I had a rather bizarre day at the end of last week. Wonderful BURA staffer (Jessica Courtney Bennett – how could you leave us, JCB?) asked me if I would be prepared to talk to BBC South East about Ramsgate (pictured below).
Lovely place, quoth I (my old mum used to have a house in Deal) but why’s it topical right now? Well, nobody seemed to know.
But I’m nothing if not a team player, and I dutifully rocked up to the Millbank studio to report at the allotted time. Was ushered into studio “MB2” (blimey what a dump!) and (sort of) greeted by a very friendly and chatty technician.
Asked him what it was all about, “Oh they never tell me anything” he cheerfully replied and then went on to explain that the BBC, despite being in the business of communications are indeed the most non-communicative bunch you could care to meet. You have to smile.
Eventually did the piece “down the line” to Tunbridge Wells and found myself being asked questions about a film made by a residents’ group which – as I had to patiently explain on several occasions – I had not seen!
“Is this just a “bunch of moaning minnies?” I was asked. “Well” I responded breezily – game as ever – “we would always rather have an engaged community than a passive, disaffected one”, hoping against hope that we weren’t talking about a bunch of nutters objecting to some stonkingly brilliant inward investment idea.
Well hey! Never mind not knowing what you’re being interviewed about, I managed to wax lyrical about Ramsgate, its sandy beach, its Royal Harbour, its beautiful marina and regency terraces and – of course – the best ice cream parlour in the world at Louis Pelosi’s emporium.
Had had a hurried conversation with my good friends at Kent county council on the way from the tube station and was able to get in topical stuff about the off-shore wind farm, the new high speed rail links and the (stalled, but still inspirational) plans for the Pleasurama site.
And it wasn’t until well after the interview that I caught up with what the story was about….
Whew! It transpires that it was about some great stuff. Ramsgate Arts Festival committee have commissioned a film of vox pops with Ramsgate residents called Love Hate Hope Ramsgate, made on a shoestring budget by a professional team (Retina – impressive bunch) for a worthy cause.
They are showing this film on a loop on a vast screen in a disused shop in Ramsgate High Street. The exhibition has proved extremely popular with all types and ages of people. As well as watching the film, visitors have been asked to write comments on what they love, hate and hope about Ramsgate, and apparently the three “love, hate, hope” boards are literally plastered with hundreds of messages.
As the very talented Stephen from Retina said “It’s been a slightly surprising and overwhelming success in fact! Just goes to show that when you ask people for their views they’re not backwards in coming forward with their suggestions”.
Well there you go. BURA has a Seaside Network and we will be encouraging other coastal towns to take up this light-hearted approach to community engagement. Stephen will have the film on YouTube in the coming week and I will alert you to that in the near future.
Stephen is well-qualified to do this work: he speaks as someone who grew up in the Ramsgate area, moved away to work and live in London for 25 years, and then moved back quite recently.
He says “I think this is one of the most exciting developments I’ve seen so far in Ramsgate. The regeneration efforts here are often overshadowed by our close neighbour Margate, and of course Margate does require more attention. But there’s an overwhelming sense of, well, relieved frustration I suppose that for once Ramsgate has had its day in the spotlight!”
Hurrah for Ramsgate! A fine town. And a fine group of residents. And I’m very relieved I said so.