City of Culture
Just how do they plan to deliver Plymouth as a suitable
product to pitch for becoming a potential City of Culture?
Plymouth is like a rare classic car that has been locked in
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a barn for 50 years with just an occasional squirt of WD40 to slow the progress
of the rust.
To bring the classic car back to its former glory will take tender
loving care from a dedicated bunch of enthusiasts who's only concern is to be
able to step back and marvel at the results of their labour. They will have to
throw money at the project but job satisfaction would take precedence over
With the benefit of hindsight, who will emerge with the time
and leadership qualities to restore the city of Plymouth back to its former
History shows that neither of the two main parties who
change with each other at every election have what it takes. All they have
proved over the past two or more decades is that they don't have any passion
for the city. It's as if they don't want people to visit the city. Not only
have they let the city and its waterfront fall into disrepair, they haven't
even had a department dedicated to tourism.
Then there's the haphazard way road updates and repairs are
carried out. A well run business will create a client base and enjoy customer
return orders but the damage to the tourist trade during the Gdynia Way debacle
not only cost Plymouth dearly for a two year period but has probably lost a
huge number of returning visitors for the foreseeable future.
It's good that the university is putting up some finance but
they are not equipped with either the knowledge or expertise to be of much use
other than to use their academic skills to fill in the bundles of paperwork. And
how many of these academics are Plymouth people?
Businessmen have a vested interest in putting the city on
the tourist map and are prepared to offer something in the way of finance, but
in times like this, won't have the time to devote to the cause because they
have to concentrate on keeping their own business interests on track during
these difficult times.
Because there is no leadership, there is no joined up
thinking and the biggest problem is a lack of co-ordination whereby there's no
support as one hand never knows what the other one is doing.
And there is most definitely a severe lack of passion.
Due to the negligence over recent years, Plymouth now needs
a huge amount of investment to even stand a cat in hells chance of becoming the
Cultural City of Great Britain which is a great pity because it does have some
of the finest natural ingredients to be found anywhere in the world that has a
temperate climate which in itself needs consideration if we are to believe that
global warming is going to lead to wetter than average summers.
Let's not even mention the terrible transport links at this
juncture. The first priority is to clean up our own back yard so the residents
of Plymouth can have a city to be proud of and one they can enjoy and say positive
things about. Get that bit right first and the word will spread to further
afield and the tourists will come.
Based on the half a million pounds to refurbish a city
centre toilet block, how and where do we find the many millions of pounds
required to reverse the many years of neglect and to lay some tarmac on our
prime tourist routes? It appears that many thousands of pounds will be required
just to fill in the entry forms for the City of Culture competition.
Money aside and trying to remain positive, let's do an east
to west tour of Plymouth's greatest asset, the waterfront.
Mountbatten...one of the better decisions of recent times. A
lovely natural area enjoyed by many locals all year round with a perfect
viewing platform to enjoy the vista of the Hoe. A downside and another example
of the lack of joined up thinking, the granting of planning permission for a
luxury block of flats which will jeopardise one of the City of Culture winning ingredients
already in place, namely the British Fireworks Championships. A first class
water sports centre that could organise national and international small boat
events such as dinghy, canoe and boardsailing racing.
The Barbican...a sacrificial lamb when Union Street's pubs
were demolished which has led to a favourite haunt for binge drinkers, especially
during prime visitor occasions like bank holidays. The buildings are drab and
mostly attracts the fish and chip brigade rather than oozing culture. Great potential
Queen Anne Battery Marina which also houses the Royal
Western Yacht Club who should be key players, in harmony with the Royal
Corinthian Yacht Club opposite, to co-ordinate international yacht races
including the Americas Cup World Series, the Transatlantic and Fastnet races to
name but a few.
The National Marine Aquarium...built for the moment rather
than for the future as it could have boasted walk through tunnels where
visitors could have the impression that they were in the water with the fish,
something already found in older aquariums around the world. Still a great
venue for those rainy days.
