Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Among the Unbelievers

Mary Portas in Margate
Having watched last night's Channel 4. programme on retail guru, Mary Portas' attempt to regenerate Margate, I can only express my disappointment and that's an understatement.

I watched and took part in a massive national Twitter discussion which labelled the people of Margate as 'Vile,' 'backward,' 'ungrateful' and far worse and witnessed the good work of a great many people, swamped by a tide of criticism and negativity that may take some time from which to recover.

To be honest, I really think that Tracy Emin's contribution for a slogan for the town, only served to make matters worse and drag the popular opinion of Margate deeper into the cultural gutter of last night. I can now quite understand why Tracy is an eccentric artist and doesn't work in marketing but I guess we should be grateful that she didn't come-up with "Visit Margate for a really good ***" but it was uncomfortably close.

'St Mary,' as we might describe her, focusing sharply on the desperate, run-down, tatty state of Margate High Street, made almost a passing reference to the Turner Contemporary and said absolutely nothing about a thriving Old Town which is a great example of what can be achieved with investment and imagination.

I'm sure that most if not all of today's readers will have watched the programme last night and will have their own views but I didn't like the way that Mary Portas painted herself as a martyr to the vindictive and obstructive attitude of the people of Margate. From my photos and a story at the time, I saw how it was developing and I even wrote a rather cynical blog entry, which my wife convinced me to delete for fear of provoking a controversy. I now wish I had the courage to have pressed the publish button at the time.

A prize goes to that loose collection of left-wing militants, Occupy and former members of CND that publish 'Thanet Watch' and so convinced Mary Portas, that they expressed the voice of public opinion in rejecting her efforts, rather than simply being a sinister comic with a not-so hidden political agenda.

Several key figures involved in the project did themselves no favours appearing in front of the television cameras but the fears of others were justified in worrying over selective editing, which is indeed what actually took place in the programme, as one might expect. People may have been naive in believing that their views had any real weight on a national prime-time reality TV programme. It' was all about Mary and Margate was, I'm afraid was simply a coincidental backdrop to the script and the Daily Mail story hasn't helped either.

Arlington Margate
When I was working for a big computer company, many years ago, the Google of its time, Lotus Development, we used to have such a thing as a 'Sanity check' in our really important marketing meetings, just to make sure the 'Good Ideas Fairy' wasn't going to run amok and damage our reputation our budget or both. This patently didn't happen at any part of making this programme and the results were on public view last evening.

I'm writing this early, because a little later I have been invited to go and give an interview for the BBC's Sunday Politics Show. Quite why they want to speak with me than someone higher-up the political food chain I really can't fathom but from several years working with other broadcasters in the past, I'm sure the results will come as a surprise. You may have a good laugh at my expense on Sunday!


Anonymous said...

A brief glimpse of the boy councillor in the old Woolworths shop, hands in pockets.

Readit said...

Simon, even allowing for selective editing, Margate did itself not favours last night.

It is not so much about what Margate thinks of itself as what the outside world thinks of it. My impression as a relative newcomer to the area was "What a **** hole". And although you may not believe it, I would like to see the whole of Thanet prosper.

Anonymous said...

It was doomed from the start with all those egos!

Anonymous said...

I caught the latter part of this program and watched it almost in disbelief. It did the town no favours at all. Comparing the gift shop at Buckingham Palace ( been there ) with one on the seafront? What??? Then coming up with that slogan from Tracy Emin! How long did it take her to design that for heavens sake? Nice bit of selective camera work on that 'packed' train too. What a joke....and a bad one!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Re Sunday Politics Show. A rose between two thorns.

Anonymous said...

Why was Christine Tongue preventing people from filming the meeting in Woolworths? I thought she usually encouraged that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I was not the person at the doorway of Woolworth's talking to Mary Portas! I was inside filming
Christine Tongue