Why making Yarmouth truly great again starts at home
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Opinion: It's time for the people of Great Yarmouth to stop apologising about their brilliant town, says Rachel Moore.
'You don't want to come into Great Yarmouth unless you have to,' the woman in the bank whispered from behind her counter in the town.
She's not unusual. Yarmouth's worst critics tend to be those who live and work there, sucked into the misplaced embarrassment about the town, and feeling the need to apologise for any association with it.
I'm proud to shout loud about my love and passion for Yarmouth and its gutsy spirit – and, coming from a Lowestoft girl, that's a big statement.
For the last 25 years, I've spent much of my working life there, dragged back time and time again by an irresistible force.
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Back in the day, as a junior reporter, it was the plum office to work in because news happened in Yarmouth. Life was never dull.
Many – strangely newer settlers – share this deep admiration for its ability to bounce back from its hardships and difficulties.
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Woe betide anyone who knocks it. My passion for Yarmouth – especially lively when forced to be in its defence – has caused ructions at supper tables.
Derogatory comments and jokes about its faded glory might feel like fair game, but it's so easy to knock without knowing. If something is constantly criticised, rubbished and knocked enough, it can turn into what its critics say.
But Yarmouth's a town that takes it on the chin and comes back fighting, resilient and tough.
It's used to taking a bashing, and has had worse, rising again from heavy bombing during the Second World War, rebuilding itself and moving on.
It's a town with a big heart, a lot of soul and gumption to keep going, looking for new ways to reinvent itself, after its fishing industry died and seaside holidays lost out to cheap foreign holidays.
Every morning, on the drive down the Acle Straight, its history, progress, reinvention and opportunity stands tall on the skyline.
At the upgraded port, towers for the offshore wind turbines are symbols of multi-million pound investment in the port and the offshore wind industry, which will provide jobs for decades.
They stand next to the jacket from a dismantled North Sea gas platform in the new facility developed to make Yarmouth the leading centre for the multi-billion pound oil & gas decommissioning programme.
Then there's Pleasure Beach and Nelson's monument.
It takes a lot for someone to take on the critics, pull them in and offer to help them to do something about the bits of Yarmouth they don't like, to make the changes.
On Tuesday evening, in the town's Christchurch, more than 75 people turned out to offer their support to work together to instill civic pride in the town, to change the perception of Yarmouth, its heritage, community, industry and its potential, and make it a better place to live and work.
They queued to pay their £10 to become a member of the new Civic Society of Great Yarmouth.
If people who lived there stopped knocking it and started talking up their town, huge strides would be made overnight.
It was a brave move for retired surgeon Hugh Sturzaker to organise a public meeting.
To find more than 75 people willing to work together to make those changes, sick of the way their town was talked down, showed it was worth the risk.
There's a huge will to improve Yarmouth's public face, tidy up its streets and scratch the surface for other people to see what they do. Now there is a forum to make it happen.
As one man stated, they simply wanted to make Yarmouth great again.
It happened at Margate, with regeneration turning a town that, in 2011, had 20pc unemployment and one of the highest number of people on benefits in the country, its cheap accommodation homing high numbers of vulnerable adults and ex-offenders, into a desirable town with soaring house prices.
The best start is for local people to start talking up Yarmouth and its opportunities rather than spouting its negatives, then the tide would have already turned.