Posts tagged ‘Southend’

Flying the flag in Southend

About 10 weeks ago, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council put out a self-congratulatory press release to say that they’d been awarded a purple flag because of the quality of the nightlife in the town and how safe it was for those on a night out.

My reaction when I first read the press reports was to scoff and wonder how anyone could be so naive but someone (I think it might have been Demi) pointed out that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

A quick bit of digging later and I mentally filed the story under things to blog about only to forget about it – probably due to alcohol. Lost it would have remained but until a few days ago when I happened to see this tweet from an Essex police officer:

at which point what passes for my brain cell reminded me that I meant to write something about the whole business.

A purple flag is awarded by the The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), who, if I’m reading their website correctly, appear to be a group of self-appointed experts who think that they know what is best for town centres. Membership of this organisation is, it has to be said, cheap in the grand scheme of things with (ex-VAT) prices for the current year being £237.50, £312.50 or £397.50 depending on the size of the local population.

The flag, has, according to the website

…been designed as an objective assessment that will help you improve your town or city centre at night. Most significantly it is designed to provide recognition that your centre is managing its night time experience and thus help overcome any negative public perceptions that may exist. Purple Flag provides the opportunity for successful centres to present themselves in their true colours and in a positive light to town centre users, including operators, residents, tourists and visitors.

Purple Flag aims to raise the standard and broaden the appeal of centres between 1700 and 0600. The scheme is managed by the ATCM working alongside the Purple Flag Advisory Committee – a partnership of key stakeholder groups, including central and local government, police, business and consumers.

How altruistic of them to let people know how nice a town centre is as an after hours social place. Still doesn’t answer the question of why they would assume that Friday or Saturday night in Southend is a nice place to be though…

Oh, it turns out the purple flag isn’t awarded as the result of an anonymous user exercise or some such like. it is something which a local council has to apply for. The upfront cost to an applying council with a population of the size of Southend is non-refundable sum of £2,250 + VAT. The yearly fee for keeping it (if you get it) is £750 + VAT and ATCM are (along with the drinks company Diageo) available to help for an addition £500 + VAT. ATCM have an address in Queen Anne’s Gate to maintain…

What we don’t know, of course, know is how many hours – and at what cost – the council and the Essex Police spent on

  1. submitting the application,
  2. ferrying around the ATCM staffers when they were in town, and
  3. the jolly to Bristol last week.

Personally I’m of the opinion that even a thruppenny bit would have been too much.

Occupy Southend

Southend town centre, hardly the world’s most salubrious place, did, very briefly, almost find itself on Sunday playing host to the latest outbreak of the ‘Occupy’ disease which is afflicting some of the more affluent* countries of the world.

Started (where else?) via facebook** on 12th November with this fabulous posting:

Occupy Southend starts Sunday 20th November, 2011. For too long now the ordinary people of this country have suffered at the hands of the very few. We are the many, and as such we will occupy Southend. The banks and the corporations have created a world not fit for purpose, and we won’t tolerate their way of greed, and their way of control any more. Each Occupy gathering around the country and around the world has developed its own personality, and we in Southend will naturally create our own. Our aim is to be all inclusive of the people of Southend, to be a receiver of information as well as a giver – to be a beacon of light, and a vehicle for change. As human beings we are amazing. We can create a thousand different systems to live under – and we’ve ended up with this rotten one. No more will we extend power over us to the few. Our power must return to us, and from use of our own power we’ll develop a world centred on the heart and not the corporate bank balance. Come join us at Occupy Southend. Post your views now. Offer your thoughts. We’ll be updating regularly each day from Tuesday. Until then spread the news far and wide. The tents are coming to town!

Now some of that actually makes sense, assuming that it means the crony capitalist system we have and isn’t simply a swipe attack on the whole idea of free-market capitalism in general.

It does rather descend into fantasy though when it starts wittering on about being a beacon of light and a vehicle for change. In Southend? Talk about delusions of grandeur.

That though was probably the high point. From then on it was standard stuff about when and where with cross posts of items from the St. Paul’s camp before the penultimate posting soon after midday on the following Saturday:


Late last night Occupy Southend was made aware of a threat, from a known extremist organisation, to hijack tomorrow’s occupation. Since then we have been trying to establish the legitimacy of this threat and we now believe it may well manifest.

The Occupy Movement is peaceful and non-confrontational, and as such refuses to facilitate those who would seek to use violence and confrontation. Occupy Southend would never bring violence and confrontation to this town, and so we give notice that tomorrow’s assembly at 2pm, outside Southend Victoria station, and the ensuing occupation, is regrettably cancelled.

To those who we are not aware of, but who were set to join us tomorrow, we trust you will understand our reasoning. The opportunity will arise again to Occupy Southend. Please contact us through

Our message remains one of peace, and one of continual respectful debate. We are resolute and strong. We are many. They are few. There’s is a house of cards. It will inevitably fall.

A threat from a well known extremist organisation? Really? What are we talking about here? IRA? ETA? Al-Qaeda? The local Rotary Club? Or just the Southend yoof? Aside from people taking the preverbal I really can’t see what sort of credible threat might possibly exist. Heck, you conveniently planned the thing to start after any alcohol fuelled silliness of a Friday or Saturday night. Or was that because you wanted to get drunk then yourself?

I would suggest that a far more plausible explanation would be that almost no-one was going to turn up, thus resulting in the whole thing being a bit of a damp squib. I await to see if the idea will be raised again but I won’t hold my breath.

* According to Wikipedia a few people in Columbia and Mongolia also appear to have got in on the act/jumped on a passing bandwagon.

** And there was me thinking that twitter was where all the cool people hung out these days.