My beloved Great Yarmouth isn’t going to be the boil on the backside of posh Norfolk for much longer
PUBLISHED: 14:33 08 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:33 08 May 2019
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6000 jobs. Multi billion pound investments. Great Yarmouth is on the rise, so gentrified Norfolk should stop looking down on it. says Rachel Moore
Of all the parts of Norfolk, Great Yarmouth is closest to my heart.
Tough, generous, empathetic and all-embracing, wrapped with humour, hardness and hope, it's the community that keeps on giving.
Before lips curl and brickbats are hurled at my poor taste for favouring the boil on the backside of a beautiful gentrifying county (I've heard it called far worse) to the Chelsea-on-Sea of North Norfolk, hear me out.
In one way or another, I've made a living out of banging the drum for Great Yarmouth for three decades.
I love its character. A personification of Great Yarmouth would be soap icon Bet Lynch - blousy, loud, strong with a heart of gold, steely determination but with a welcoming kind heart, giving nature and warm hug.
The Great Yarmouth I love is not all about seaside, faded glory, deprivation and tat, ready to be written off as the has-been and blip in a fancified county.
It's full of feisty strength and voice, history, regeneration, survival, family businesses, innovation, buoyed by a concrete belief that its time will come again. Above all, it's about community.
I've never been able to cut the strings tying me to Great Yarmouth throughout my career.
When I met my ex-husband, he was a bright young chief reporter in the glory days of the Great Yarmouth Mercury. We got together at a party in the now-newly-renovated Star Hotel, our first date was at the annual charity football match at the Wellesley between the Newsmen 11 and the Showbiz 11 of end-of-the-pier summer show stars, household names back in the day.
A few years later, that Mercury news hot seat was mine, offering up some of the best and most interesting, funny stories in those 18 months.
Later, Great Yarmouth College (now East Coast College) was my first public relations client when I became self-employed. I was so passionate about the difference it made to young people, I worked with it for 17 years.
Now, as chief exec of a communications company based in the town, I work with a myriad of innovative ambitious businesses and organisations, some in Great Yarmouth, others regional, national and international, many with a stake in offshore wind bringing multi-billion pound investment to the region, spilling into my much-loved Great Yarmouth.
Two months ago, I met a BBC journalist in the CEO's office of a client, 3sun Group. He had been dispatched to live in Great Yarmouth for two months "to get under its skin" for the BBC's Coastal Britain series.
He'd come to the right place; within days, he was following previously jobless Gwyn Evans on his free training course at the employer-led East of England Offshore Wind Skills Centre at East Coast College as he gained skills to walk into an offshore turbine technician job at 3sun.
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Telling the real story is what we do. Gwynn was a real life behind the headlines about a multi-billion pound investment in offshore wind off our coast that we've been promoting; Great Yarmouth is the epicentre of the clean energy revolution.
We have every reason to be proud.
Anyone who watched Tuesday's coverage would have seen the grittier side of Great Yarmouth too.
But the clear message that shouted out from the day was its feeling of community.
Of course, it's had its moments - resentment against incomers is unpleasant, but nothing new for a coastal 180-degree community, however bewildering given the town's pride in its Greek Cypriot community.
Seasonal work has always been an issue, making it hard for families to make ends meet all year round.
Poverty and deprivation in some areas is sadly akin to inner city areas.
North Denes' headteacher described her school as the "fourth emergency service", providing clothes washing services, foodbank and de-licing for its pupils.
Family food cupboards shouldn't be bare in 2019, but the school's Call the Midwife-style actions was a community response at its best.
It is this sense of community that keeps the borough going, alongside an ambitious and innovative business community which is growing, flourishing and protective of its host town's reputation.
Great Yarmouth has always been about more than kiss me quick hats and candy floss in the days when "Potteries Weeks" and annual summer influx of Midlanders brought prosperity through tourism.
People still come, just differently, for short breaks and weekends, exploring the borough's heritage - its Medieval town wall and 11 towers are among the best preserved in the country.
The long-awaited Outer Harbour has become a sight-seeing highlight itself, especially when offshore wind turbine blades are lined up in the 'blade park' ready for loadout and towers are taking shape.
Behind the latest technology, looms the Pleasure Beach's famous wooden roller coaster making the perfect backdrop to Great Yarmouth's past, present and future.
It's a very public sign that Great Yarmouth is winning, with new industry replacing traditional industry and every sign that the oil and gas industry in the southern North Sea, centred in Great Yarmouth for more than 50 years, is experiencing a revival.
Behind the headline figures of £22bn worth of projects are more than 6000 real jobs, with companies in the town planning to expand their workforces on the back of offshore wind contracts.
Great Yarmouth's spirit of community has kept it going through tough times and will be the bedrock of its rebirth as a real force to be reckoned with one more.
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