The Hoe foreshore...a great example of how the city has
allowed a prime area to fall into disrepair. Effect all the required repairs
and create a sensitively done wheelchair friendly walkway from east to west to
lure the crowds from Madeira Road down
to the water's edge. Repair and paint the beach area at Tinside. Tinside
pool...a real diamond which needs to be in tip top condition all year round.
West Hoe, an ideal family/visitor location with somebody making an effort already with a restaurant. The Dome,
should be an asset with a top chef ready to open up.
The Hoe and Smeaton's Tower....keep the lighthouse painted
at all times and just continue to keep the area tidy...a popular place when the
sun is shining. Keep the big wheel if possible.
Millbay Docks...another prime example of neglect by the
city. 40 or more years of falling into disrepair. If it can be done, the docks
should be opened up to the public although the fear is that with concerns such
as SHH involved, their main concern will be appeasing their shareholders and
the danger is that every inch will be developed into apartments and some
important tourist friendly open waterside spaces will be lost to the city. A
proven ideal location to house events like the America's Cup World Series which
could also be lost if it becomes cluttered with developments.
Royal William Yard...has taken a long time to develop but is
becoming quite a cultural location in its own right. It appears to be designed
to attract a better quality of cliental to offer a nicer environment than that
of the Barbican.
As already mentioned, Plymouth has all the natural
ingredients to knock spots off the competition to become the Cultural Centre of
Britain. It's the human element that is holding the city back.
There is far too much apathy among the residents who have
lost faith in the council and the political parties entrusted with ensuring
that their city is a place to be proud of. A council with no passion for the
people they represent. Perhaps the apathy would wane if the city had some real
It's no good having quangos
who only attract jobs for the boys and not passionate personnel who have pride
in their work rather than just bleeding the taxpayer dry with inflated
Plymouth's bid team needs a local person who's prime
interest is the same as most of the residents who are fed up to the back teeth
with the neglect inflicted by past and present councils and wants to see this
city become a place to relax in and enjoy. It needs someone who has grown up
here and has a passion for what this city could become.
A leader who is not in it for a great financial reward who
can lead from the front and pull together all the relevant parties including
getting the public involved to coordinate with a hands on approach so that
money is not wasted on jolly's but directed at the physical aspects that need
to be corrected.
With everybody pulling in the same direction, things could
be achieved. Advertising the resurgence of the city is also an expensive hobby
but the media such as this publication can then throw their real weight behind
the efforts by publicising the good bits of the city to the rest of the world
in a positive manner rather than portraying the city as the back end of nowhere.
It has been proven that the council officers can't do it,
the two main political parties can't do it, the gravy train quangos can't do
it, the MP's have different agendas and so can't do it.
Perhaps it is time for a member of the local public to step
forward, someone with a liberal amount of commonsense and some marketing ability
and oodles of time to devote to the cause who can liaise with the interested
parties with the support and encouragement from the residents.
If nobody else wants to volunteer, I'll do it for a year's
rolling contract with a salary of
£20,000 paid for by local businessmen rather than the public purse and an expense
account to cover petrol and parking tickets. I won't need an office but use of
meeting rooms from time to time. I'll use my own modest car unless a private
garage wants to sponsor me with a small eco-friendly vehicle and I won't take
liberties with other people's cash.
I'll walk the key areas with those interested parties to
identify what repairs need to be done and the academics can figure out with the
council how to pay for it. I will meet with business leaders and councillors and
have talks with the commodores of the yacht clubs to begin negotiations with
the major organisations of the sailing world, to open dialogue with the Formula
One race committee and the organisers of the Plymouth Air Show to try and get
that back onboard after it fell from the events calendar through a lack of
support from the council.
I'll welcome contact by amateur clubs who want to perform
during events and listen to what the public want to see. If the council or its
representatives put obstacles in my way or don't take me seriously by dragging
their heels, then the local paper can let the people know all about it.
Basically, I don't want to spend my retirement years reading
articles in this paper that are full of negativity about my home city that has
fallen into a cesspit rather than having its head held high by realising its
massive potential because those elected into a position of power have shown
that they just don't give a toss.
Best we take the bit about me volunteering for the job with
a pinch of salt...but it does show the level of frustration to the point that
if nobody else is capable of doing it then it would be better to go and do it