One long summer in Margate.
Read more about MNR.
The first public Margate Town Team meeting took place tonight in the former high street Woolworths. In attendance: several hundred residents and one Ms. Portas and her crew from Optomen TV.
Here’s a transcript of what she had to say. (Alternatively, why not watch my shaky recording of Mary in action).
Listen. This is not about me. This is about Margate.
This is a town I came to last October (it was a sunny day so I did see it a lot differently) and I turned up to hear the vision for Margate (oh, someone’s wearing one of my dresses, how very lovely!) when I was looking at what was happening across the country for my government report. Before I even put any proposals to government I had to look at some of the worst affected towns and sadly Margate fell into that.
When I came and met the team, they said they were a bit weary of me turning up (that’s often the case, I apologise for that), but the energy, the commitment and just actually the love of Margate was so overwhelming I went back and I said: find me a flat, I want to buy one in Margate. Now they’re going to be too expensive after we’ve looked at doing the town.
So a couple of things. Number one, I have to be very clear:
I put twenty eight proposals to the government on how we can try and re-energise our high streets. Our high streets are more than places where we shop. When you displace the high street, what I’ve seen across the country, is the displacement of a place. A place where people meet, a place where people socialise, a place sometimes for the most trivial wave when I’m popping out to buy a newspaper and say hello to someone else. But the sum of all those trivial little errands we sometimes do, some big some smaller, are not trivial at all. They are what make a community.
Tonight is a community. Tonight the people who are here are people who are saying “We care about where we live. We care about not only what happens to us today, but our children. They can walk safely in the streets, they can actually shop, they can pop out locally, maybe to a youth club, to bingo with their gran.” I don’t know.
We need to recreate that. I don’t know the answers. My god, I might be Queen of Shops, but I’m bloody well not the Queen of the High Street yet. I don’t know all the answers. What I do know is that we need to put a safe place back, we need to put social capital back into our towns and our high street. Through all the things over the years that have made it go: whether that’s planning laws, whether that’s the internet, whether that’s hypermarkets, our high streets need to be something that will fit for the next 20 years, and that won’t be just about filling them with shops. It will be about creating culture, learning and creating places where people can go and feel they belong to their town.
Margate won because there is a passion, there is a vision, there is an energy and also because there’s hope. We really need to hang onto that hope. The next few months are going to be tough. I can’t come in here and wave a magic wand, nor can the town team, but what we can do is really really try and come together.
I want to meet the town team to hear what the vision is, I believe we all want your input. Everyone plays a part. It is no longer about landlords, or shopkeepers, or retailers or customers. You cannot play those roles any more, it’s about a co-creation between everybody, you all play a part as investors and community in this town. No-one’s just a shopper, no-one’s just a retailer, no-one’s just a landlord, no-one’s just a councillor, no-one’s just an MP. You are all part of investing in this town, everybody plays a part and that is absolutely vital.
Now the down side, for some of you, is that I’ve got cameras doing this with me. And let me tell you why.
- They show warts and all. This ain’t gonna be smooth. They’re not here to trip up anyone, they’re here to show the journey. Number one, for all other 378 towns who applied and will not have this. Have not got £100,000 and have not got me trying to help come in to their town. That’s the number one reason.
- If we put this on prime tv, people will come. That’s the decision you’ve got to make. It might show [inaudible] .. it might show a mad taxi driver telling me the council’s all rubbish. I’ve heard that! We’ve got to prove that it’s different! It is going to be on there, it’s gonna be warts and all, but at the end, believe you, from my heart, I want this to be wonderful and I want Margate to be wonderful.
And I will say it again, it’s not about me. I want to work with the town team together, who are the ones when I go back on the train to London who will be working on this 24/7. I will just try and give my vision, try and give little in-roads, try and get some of the big players who I know, try and use my big mouth, try and use my contacts, I’ll try and use everything, but one thing I will not do is: I won’t trip you up, and believe that from me. So we either let the cameras in with me, or I go back on the train and some other town gets it. [Inaudible] So, lets go for it shall we? Thank you very much.