Sunday, 14 March 2010

Civic self-harm and how to combat it

Having been in the business of talking up (or constructively criticising) the city of Leicester for some years, I am trying understand the mindset of the people who quite openly dismiss it as an incorrigible shithole.

Reading comments in forums such as the Leicester Mercury website one could be forgiven for thinking that there are legions of people who are forced to live here against their will!

One's immediate reaction is to ask the question: why do you actually stay here? Another question would be: Would you describe your living room as a shithole? No? So why describe your city like that?

In actual fact I suspect that there are many people who are happy with their city and that most of the moaning is cathartic gossip rather than genuine lack of civic pride. This doesn't however deal with the glaring collective public relations self-harm which this inflicts.

What is evident is that we need to hear a lot more noise from the people who have good things to say about the city. We need a 'critical mass' (critical as in the crucial sense rather than censorious) of people to say "I like it here", "I have faith in the city's future", etc). These people need to be more than single voices, they need the confidence of being part of a movement or vibe where they know they are not alone in their views.

Although every cause needs some sort of leadership, these voices need the street cred of independence from official agencies such as the City Council.

I believe that if you got enough of the positive, independent citizen's voices in a room together you would almost certainly have the makings of grass roots movement which could drown out the moaners and make a huge difference to the way both residents and outsiders see the city. This is not to say that there aren't some big problems with aspects of life in Leicester which need to be sorted, just that we won't get anywhere by wallowing in them.

To that end, I recently launched a project called Leicester On The Map which is an attempt at a platform for the positive voices. At the time of writing, the embryonic beginnings of this are visible at and I would like to invite anyone with a positive voice to join this group. You can also follow the #LeicesterOnTheMap hashtag on Twitter.

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