Keith Rossiter: 'Britain's Ocean City' Plymouth puts a toe back in the water
THERE was pandemonium at The Herald this week as we debated whether "Britain's Ocean City" was the right branding for Plymouth.
Half (let's call them the Wrong-headed), claim the city is actually on the English Channel. The other half (let's call them the Enlightened) point out that the Channel itself is part of the Atlantic Ocean.
A quick visit to Google will turn up no end of pictures which show that the Atlantic does indeed lick up against Plymouth's shores.
I also consulted two separate editions of the enormous Times Atlas of the World. Its page devoted to oceans shows Britain entirely surrounded by Atlantic.
You argue with the experts if you wish, but I have better things to do.
There are numerous seas, bights, straits and channels, including the English Channel, and all are contained within the Atlantic Ocean. But even if it weren't true, so what?
When Britain adopted the slogan "Cool Britannia", did you complain that it wasn't accurate because we're actually a temperate region? Did you say, "Grey and damp" would be more accurate?
Branding is about much more than pedantic literal truths: it's about a point of view.
Think of the great slogans. "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands." Really? Just try it. What they mean is that you'll like the sweets so much they won't stay in your hand.
Plymouth's history and its future are about oceans, from Drake to oceanographic research at the university and oceanic yacht races which start or finish here. It's about culture, tourism, and high-tech marine engineering and science. All it needs now is the support of Plymothians.
MANY opponents of the rebranding exercise say the money would have been better spent on beautifying Plymouth first.
It's true that the recession has left the city (along with most others) looking a bit shabby, but spending council tax exclusively on street repairs isn't going to pull in visitors. Have you ever said to your missus, "Come on Mabel, we need to visit Leighton Buzzard, I hear the streets are very smooth"? Thought not.
Fix the marketing first and you'll have the cash to fix everything else.
COUNCIL leader Tudor Evans may have caught his partners on the hop when he launched the city's new branding this week.
But – accidental or not – his timing could hardly have been better. The news slipped out at a Plymouth Plan forum organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects and attended by interested parties from across the country.
The Plymouth Plan consultation now being run by the council is a great way to look at what's wrong with the city – but also a great source of ideas for how to improve it.
The planners have posed a series of questions on their consultation portal at www.plymouth.gov.uk, which is open to all.
So far there are three replies to "What would make the waterfront one of Europe's finest?" – and two of them mention marketing.
MANY Herald readers have highlighted the city's shortcomings, from a scruffy Hoe foreshore to potholes in Peverell and beyond.
The council has very little money so it is going to have to rely on clever thinking.
Last year it allowed a café and art gallery to move into the shelters on the Hoe foreshore, which is now getting a bit of tlc at no cost to the taxpayer. More of that please.
We could also follow the example of Albania. Before the death of the dictator Enver Hoxa the capital, Tirana, was by all accounts a grim and miserable place, dominated by decaying concrete structures and miserable citizens.
In 2000 the city got Edi Rama, an artist, as mayor. Mr Rama spent some of his limited budget on paint – all in bright, primary colours and abstract designs.
Google "Tirana Edi Rama" and browse through the images you find. The place is now a cheerful riot of colour.
With the colour came a swath of benefits: Less litter; people started to pay their taxes; crime fell.
Plymouth may not have much cash, but it could afford to splash out on paint.
Here are some suggestions: the building on the corner of Western Approach/Mayflower Street, home of the old K2 club; some of the flats further down Western Approach; Bretonside bus station and Exeter Street viaduct above the Citybus offices; Buckwell Street flats.
Of course, the faceless bureaucrats would miss the point and give us magnolia.
PERHAPS the mindset that insists we're not in the Atlantic is the one that also wants to set us apart from Europe. We love to hate the EU for wasting our money, and the Common Agricultural Policy is a favourite target. You may be pleased to learn that the European Commission is now demanding the return of 414million euros (£358million) in misspent agricultural subsidies.
You may be less pleased to know that the UK is the worst offender, with 111 million euros misallocated. Next worst is Italy at 48million euros.