Despite being born and bred a Yorkshireman, after being in Southampton for more than 30 years I now regard this fine southern city as my adopted home – and I couldn’t be more excited about the city’s bid to bring home the City of Culture 2025 if I tried.
There’s little wonder I love Southampton so much. I’ve been blessed with bringing up four children and two step-children in the area – now all in their twenties and thirties – complete with three grandkids and counting. I’ve had a brilliant life and also enjoyed a great career … far better than I might have anticipated in my real hometown of Scarborough on the bracing north east coast. Not that there’s anything wrong with Scarborough – or Scarbetha as my kids prefer to call it. It’s just that there are limited opportunities in this archetypal seaside town for ambitious young people wanting a career in the media.
After an early spell in newspapers and radio, I ventured south in the eighties for the start of TVS – Television South, the region’s new ITV franchise. After passing the audition for a TV reporter’s job I was offered a position in either Maidstone or Southampton.
The truth is coming from the north I hadn’t heard much about Maidstone – but I knew about Southampton. After all, Southampton was the home of The Saints (I knew they’d pulled off a giant killing act by beating Man Utd to win the FA Cup in 1976) and Southern Television, which ironically TVS replaced, was the producer of Worzel Gummidge and The Saturday Banana with Bill Oddie. Southampton was also a big seaport from which Titanic had sailed on her doomed voyage 70 years earlier. You see I knew about Southampton, mostly from its place in popular culture.
And that brings me nicely to why the city’s bid for the City of Culture in 2025 is so important to us all and why my company, Lee Peck Media, has invested in the Gateway Club, along with a stellar line up of regional organisations like West Quay and the University of Southampton. In short, the club will enable businesses to become ambassadors for the bid, which in turn will be a key factor in the city’s economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic. For my agency, creating prosperity is fundamental to the whole project, and putting our rich and vibrant city into the nation’s consciousness will be beneficial to everyone.
The positives of winning are huge. Not only will it help to increase opportunities for our youngsters through more investment in education, but the job market will also significantly increase as more companies will want to move here bringing with them talented people who will be attracted by what’s on offer from – you’ve guessed it – a cultural perspective i.e. the theatre; a premiership football; restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Much like TVS did all those years ago. And we can’t forget that our retail and hospitality sectors will also enjoy a much-needed boost as more tourists will choose to visit the city.
It’s interesting to note that when Hull became the UK City of Culture back in 2017 (by the way just 40 miles from Scarborough!), a report by Hull University found that its City of Culture status attracted more than five million people to the city, as well as £220 million of investment and 800 new jobs. A terrific result – and I’m confident one that Southampton can emulate.