Norfolk is our version of Kansas, albeit without the tornadoes. Flat, but full of life. Green, but full of grit. Sometimes hot, occasionally freezing, wet and windy, and from time to time, both at the same moment. Norfolk is arguably Britain’s equivalent of Alaska, for one simple reason: unlike most UK cities, it isn’t a notable stopover, unless making the unlikely trip to the North Sea. Travellers are far less likely to pass through Norfolk on their way to somewhere else. And the result of this has been, as Bernard E. Dorman argues in his fittingly titled book, Norfolk, “Norfolk people have become self-reliant, self-supporting and inclined to treat strangers with caution.”
International Women’s Day provides comforting relief from Dorman’s limiting stereotype. The celebration of female empowerment, in the context of yet-to-be-solved inequality, provides important awareness of the issues still undermining our contemporary world. This year’s theme takes note of the role played by women in building a sustainable future, securing the future of not only our planet, but also its people. In the county of Norfolk, on the campus of the University of East Anglia, students are becoming the torchbearers of a new kind of future, grounded by the equal treatment of all. Our university is far from “self-reliant, self-supporting and inclined to treat strangers with caution.” In fact, UEA celebrates the contributions of strangers – indeed, relies on them. Norfolk is windy, but the gust can be hugely helpful, blowing away old ideas and replacing them with new ones.