This post is the equivalent of a long, long sigh. Inhale now and join me.
Visit Ipswich – here’s some rose-tinted glasses.
A promotional video created by Ipswich Central from about ten years ago was shared on LinkedIn as a retrospective back-slapping pride piece. It acted as a perfect reminder that tourism marketing should never be about ignoring 99% of what the destination has to offer in the search of whitewashing an entire county town and trying to force it into a pair of chinos and drape a sweater over its shoulders.
What’s love got to do with it?
It’s also a timely reminder of why we started Ipswich.love.
Ipswich is — and forever has been — a diverse, energetic, multicultural town. Like all towns across the entire planet, Ipswich is not without its problems. Yes, there’s crime, poverty, homelessness, discrimination and lots of people are really struggling.
But there’s also communites that take pride in who they are, what they have to offer and where they’re from. The problem is, nobody is listening to them and they feel like they don’t have a seat at the table.
Yes, I hear it now, “that sounds like hard work, can’t we just film the waterfront again? Here’s my invoice – kerching!”.
Here’s an idea, how about trying to engage with, support and nurture a sense of pride in the town through the communities — rather than, say, pretending they don’t exist. The character, voice and energy of a town and it’s communities should be from those that truly represent it. They have a voice, Destination managers just choose not to listen.
And?! What are you going to do about it?
Bristol and Brighton are perfect examples of locations that have created a thriving cultural scene, not by prescribing what they should be from an ivory tower, but letting the residents take ownership of their scene and giving them the space to grow.
We started the Ipswich.love project by collecting some love letters to the town. It’s a nice way to find some voices from different ages and backgrounds about what Ipswich means to them. There have been some amazing letters, but it’s a reminder that for every letter of love, there’s many unwritten about how people in Ipswich feel disconnected, unheard and isolated.
The more I speak to people, the more I’m learning how much work there is to do. Admitedly, as a white, middle-class man, I run the risk of standing on the shoulders of generations of other tone-deaf, ignorant white middle-class men, but I’m determined to make sure that Ipswich.love acts as a platform for every community to have a voice and empower them to take pride in their own part of the town.
If you don’t like the sound of equality and opportunity, there’s something wrong with you.