30 May 2024

Singling out town is unfair and damaging

Our lead Withernsea story is an attempt to counter the recent doomladen stories that made the national press recently.

We too have reported in the past about the increasing need for the town’s food bank as the cost of living and energy bills continue to spiral, but I like to think we’ve been more constructive and less sensational about it.

The sort of stuff printed in the Sun and Mirror – Dickensian images of children going around without shoes – really, really doesn’t help. As many pointed out on social media, it will put people off visiting the resort, which has so much going for it, especially in summer. Of course there are boarded-up shops and not a lot of people walking around – it’s a high street in the middle of a Northern seaside town in winter.

As our correspondent Darryl Baker noted, can it be any more deprived than places such as Grimsby or Scunthorpe? What about Blackpool – that’s one of the most deprived towns in the country but still a mecca for stag and hen dos up and down the land, not to mention Strictly fans. Every city and every town has these problems, and to single out Withernsea is unfair and hugely damaging.

This reminds me a lot of the “crap towns” controversy that blighted Hull 20 years ago (blimey, I had to check that… it really was TWENTY years ago!). It seemed back then that every man and his dog, including the execrable Phil and Kirstie from Location, Location, Location, was queuing up to tell the world how bad the city was, when 99 per cent of them had probably never been or stayed there long enough to get its unique vibe.

We all know how that panned out. Hull defied its critics and was awarded City of Culture status in 2017 – and it’s now firmly on the map as a centre of arts, heritage and culture. With the maritime project and the Tigers on the up again, there’s lots to be positive about. Just as there is about Withernsea. Yes, there is deprivation here, which we mustn’t brush under the carpet – it’s an isolated town with many challenges, and it struggles to keep young talent. But what it does have is a strong community, and as strong a tradition of culture and heritage as Hull. Let’s shout about the positives – negativity never gets you anywhere.

Finally, a quick shout-out to the gentleman with the little dog that Zoe and I met in the Old Boatshed in Withernsea the other night. We might have been slightly refreshed by that point, but, honestly, we really do work for the paper and, yes, we were serious about you sending in a photo of your lovely pup for our Pet of the Week feature. (I brought that feature in a year ago, and I still think it has merit as a bit of light relief.)

And, as I discovered the other night, two bad influences combined with a selection of great ales makes for a bit of a sore head in the morning…