Today the Echo-News website reliably informed me that Southend on Sea, a town in South East Essex, is going to bid to become the United Kingdom’s ‘Capital of Culture’. According to the Department of Culture’s website, the chosen city (town) should be able to deliver:
- A high quality cultural programme that reaches a wide variety of audiences, and is a fitting follow-on from Liverpool Capital of Culture and the Cultural Olympiad;
- A programme that uses culture to lead to lasting social regeneration by engagement, widening participation and supporting cultural diversity;
- A demonstrable and significant economic impact from the programme;
- Credibility in their plans (including support from key partners) and track record in delivery; and
- A clear approach to maximising legacy and being able to evaluate impact
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Southend (or ‘Saaaafend’, as the indigenous population calls it), but on first impression it doesn’t strike you as a particularly highbrow place. It has three theaters (which admittedly isn’t bad), numerous casinos, arcades, 7000 fish and chip shops, 19000 bars, a sea front with a pier and millions of East Enders populating these attractions on the weekend. This being a sea side town in South- East Essex, the stilettos are high, the ladies very blond, the tattoos manifold and the lager cheap. If a week in Ayia Napa is your sort of thing thing then Southend is the place to be.
Even if Southend Council would be able to deliver the above list of cultural highlights, I would be concerned about the size of the audience attending the events. I think it would be more realistic if Southend would bid for the title of “Party Capital of the UK”. The winning town would get 1 year of central government funded increased street cleaning, heavier police presence, more prison cells, a bigger A+E and a Liver unit.
I am sure Southend would benefit more.