Student Harry Bradshaw believes Preston has turned a corner and there is a bright future for young people in the city
Whether we describe our city as ‘near Manchester’ or even ‘next to Blackpool’, there is something quite self- deprecating about how Preston’s very existence can rely on our proximity to more famous North West names.
There is no doubt international renown is a difficult thing for a place to achieve, but our city-status, along with the excellent transport links connecting us with the giants of Britain, should give us the drive to achieve a reputation which at the very least challenges that of our neighbours.
In recent times developers have been attracted to the city centre, with the revitalisation of the Guild Hall, the establishment of a modernised, shared-space high street and a string of upmarket dessert chains. Taking into account the future plans for a boutique hotel on the Flag Market with a cinema-restaurant-retail complex only down the road, Preston is raising up the stakes as a destination for national and foreign tourists.
This transformation from an adequate town centre to the metropolis we have today has, and promises to continue to, ignited a large sense of Prestonian pride among our young people which arguably hasn’t been seen since North End’s return to the Championship in 2015, or possibly the Guild Year of 2012. Their big-city dreams have the potential to be actualised by the community.
Better yet, investing in entertainment and a more aesthetic city is exactly what is needed to attract families to the area as customers. If children hold memories of Preston as a vibrant place, they will nag their parents continuously until they visit again, or even bring their own offspring eventually.
An additional, but even more valuable, benefit of these renovations is that children from the local area will be within short reach of an entertainment hub as they grow up. Not only will this allow the opportunity for happy memories to be made, but it will inspire an affection for their hometown which risks becoming extinct in a society which seeks global identity through transnational brands.
As a result, we must ensure that the big names knocking on the door of the planned retail complex in Preston are welcomed in, while the diversity of our shops on the high street – meaning the inclusion of established, home-grown businesses – are maintained.
From this mixture of designer stores and hot potato stalls, our youn people will know there is no need to travel far to experience a unique, metropolitan lifestyle. The recent facelift also adds to the identity of Preston city centre as a university town, with social activities acting as a key motivator for prospective students.
Further influxes of students will also allow the opportunity to sell Preston to these outsiders, in the hope of welcoming them back with their families later on.
It is crucial that as Preston adapts to the mould of a modern city, the community aspect is never lost. A social media phenomenon which seems to be stoking local patriotism among adults is the virtual presence of the Fishergate Bollard, a motorist’s nuisance with its own Twitter account on the side where it jokes with the city’s irritated drivers.
This craze has uncovered the potential for people to be more expressive of their hometown experiences online, and so this must be capitalised on. Make a website which connects those associated with the history of Preston to the young.
Create a monument trail where people can be taken on a tour of the city via an app. Modernise our community and young people will be even more involved in the folklore that connects every Prestonian.
On a wider issue, more education on local government in schools would allow our young people to appreciate the efforts that go into rejuvenation and feel more able to contribute, however, this could be done by our council through youth workshops and events.
For now though, the majority of young Prestonians are making greater use of the local facilities provided for us and are excited for the future developments.
I am lucky enough to volunteer at the Junior Parkrun at Avenham Park on a Sunday morning; a 2K race for children which encapsulates the ability to engage with the local community from as early as four. The shows that are often put on by schools and theatre groups at the Charter Theatre provide another opportunity for young people to excel.
When asked where our hometown is on holidays abroad, it will be Blackpool’s residents who will have to declare themselves as ‘left of Preston’, or even Mancunians needing to refer to us when asked such a question.
Nevertheless, it will be the love of our young people for their city that will gain us this relevance.
*Harry Bradshaw is 16-years-old and lives in Catforth. He is a student at Runshaw College with a keen interest in politics. To read more from Harry, go to www.teentakesonpolitics.co.uk