THE Great Exhibition of the North finally got underway yesterday after two years of planning, with a host of VIPs descending on Newcastle and Gateshead to declare the 80-day event officially open.

As The Northern Echo pointed out in this column on Tuesday, the communication of the exhibition and what it has to offer to the wider region has left much to be desired so far, but yesterday everyone at the launch event was firmly on message. Inspiration was the word of the day, with talk of the innovators who inspired the region’s past and present, and those who will inspire its future.

It is still unclear what lasting legacy the exhibition will have beyond a very welcome economic boost this summer, but as board chairman Sir Gary Verity has already demonstrated in Yorkshire with the success of the Tour de France Grand Depart and now the annual Tour de Yorkshire, a one-off event can turn into something much more sustainable.

The signs yesterday were promising. The blue skies and bright sunshine above the the sparkling Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside should mean the region is shown off at its finest in national media coverage.

The trick will be to sustain that opening weekend positivity – and attention –throughout all 80 days and then build future investments and events on that foundation.

Time will tell whether this comes off, but for now, let’s see for ourselves what it’s all about, visit the cultural trails, and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.