Worcester’s Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Robin Walker has taken on the myth that Worcester is, to quote a recent BBC article, the most average city in the UK and has spoken up for all the reasons local residents love their city.
Following outcry after BBC online described Worcester as the most average place in the UK, Robin has spoken out to show more than forty reasons the city is way above the norm, spelling out an A to Z of why Worcester is an exceptional place to be.
The BBC article can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/views_from_an_average_town
Commenting, Robin, who has been MP for Worcester since 2010 and is now fighting for re-election said
“Worcester has recently been voted one of the happiest and most welcoming places in the UK, has unique heritage, arts and culture and has played a special role in the country’s history. It is a centre for innovative growth business, with rising employment, wages and apprenticeship opportunities, one of the fastest growing Universities in the UK and an exceptional sports scene. Our city is anything but average and I am challenging the BBC to think again.”
“I know that in previous elections Worcester has been described as being a microcosm for the UK and it may be that the “most average” description was designed to reflect this but today Worcester woman is doing better than ever before, more likely to be working, getting paid more and more likely to own her own business. I want to celebrate our city and the progress we have made over the last seven years and so I have produced this list of 45 reasons form a to z of why we are an anything but average place to be.”
So here is my A to Z of why Worcester is anything but average and a truly special place
A is for Architecture – from our soaring Norman Cathedral to our magnificent Queen Anne Guildhall Worcester has some truly magnificent buildings, from the Glover’s Needle to the Tudor House and from the award winning Hive library to he Worcester Arena we are combining the best of ancient and modern and Worcester architects such as DJD and One Creative are offering the whole country a better standard of buildings for the future. A is also for Apprenticeships which have been increasing in both number and quality since 2010.
B is for Business and our city means business whether it is the thriving independent shops in the centre or the cutting-edge engineers such as Worcester Bosch, Komatsu and Mazak, Technology success stories such as Titania, PCA Predict and Open GI or national leaders in their field such as Sanctuary Housing. Worcester has seen the number of businesses increase sharply since 2010 and more people in work as a result. B is also for the Battle of Worcester where England’s liberty was fought for and whose history even drew two American Presidents, Adams and Jefferson to visit this “City of liberty”.
C is for Churches and Charities. Apart from the beauty and majesty of our Norman Cathedral, Worcester enjoys a plethora of beautiful churches ranging from the historical urban grandeur of St Swithins and Victorian St Paul’s and St George’s to the village churches of Claines, St Stephen and St John. Ancient meets modern as new churches such as St Peter’s Baptist, the new Dines Green church, St Wulstan’s in Warndon and the Hope church taking over an old warehouse in the St Martin’s Quarter. Worcester is also home to an exceptional number of charities both local and national which are well supported by local people. New charities such as New Hope and the Royal Lifesaving Society competing with established names such as St Richard’s Hospice, Sight Concern and St Pauls hostel for the generosity of Worcester’s exceptionally kind people.
D is for Diversity. Worcester is a diverse and mixed community. We enjoy a legacy of communities from Portugal, Italy, Kashmir, Bangladesh, South India through the Malayalee Community and more recent arrivals from Eastern Europe. The well-integrated and happy communities of Worcester provide a wonderful mix of talents and cuisines which make the city a fantastic place to visit or to live.
E is for English and Worcester is often described as a quintessentially English city, with its associations with Shakespeare whose marriage bond is kept in the city to the most famous English composer Edward Elgar whose Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance mean England to people all around the world, Worcester has a special place in the hearts of English people everywhere.
F is for Flavour and one of Worcester’s great gifts to the world is its Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, still made in its Victorian Factory in the heart of the city to a secret recipe and instantly recognised in bars and restaurants around the world. Now to be found in crisps as well as cocktails Worcester’s distinct flavour can be found across six continents. F also stands for Faithful a word long associated with the city, which was granted it by Queen Elizabeth I and earned it through a long siege in the English Civil War. The City motto civitas in bello et pace fidelis means a city faithful in peace and war.
