Last week we had our first public billing as Mend when Liane hosted a panel session at the Place West Conference held at Chelsea Football Club. The session was called “Southall – building on success” and focussed on what can be done to harness the opportunity brought by Crossrail and the Gasworks scheme without strangling the inherent uniqueness and character that makes Southall success in its own right already? The panellists were Pat Hayes, Head of Regeneration & Housing at LB Ealing and Phil Edwards Head of Sales and Lettings for National Grid Property.
There was an obvious question to ask at first which is how do you define success? And can a place be too successful? We only have to look at places like Spitalfields Market to see the dichotomy between one person’s perception of success (shiny new pristine blocks of steel and brick, housing sanitised brands neatly folded in corporate brands and nice prices) versus another’s (the shabby authenticity of its nearest neighbours that helped attract people to the place originally through its diversity, vibrance and unapologetic rejection of bland clones and chain to champion the creative entrepreneur.)
Surely success is about maintaining all that is unique, detailed, relevant and specific about a place in the face of all temptation to go High Street? Will there be anywhere left at this rate? Talk to the people that have just successfully revived Chatsworth Road Market and they will say yes there will - but it takes hard graft, support for local traders and people to care about keeping their place a local place – no mean feat. Congratulations by the way!
Anyway…..back to the Conference. It was refreshing to hear, for once, West Londoners heap praise on East Londoners for their success in developing a credible “narrative” around the East London ask and what it’s about. This is fundamentally what West London lacks – this sub-regional identity that will be all important for underpinning the economic and political logic for an LEP. But it’s also all important for galvanising the bridging capital that is needed between business and individual boroughs to work together and make clear what that logic is and sell it. It took blood, sweat, tears and a number of years to grow that in East London but there are lessons learned which I am sure any battle scarred practitioner will be only too eager to share with you!