The Swindon Advertiser launched their ?Swindon and proud of it? campaign in May in response to the ill considered criticism of our town by a nondescript style guru.
Alan Hayward asks if the right questions are being asked.
Swindon is constantly derided by many who know nothing about the place, and also by others who have moved away (including several celebrities). In the late 1990s Swindon Council launched an ill judged ?Proud to be Swindon? campaign which quickly faded.
I like Swindon a lot. I love its rural location, am interested in its history, protective of its assets and reclined in its laid-back attitude. I am glad to raise my children here and to live in such a place. But am I proud?
The current Advertiser campaign seemed a good idea at first, but as the weeks have passed the trumpeting articles on reasons to be proud seem to miss the crucial point and be out of touch with the reality of Swindon today.
It seems almost perverse that there are so many wrong and bad things happening in the locality, and that many residents are unhappy and definitely ?not proud.? Do any of the following make you angry?:
o the forlorn state of the Mechanics? Institute;
o the proposed conversion of the former Railway Museum from a community venue into yet more offices;
o the proposed development of the Rodbourne allotments;
o the botched closure of Salt Way School;
o turning the Front Garden into a housing estate the size of Wootton Bassett;
o the (dismissed) stadium on Shaw Forest Country Park;
o completely de-regulating taxis;
o axing grants to the voluntary and community sector;
o charging town centre residents and disabled drivers for parking;
o the souless ? now and probably in the future – town centre;
o the Regional Assembly plans for another 24,000 houses for Swindon;
o proposals being considered in North Wilts to build more houses on Swindon?s borders;
o and currently – the most anger inducing of them all ? concreting over the fields next to Coate Water Country Park for yet more houses, yet another business park and a misplaced university campus.
There are campaigns running on many of these issues, all seeking to make an impact on the public consciousness and local and central Government. But why do we have so many ?angries??
The decisions that bring about the unhappiness are made at both local and central government levels – by people we vote (or don?t vote) for.
At the last local council elections the turnout was about 30 per cent. The winning candidates got in with about 15 per cent of the Borough?s population approval. It is only slightly better at national level.
Saying ?it?s not worth voting, it won?t make any difference? is clearly not true. It does. If you don?t vote for somebody who broadly holds your point of view then it is likely that you will empower somebody who does not.
There is absolutely no point in moaning about how the town is run if you don?t do anything about it. Change for the better will only come if you – the person who has read this far – does something. Photo: Jean Saunders of Swindon Friends of the Earth with Swindon councillor Gary Perkins
I am optimistic that there are signs that things are changing. There may be a proper bricks and mortar library, the return of the canal to the town centre is being considered, commercial exploitation of the Mechanics? Institute could be blocked, and some councillors are publicly opposing the destruction of Coate.
Are you proud of Swindon?
What?s your viewpoint of the real issues affecting our town. Contribute to a proper debate about pride by mailing: email@example.com
30 August 2005
Not proud of Swindon’s knee-jerking namby pamby environmental nimbys
From Keith Newton from Woodhall Park
Yes, I’m proud of Swindon. And, yes, there are things which annoy me from time to time. But what winds me up most of all is the predictable kneejerk opposition to our wonderful town’s growth from self-interested pressure groups like Friends of the Earth, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE), and – last but not least – people who sound like NIMBYs to me, anxious about the value of their properties. I find any newfound interest in the environment and the fate of a few great crested newts less than convincing – find them another pond!.
Swindon’s success over the last century and a half has depended on its ability to grow vigorously in response to new markets, new technologies and new lifestyles. Yet as soon as anyone dares propose the creation of contemporary, well-designed living areas for the real, hard-working people who power our economy, up pops Jean Saunders in her woolly jumper alongside her mates in the CPRE to bang on about the sins of greenfield development.
The latest evocative catchphrase is to claim that everything is going to be “concreted over”. What rubbish – you only have to look at the sensitive development at Priory Vale to see how carefully modern developers deal with green and environmental issues. All I can say is that it’s a good job these chatterers weren’t around at the time of Brunel – otherwise there would have been no railway industry and Swindon’s role in the world would have been limited to being the pig market for North Wiltshire.
And all this toffee about huge opposition to new growth cuts no ice with me. Alan Hayward makes much of the low turnout at elections, but that doesn’t mean anyone can afford to ignore the massive silent majority who choose not to join the local protest industry. Yes, 20,000 may have signed a petition – but that’s meaningless on its own (and, in terms of Swindon and its hinterland, is barely 10% of “the people” as The Link’s headline would have had us believe).
If campaigners against current development really want to test their arguments they should club together and conduct an independent, properly administered, Borough-wide referendum. Until that happens perhaps we can all be spared endless reruns of oh-so-PC claptrap (yawn!) from people who seem to prefer the Bronze Age (although – come to think of it – they would probably have objected to Stonehenge as well!).
4 September 2004
Students are making us proud of Swindon
From Gordon Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org
Well done Swindonlink for highlighting and challenging our perception of Swindon!
Living as I do in a historic, sedate market town miles from the metropolis, I now work in Swindon as a Learning Mentor at Greendown Commmunity School, arriving I must admit two years ago with the usual stereotypical prejudice that the town is tough, soul-less and expanding too fast for its own good. And as you state perhaps there is an element of truth to justify this point of view, but like so many cities of similar size Swindon is not unique.
We must not allow these issues and perceptions to overshadow all that is good about the town. I quickly realised that many Swindonians are kind, tolerant and considerate to others, going about their business with quiet dignity and purpose.
The students that I work with are friendly, amusing, tolerant and perceptive and in most cases eager to learn so that they can succeed in life. They are supported by staff that genuinely care about their future and welfare. The buildings might be beginning to show signs of age and wear but that?s because there are so many students receiving a good education and the school is always open for community use.
Behaviour is no different than that in the smaller outlying towns- it?s magnified because the population of Swindon has increased exponentially over the past 30 years and folk have to be quick to establish themselves if they are going to succeed.
I?m proud now to say that I work in West Swindon because so many students do well at GCSE, enjoy their sport and drama and make successfully monitored transitions to college or the world of work!
Posted in classrooms is the reminder: ?Think of the other person.? So many do. We must all strive to ensure that the minority that do not can be supported and encouraged to do so.