The journey has started… so don’t miss the bus, train or Uber (we can but wish!)
There’s a buzz in the air, and it’s not just the early arrival of bees! The areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole are entering into one of the most impactful eras of recent history, and we all have the opportunity to help steer the direction this goes. Sounds good right? Real democracy in the making!! Thankfully Liz Lean had been made aware of the imminent enquiry, but why hadn’t we, the people ‘on the Clapham omnibus’ not heard more about this before? While the major figures in the AUB, Lighthouse, Arts Council England and many other cultural bodies in the area have had this close to their hearts lately, the message to the masses has been a bit slow to get out there. Until now!
With the setting up of the Cultural Enquiry website for BCP (https://www.culturalenquiry.co.uk/) and the Twitter hashtag #culturalenquiry2019, the word is starting to spread, but it needs to pick up pace if it is really going to make the sort of dent on the cultural and social issues that bubble up time and time again – how we engage with culture over such a widespread area – where that information is shared (hopefully before the event actually takes place) and how we get there to enjoy it.
The first enquiry event, hosted at the Pavilion in Bournemouth on Tuesday February 26th, showed there is real drive to ‘grab the bull by the horns’ and ensure we make the most of this amazing opportunity – the chance to guide how the area under BCP will keep, attract, showcase, nurture and present a viable and accessible spectrum of culture. Yet how do we move beyond the ‘1951 view’ (as one of the attendees politely put it) of the area as being ONLY about tourism and the summer surge of people flocking to our sandy shores??
The ‘newly-wed and nearly dead’ negative catchphrase that I had been fed about the Bournemouth and Poole area before I moved here from London a few months ago, sadly still in the air, was alluded to during the two hour meeting, but with a nod to how the younger population need to be central in the conversation about cultural engagement. But how best to do this? That’s the pivotal dilemma surrounding this entire process – until the room is full of people who are under 30, who will be here to enjoy the full benefits from this massive opportunity, there is an element of frustration.
On a more positive note, and something that gave much inspiration during the meeting, was the huge strength of belief in the entire area (and the population here) to provide the perfect backdrop for a ‘St Tropez- style lifestyle’ on our own coast. One attendee asked why we are not already doing this. The answer? The conversation that needs to bring together those who own and run the shorefront and those who wish to develop the pop-up food and drink culture and the beach front bars, actually on the sand, need to be brought up again – with a view to offering a more established and year-round place to enjoy great food and wine with the amazing backdrop we are lucky to enjoy. As this is a big change from the status quo, all parties need to discuss this and reach an accord that offers both progress and stability.
Café Culture, pop-up eateries, evening dining by the sea and small shacks serving quality food and drinks are sure to be used by locals more and more, all year round, as well as the summer surge of visitors to the area. How great would it be to be able to head to the shore, enjoy a snack and drink (I resist calling it aperitivo, for now!) and soaking up the amazing coastline that we all love? And what if there was an easy way to get there and back that didn’t cost the earth? – we all know how expensive travel can be, with parking costs being prohibitive for some or having to get a bus or two hardly fills us with joy! – so encouraging travel options like Uber could be a great way to tie together the spread out nature of the towns, points of interest and new ventures that will come from this cultural enquiry.
What if there was a centralised place to find out what was going on there and then benefits of such loyalty…. An app? A website? Podcasts? Community engagement? Or all of the above? This would certainly help ensure the vast wealth of cultural events that we have now, and those that thrive under the new joint councils, are well advertised and, as a result, well attended. A great result for everybody!
We all hear about how the local area suffers from an employment draw to London or Bristol, but how do we change this? What is key in attracting skilled workers and families to Bristol and London? What does this area not offer, or not appear to offer, those people who leave? The salary? Some say that’s money is the deciding factor, but I disagree! Having actively chosen to travel the other direction and set up life in the Poole area, I can say that it is only a part of the equation. Of course the cinemas, theatre, restaurants, events, community and diversity are all huge factors in the decision-making process for those heading to the bright lights of London or Bristol, but we have that here too – just not yet as cohesive and apparent – but we can all bring this together and make it gel.
So if we can really get this right, and now, we can not only reverse that ‘magnetic pull’, we can attract and, more importantly, keep a population that will enjoy the diverse and culturally-rich heritage we have here and they can build upon it to make the St Tropez lifestyle real, and on our doorstep.
The overall picture is that we are missing the comprehensive tools to engage the wider area, geographically and in terms of demographic – and this is essential if we are going to make this work now, in the future and forever! NOW is the time to get on board and really make a change, you have a voice, so let’s use it to make a real difference.
Visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bcp-cultural-enquiry-town-hall-debate-culture-and-place-tickets-56493736286 to book your tickets and have your say in your future. It is democracy in the making and you can make a positive impact on this area, the future and the outcome.