G is for Gardens, Gheluvelt and Guildhall. Worcester is blessed with many spectacular parks and gardens none finer than the beautiful war memorial gardens in Gheluvelt Park which commemorate the battle early in the First World War when the Worcestershire Regiment stopped the German advance. Commemorations take place here every year to remember the bravery and sacrifice of men from this city in 1914 and each year the poppy launch is held at the city’s unique and beautiful Guildhall. Both a monument to Worcester’s history and working building where apprentice and job fairs combine with the leadership and meetings of the city council, Worcester’s Guildhall is one of the finest examples of its kind in the country.
H is for Health, hospitals and hospices. Worcester has played a vital role in the development of health in the UK with he founding of the BMA by local Doctor Charles Hastings at the old Worcester Royal Infirmary, now at the heart of Worcester Universities Business School. Our Worcestershire Royal Hospital hosts a state of the art £24 million oncology centre, a dedicated breast unit supported by local fundraising and an award-winning midwife led birth centre. Robin is campaigning for it and the University to become home to a new medical school which could build on a long tradition of training nurses at Worcester. The city is also home to two exceptional hospices, Acorns for children and St Richard’s for adults which provide incredible care and are anything but average. H is also for happiness and Worcester was recently voted one of the happiest places in the UK.
I is for inventions and Worcester has always been the home to many important and spectacular piece of innovation from the invention of coking coal by Dud Dudley to the breakthrough heating technology of combination boilers pioneered by Cecil Duckworth in his own garage. Today cutting edge companies such as PCA Predict and Titania are at the forefront of online technology whilst nearby Qinetiq is building on the legacy of the invention of radar to train a new generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. I is also for Independents and the city enjoys a high proportion of wonderful independent shops.
J is for jobs and when it comes to employment Worcester is doing much better than average. Since 2010 unemployment in the city has come down 60% and youth unemployment 69%. More people are working full time and more people have seen their pay increase than the national average. Unemployment in Worcester has now been below 2% for two and a half years, meeting international criteria for full employment and apprenticeship numbers, which have doubled since 2010 continue to grow.
K is for Kings and Worcester is more than just a faithful royal city. It hosts one of England’s most controversial and infamous Kings with the tomb of King John lying at the heart of its Cathedral and the same building was the watchtower for Charles Stuart as he saw his army defeated and the monarchy temporarily destroyed at the Battle of Worcester. Escaping through the back door of a pub which to this day is named after him the King was never to return to Worcester after his restoration but Prince Charles came to the city four hundred years on and paid back his debts to local clothiers.
L is for literature an area where the Worcestershire countryside has provided powerful inspiration for generations of poets and writers. From Tolkien whose shire and Mordor were inspired by the views from the Malvern hills over rural Worcestershire to the black country, to Trollope whose Barchester chronicles were closely based on the cathedral close at Worcester. Today a literary festival and poetry competitions enhance their legacy and the magnificent Hive Library is the first joint university and city library in Europe, a brilliant innovative way of providing a public service and opening the resources of the university to the city.
M is for Music and beyond the legacy of Elgar the city remains a hive of musical activity with its festivals in the Summer and charity events such as Severn Sounds keeping the city entertained all year round. With an international music college and the renowned Three Choirs festival as well as music if all sorts at Huntingdon Hall, Worcester’s musical connections are far above par.
N is for New Road the most beautiful cricket ground in the world bar none. An international poll of professional cricketers placed this as the only non-test venue to make the top ten of grounds that the top players in the world want to play at. It is so iconic that for many years it featured on the £20 note. N is also for Newspaper and the city has a special place in the history of newsprint with the Berrow’s Worcester Journal being the longest running continuously published newspaper in the English language and dating back to the 1690s. Today Newspapers such as the Worcester News and the Worcester Observer compete with Berrows to keep local people informed and give politicians a hard time!
O is for seriously old. Worcester dates back to Roman times and beyond, worship has taken place on the site of the Cathedral since at least the seventh century AD and excavations in the course of building the Hive have shown the remains of iron age settlements. Much of the city dates back to before the founding of the American colonies and Worcester can offer a wealth of history and heritage that other cities could only dream of. O is also for Open for business something that Worcester always manages to be even when much of the city is underwater!
