It’s been more than ten years since Preston was awarded city status, but did the town ever move on and make the most of the opportunity?
For the event, we put together a panel of Ben Casey, the co-founder and creative director of The Chase who designed the Guild 2012 branding and whose portfolio also includes Preston North End’s football stadium, Dragons Den victor and proud Prestonian Kirsty Henshaw, Ruth Heritage, the director of They Eat Culture - an organisation that runs new arts programming, inclusion events and cultural projects in Preston and across Lancashire, and John Potter, voting Federal Conference rep for the Liberal Democrats.
The debate was lively and we had various and contrasting opinions from the panel, the floor and from many others who contributed via Twitter using the #prestonsocial hashtag.
Throughout the evening, three reasons to be proud of Preston were repeatedly mentioned: the University of Central Lancashire, which offers a top quality education and draws people into the city; the beautiful parks, such as Avenham, which make the city an enjoyable place to live and work and, perhaps most importantly of all, Prestonians think highly of their compatriots – there was a lot of positive talk about the people of Preston themselves.
However, another common theme that emerged on the night was that Preston is a city lacking confidence. Despite city status, it thinks of itself as a town, in comparison with Brighton which earned similar status in the same year but has flourished ever since.
It was noted that Preston is the central transport hub for most of Lancashire. Most people traveling into the county from outside of Lancashire, whether by motorway or train, must travel through Preston, and this is something which could be capitalised upon.
But one of the most interesting answers on the night came from the question: ‘how can Preston compete with Manchester or Liverpool?’ It was, simply, ‘Do we want to?’
Those two great cities are undoubtedly successful, but they are also huge, intimidating and different types of places from our city. Preston has a great many attributes it can be proud of, especially in this, its Guild Year, so by using Manchester and Liverpool as a yardstick, are we doing ourselves an injustice?