An open letter to anyone who gives a sh*t about the future of my town.
I come from a little seaside town called Bangor in Northern Ireland. Growing up, it was everything I could have wanted. The sea was just a ten-minute walk from my house, the town centre was busy and there were lots of shops to get lost in. My friends and I would do the rounds of the record stores on a Saturday: Plastic Passion, Harrison Musique, MTM, Cosmos, Underground – sifting through dusty boxes of NMEs and looking for old punk 7”s. These stores are, of course, long gone. But so it seems is everything else. All along ‘Main’ Street and ‘High’ Street shop fronts are boarded up, while the Queen’s Parade seafront – which once *shockhorror* actually drew people to come here on holiday – remains in a sad state of limbo. Yes, Bangor is slowly dying, yet those with power seem to be powerless to do anything about it.
I know it’s not just Bangor. Small towns like this right across Northern Ireland and the UK are suffering similar fates due to recession and the increase of people buying online. But it baffles me some of the decisions that are being made by government on a local level here. On Grays Hill there are a number of shops that have lain vacant for years. Instead of investing in new business – or putting the money elsewhere in the town – the local council decided to spend £102,000 ‘colouring in’ the front of the buildings so they were less of an eyesore. That garish paint has now faded, yet the derelict buildings still remain underneath. I guess whoever approved this ‘wacky’ project had never heard the term, “you can’t polish a turd.” At least the murals on Queens Parade have artistic merit, backed by Project 24. The new Aurora gym is amazing, it really is. But again, at a cost of £38 million, I cant help but think what could have been done to the rest of the town if the decision had been made to split that funding and spread the wealth. THIRTY. EIGHT. MILLION. POUNDS.
Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have been out of Northern Ireland for a while now. As I type this I am home on a visit. It’s easy for me to sit here and complain I know. And some would say I don’t even have the right to chirp up as I don’t even live here any more. But this is where my parents still live, and where I was brought up. It is where I am from, and it saddens me to see the state of the town centre, especially when the surrounding coastline is up there with the best in the world. I’ve travelled a fair bit, but when the sun’s out the scenery round here can beat it all. I mean look at it. It’s amazing. It needs to be promoted more – this is the selling point of the town and the reason people will come here. I worked as a creative on the Northern Ireland Tourist Board advertising account for a few years, and I know first-hand that Bangor never got a look in.
Queen’s Parade has been a mess for years and years now. As long as I can remember. The only saving grace is that it is now home to a number of makeshift creative ‘pods’ supporting emerging artists. I hope these can be safely relocated once the seafront’s fate is finally decided. But that won’t happen any time soon. Politicians are talking, but nothing is being done. People are moving away, and new families are deciding not to move here. The potential of this town is unbelievable – look at what it once was. Decades ago people flocked here, it was rammed. It was aspirational, the place you wanted to go and the place you wanted to live. What the hell happened?! This isn’t a huge rant, it’s simply an observation from someone who has been away for three years and seen the town centre go downhill even further. I know there must be politicians and groups out there fighting for change, but the red tape is getting worse.
If you’re from Bangor – or have a connection with the place – share this post about to show how beautiful the coast really is. Bangor just needs some looking after, please!
The scenes below are just a ten-minute cycle from my house. Music by Tycho.