Southend Council, on two occasions, 2017 and 2013, bid for the title of UK City of Culture. On the last occasion we made the short list but were not successful in our bid. Instead, Hull was chosen?!
It seems to me that money and effort was expended in to this bid and it was a shame to waste it. So it was then that I decided we should be the Alternative City of Culture 2017. Unlike Hull, we have a different theme to highlight each month. For too long Southend on Sea has been modest about its broad range of cultural excellence. Whether it be singing, dancing, acting, painting, cooking, fashion, photography or sport, the list is endless. We really do have wonderful local talent.
Many famous sporting heroes have either been born in Southend or started their sporting career here. Mark Foster, former World Champion swimmer and Tom Daley, Olympic medal winning diver both learned their craft in Southend. John Lloyd, tennis Grand Slam winner was educated at Southend and Peter Taylor, former England under-21 manager also lived here. Trevor Bailey, a wonderful cricketer for Essex and England was my neighbour for many years.
There are also many local clubs, for all sports, which play their part in bringing the community together and giving everyone the opportunity to practice the sport they love. Recently, White Hall Bowls Club was voted Club of the Year both for its facilities and for its commitment to helping disabled people to enjoy both indoor and outdoor bowls.
So it is then that I am absolutely delighted that Southend United has agreed to take the lead this month in celebrating sporting excellence in Southend. We have any number of local sporting organisations in our town and at the heart of it is of course our football team. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Southend United for all that they do to engage with the local community, particularly their youth work and sport programmes in our local schools.
Southend United Captain Anton Ferdinand joined us at the launch of the Alternative City of Culture in Westminster at the start of the year. He took the opportunity to share with the assembled guests his passion for Southend United and the sporting excellence in our town. I am delighted that tomorrow’s programme includes a penalty shoot-out between sporting fans of two seaside towns. Let’s hope Shrimpers find the spot tomorrow.