I was SO pleased when I heard the news that our Margate Town Team had won their bid for the Portas Pilot money to spend on their campaign for turning the high street’s fortunes around. Growing up here in the 80’s and 90’s meant I spent every Saturday in Margate high street, and cannot believe the decline it has seen even in my short lifetime. I want to see it busy again and be able to actually use it like I know lots of people in Margate do as well.
Like a lot of people probably, I’ve been just as worried this week when news has been coming out about a Channel 4 TV program planned around four of the Portas Pilot towns – one of which is Margate. Since one of the contracts for town member involvement has been made public, there has been a justified amount of concern about what it means to be on this TV show. Will the silenced/contracted town team not be able to promote or inform about their campaign on social media? (that'd be crazy surely?) Will the aims of a quick turnaround TV show be at odds with a community campaign to sustainably and permanently turn the high street around? Will the town and the people who are going to be passionately volunteering be portrayed in the right way for their efforts?
This is all a big concern and definitely something, I think, to be born in mind and monitored. My even BIGGER worry is that Margate won’t grab this opportunity with both hands and make something of it. That silencing clause needs to be checked, true, and I am dubious about the involvement of a probably less than altruistic TV show. However, it goes without saying what a huge opportunity it is to get even more drive behind, and attention for, the work that the town can do for itself. Not to mention a chance to show the government and councils what can be done when the funding is put in the hands of local people.
As a community full of scores of residents and businesses, Margate now has a stellar opportunity to take this (in the end quite token) amount of money and use it to make as much good as possible. If a TV show wants to film? Let them! Grab it, use it, take every bit of promotion they want to give it, and regardless of their involvement – lets actually turn our high street around, in the way we want to. I have faith that this can remain a community project, because no matter if we are seen on the telly or not, I feel everything the team does (and will inspires others to do) is going to serve the community in the end. Let whoever wants to be involved film the progress, keep an eye on them – yes, and more than anything don’t let that put the rest of the community off. I wanted to try and remind everyone that this can remain Margate’s campaign, and this is a great time for all of us to get behind a project that has well intentioned people at it’s very core and make it bear fruit.
I always think a party is only as good as the people that go to it. I’m joining this one and I’m going to bring all my friends. Film away, all I care about is being able to go to the shops again and having a town I’m (even more) proud of.
If you would like to know more about Margate's Town Team you can find them here: www.margatetownteam.wordpress.com