P is for Productivity and at a time when raising productivity and therefore pay is a key national challenge Worcestershire has been leading the way. Our LEP area has been one of the top three for growth in GVA over the last five years and the best performer from 2010 to 2015 at increasing productivity. Investment in skills, transport links and technology have all helped World Class Worcestershire to achieve this success and it has allowed wages to rise whilst unemployment has stayed low. In each of the last two years ONS figures suggest Worcester workers gained an average of 5% more in gross weekly pay, helping the city to overtake the national average pay for the first time in 2016. P is also for Pubs which may not add to the city’s productivity but which are many and hugely enjoyed!
Q is for Quintessential and it is often remarked that Worcester is the quintessentially English city, not average but an exemplar of what an English city should be.
R is for Regeneration of which Worcester has enjoyed a great deal in recent years, whether it is the new St Martin’s Quarter, the stylish Diglis developments around the canals of the city centre, the spectacular Hive library or the Arena, built on the site of a long derelict market, the city has been enjoying a wave of urban regeneration. With the Cathedral Plaza next on the list and with buildings such as the St John’s Towers and the old Russell and Dorrell depositary given a new lease of life, Worcester is looking better than it has for decades. Regeneration has also reopened the city’s beautiful riverside to pedestrians and cyclists with the Diglis bridge and plans for a further walking an cycling bridge in the North of the city.
S is for Severn, England’s mightiest River which flows through the heart of Worcester and the swans that make it such a wonderful Worcester landmark. Worcester’s Swan Theatre is a brilliant centre for the arts and drama. Also S is for Schools of which Worcester enjoys a great range and well above average numbers of good and outstanding schools. The city has outperformed other areas of the country for years despite needing fairer funding, which Robin has led the campaign for and recent investments include new buildings for Tudor Grange, a new Sixth Form Centre for Christopher Whitehead, expansions and new classrooms at many city primaries and improved science facilities at Nunnery Wood, Bishop Perowne, Blessed Edward’s and the Sixth Form College. S is also for Swimming at the city’s brand new eight lane pool which Robin campaigned for.
T is for training and Worcester has been enjoying a boom in apprenticeships over recent years with more of them and a greater range than ever before. In his time as MP Robin has spoken in schools and colleges to promote apprenticeships, visited businesses and run his own apprenticeship and enterprise fairs. The city has just received a £3 million offer from the Government to open a new Engineering Centre at its College and Robin is supporting exciting plans to bring a medical school to Worcester to train more doctors.
U is for University and Worcester’s has been a huge success story, being one of the fastest growing in the UK over a number of years and attracting students from as far afield as China. Its expansion has supported vital regeneration in the city such as the Hive and the Arena and Robin has been backing plans for the University to host an international centre for inclusive sport which could put Worcester even higher on the international map.
V is for volunteers and at the end of Volunteer’s Week Robin has been celebrating the amazing work of local volunteers who do everything from supporting local charities and hospices to providing medical support for events, welcoming patients and visitors to hospitals and empowering people with disabilities. Worcester’s myriad good causes are supported by an army of volunteers and old and young alike contribute to the city’s success and well being.
W is for wages which have risen twice as fast in Worcester as in the UK as a whole for the last two years. It is also for #WorldClassWorcs and #Worcestershirehour social media phenomena that are helping local businesses and charities to reach a wider audience online.
X is for exhibitions (well almost) and Worcester has a wonderful range of museums and exhibits from the historic Commandery to the city museum, the George Marshall medical museum and the museum of the Worcestershire Soldier, nearby attractions such as Spetchley Gardens and the Elgar Birthplace Museum add to the city’s cultural offer which make it such a strong contender for the status of a heritage city.
Y is for yelling as the Worcester crowds get behind their favourite sports – from Rugby to football, cricket to horseracing with canoeing, swimming rowing, basketball and netball along the way Worcester has an amazing offer for sports fans. Having hosted international competitions for Wheelchair basketball and with more sporting events such as the Tour of Britain on their way to the city, there will be plenty for sports fans to yell about in the years to come. Y is also for youth and young people in Worcester are doing better than ever with more apprenticeships and youth unemployment down 69% since 2010.
Z is the only letter for which I couldn’t think of a word but if you’ve done all there is to do in Worcester then you’ll be ready for some serious zzzzs!