There is currently a consultation from Gloucester City Council that Gloucester should be a Royal city, and why not, why shouldn’t Gloucester aspire to be a Royal city, particularly as it could be used to recognise the significant developments that have come about in the past 15 years, many long in the planning that are coming to fruition, and highlight just what a fantastic city this is and recognise the potential for the future. But, what does it mean, and are there reasons why we shouldn’t do it? Yes there are.
On the face of it, getting Royal recognition for the city is a harmless bit of PR, something to shout about which will not mean anything to residents in real terms. It’s not going to cut poverty, homelessness or reduce food bank usage. It’s not going to get the bins collected efficiently or more often and it’s not going to pave the streets in gold. But it will be a talking point, something as a tool to make people see Gloucester in a new light, perhaps an opportunity to bring people together under one banner for the good of the future of the city.
In many ways, it is the same as Quedgeley Parish Council renaming itself to Quedgeley Town council. It did not change the form or function of the council, but for a while, it made Quedgeley a focus of attention, and a bit of a talking point when the signs were changing etc. Therefore it is a somewhat hypocritical of those Councillors who vocalised their dissent to Quedgeley changing to a Town Council, but seem to be supporting this move.
So, from the PR point of view, then it is a useful vehicle for shouting about Gloucester, a change in name is a news story, something to be put in funding bids, and more fundamentally the process of applying can be a useful vehicle to get people and organisations to have a fresh look at themselves, how they contribute to the city and look at what our aims and ambitions are. (On a purely practical basis, the hospital address would be interesting – Gloucester Royal, Royal Gloucester, Gloucestershire. It would almost be sort of Palindromic.)
Gloucester is a city that has a rich tapestry of history, and that is, perhaps where this plan becomes unstuck. Whilst our royal heritage has some notable entries, such as King Henry III being crowned here, Richard II convened parliament here which continued under Henry IV. But we are also famous for the Siege of Gloucester in 1643, where the city defended the Parliamentarian Garrison against the Royal Army of King Charles the 1st. This was significant in the first English Civil war and is still celebrated by Gloucester Day (this Saturday just gone). You could suggest that we are turning our back on that significant piece of history, which in many ways enshrines the drive and determination of people who live in Gloucester, and we should not be doing it for that reason.
For me, I think you can have the best of both worlds, I think we do need the PR stunt, to make people look at Gloucester in a new light and really recognise the changes, but perhaps going for Royal status is the wrong tool to do that. You could make a big event out of why we shouldn’t and as the Gloucester History Festival is now on it would be the ideal event to do that. Perhaps the big news piece is making a splash about why we shouldn’t be a royal city based on our heritage.
It summary, it is a harmless bit of PR that is profile raising, but I fear it is also a bit of a shallow insult to the history of the city too. And fundamentally, what does it mean in 10 years time (or any period longer that the time to get it) to the residents. But then it is going to cost money to do this application, and there will be visits and schmoozing to be done, in a city council that is already understaffed and struggling to deliver, is this the right priority.
Personally I’m on the fence, I don’t think its a priority, but could have value if timed well with other projects, such as Kings Quarter and more city regeneration. But I do think people need to think long and hard about the true value of doing this and how it ties into the strategy of the city to make sure its not just a PR blip but has a decent legacy that people will benefit in years to come. Right now, I don’t see what that is!
What do you think?