, and an appearance by renowned poet, Lemn Sissay introducing his newly created Anthem of the North.

The opening event marked the culmination of months of planning and the start of an 80-day free programme including trails, venues, exhibits and installations across Newcastle and Gateshead.

Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Tonight we embark on a spectacular celebration of our creativity and diversity in which the energy of the North is showcased on a global scale.

“Our history has shaped the world, and we continue to be at the cutting edge of innovation and new technologies. Our warm welcome is legendary and our pride and culture has inspired generations.”

Two North-East towns were dealt devastating blows after a major retailer announced plans to pull out of them both, resulting in hundreds of job losses.

The department store House of Fraser confirmed that its Darlington and Middlesbrough shops would close next year if proposals to rescue the struggling business were approved.

The much-feared announcement followed news of the closure of Marks & Spencer’s Darlington and Stockton stores, while Middlesbrough had also seen other recent shop closures.

Darlington MP Jenny Chapman issued a damning assessment of the retailer, describing its strategy as “lazy and short-term”, and the decision to abandon the iconic town centre building a “desertion of our community”.

Councillor Chris McEwan. Darlington Borough Council's cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said the announcement was a “dark moment” for Darlington, but vowed the council will “keep on fighting” for the town.

Meanwhile that month, Council Leader Bill Dixon announced his decision to retire from politics after four decades of service.

Having been first elected to Darlington council on the day that Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female Prime Minister, his retirement as council leader marked the end of an era.

In a letter sent to all council staff, Cllr Dixon said the decision was made for personal reasons and so he could spend more time with his wife, Lynne.

“I am the last of the class of ’79,” he said, “but that’s because this job gets under your skin: there’s always one more job, one more policy, one more issue to get sorted before you go.

“But I’ve enjoyed 39-anda-half years as a councillor, seven-and-a-half years as leader. I’m 65 now, and I decided in 2015 that I would not be running again, so it is the right time to call it a day.”

And a school girl from County Durham stunned the judges of America’s Got Talent, earning herself a golden buzzer and the running for a million dollar prize.

Courtney Hadwin, 13, of Hesleden, near Peterlee, got a standing ovation from all four judges after belting out a scorching rendition of Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle.

Appearing on the stage, Courtney, a pupil at The Academy at Shotton Hall, Peterlee, admitted to being nervous as Spice Girl Mel B allayed her fears.

But once the music started she came into her own with a performance that left judges and audience alike open-mouthed.

Simon Cowell exclaimed: “Bloody hell Courtney. You were this shy little thing when you came out. And then you sing and you’re like a lion. I mean, genuinely incredible.”

Courtney, who burst into tears, tweeted after the show: “I didn’t know what to expect when I auditioned for (America’s Got Talent) but the golden buzzer was more than I ever could have dreamed of. Thank you so much @howiemandel I am so happy and can’t thank you enough.”