I’m making 5 new year resolutions for Preston. The future is finely balanced with much to be excited about and much to be feared – but you could help tip the balance in Preston’s favour…Advertisement
2016 opened my eyes over how many Prestonians and former Prestonians are so quick to put Preston down at every turn. There are some horribly smug ones who have moved away but still trawl (or troll) social media and news websites for opportunities to denigrate their home town; and then there are residents of neighbouring boroughs who like to have a go, while happily taking advantage of Preston’s facilities when they feel the need; but some of the worst offenders are Preston’s very own…
Some are politically motivated, I can handle those, but some just seem to thrive on negativity. I wouldn’t mind if there wasn’t so much to be positive about!
The Guild Hall, Preston Bus Station (love it or hate it), the markets, the old Post Office are all being renewed; Winckley Square gardens now match the splendour of Avenham and Miller park; Moor Park continues to be restored, the Harris is reimagining itself and bidding for lottery funds; there have been studies that put Preston high on national lists as a great place to live…even North End are doing ok-ish; and there’s more, lots more going on.
Read more: Historic and listed buildings being developed in Preston
Of course there are some grot spots but there is much more to be positive about than negative. We are not called Proud Preston for nothing. If you don’t big Preston up – who will?
It’s very easy to talk up new buildings and money being spent etc. but it all means nothing without the buzzing under-current of creative activity that is equally vital to Preston’s renaissance.
The Guild Hall and the Harris Museum are obviously central cultural hubs and the Lancashire Encounter festival is building on the cultural significance (and success) of Preston Guild, but Preston has a hundred other regular outlets for creativity. Some of them, like the Continental, the Mad Ferret and the Playhouse have been around for years but others are new and less noticeable. Fashion and art play a big role at UCLan. We have art collectives at Oxheys and Birley Street. Artists are setting up home and making a living in Preston! We have annual arts and fringe festivals.
Go to a theatre, a gig, a performance, an exhibition. There are dozens of clubs for dancing, singing, music, story telling, writing etc, that need support for their events and activities, some of them utilise new, independent city venues like Ham and Jam, the Guild Ale House, Dice and Doughnuts among others…which leads seamlessly to the next resolution…
Doing your weekly shop at the supermarket is not spending local. Most supermarkets are international chains whose profits disappear out of this country faster than Panamanian hedge funds. Preston Market for example, is full of local independent businesses. Up to 63 pence of every pound you spend with a small business stays in the local economy compared to 40 pence with a larger business. The local powers-that-be are practising what they preach. Preston Council has doubled its spend in the local economy and data shows that traditionally lower paid groups fare better in Preston because of its economic loyalty. Buying locally sourced goods is also better for the environment and supports better working practices and conditions. I’m not suggesting you can abandon your weekly trolley dash around Morrisons but just shifting a small portion of your pocket money to the local independent sector can have a big effect on Preston’s quality of life.
As I said earlier, if you don’t like what is happening in Preston, a throwaway comment on social media about the latest council catastrophe doesn’t help and it doesn’t make you an active citizen. There is a remote possibility that the newspaper headline, the first few lines or even the whole article may not actually give you the full story…but one way or another, the internet probably will, if you are willing to look for the facts (if there are any), ask those involved or at least find an alternative view. Most council meetings are public meetings, and some have the facility for the public to speak or ask questions. If you don’t want to get that close to politicians, join a single issue group, like the anti-frackers (or the pro-frackers if you must). If you really haven’t got the time to get engaged, make a cash donation to a group that supports your cause. Nail your colours to the mast by all means, saying all politicians are the same is the haven of the lazy citizen; make an intelligent contribution, for Preston’s sake.
This is possibly the best thing you could for Preston this year (if you don’t already do it). Help out at a youth club, your local park, a charity, a school, a sports club, an event etc. There are so many activities that are not commercially viable without public time or money – and there isn’t enough public money anymore (so we are told).
The happiest communities are the ones with the most volunteers. The benefits of volunteering for the volunteers themselves are endless; new friends, new skills, greater wellbeing, greater confidence, a better understanding of your fellow human beings who are different to you (that’s kind of topical)…but most of all, the simple satisfaction that you are helping to make Preston a better place to live.
In 2017, Preston needs less consumer zombies, less indifference, fewer keyboard warriors and more friends. Will you be one of them?
Martyn Rawlinson is the cabinet member for finance and resources and councillor for Fishwick on Preston City Council