Swindon is to make a bid for city status to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee after all.
But it will be councillors leading the effort rather than officers and they hope to get schools, community groups and townspeople involved.
It marks a change of heart for the Conservative administration. When the competition for towns to gain city status to mark the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation in 1952 was first announced, council leader David Renard said he thought the benefits of city-status were not worth the time and effort it would take the council to bid.
But he has given his backing to cabinet member for regeneration, culture and heritage Dale Heenan who will lead the campaign to upgrade Swindon.
Coun Heenan said: “We should all be ambitious for our town, be proud of where we live, and a City of Swindon bid will be great for raising Swindon’s profile and help to tackle any negative perceptions. “We are serious about this bid and are determined to make Swindon’s case in a way never done before. “The Conservatives believe that our best chance of success is to work with local businesses, local community groups and local residents. We have to be honest no-one is going to think differently about Swindon because we are a town one day, and a city the next. Yet there are so many ways that this competition can be used to promote and be positive about Swindon, and we intend to do our best to maximise these opportunities. “We are all too familiar with a small minority who like to moan about Swindon and this bid can help tackle this issue head on. Let’s all find ways to be positive about everything that Swindon has to offer. ”
Swindon’s last bid to become a city in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Year was rejected – the second time in two years it lost out. Coun Heenan said the new campaign would not involve council officers time or council taxpayers’ money and would focus on celebrating all aspects of Swindon and its people – such as the fact that it is one of the most generous towns in the country to charities.
He wants groups and individuals to take part by sharing what makes them proud to be from Swindon.
The competition runs until December and it does not require glossy brochures and videos.
It asks for a one-page summary of the town, and no more than eight pages of supporting information covering distinct identity, civic pride, cultural infrastructure, interesting heritage, history and traditions, a vibrant and welcoming community, a record of innovation, associations with Royalty and other distinctive features.
There can be 10 pages of facts and figures about the economy, green spaces and up to 50 photographs of permanent features of the town, such as historic architecture, parks, and gardens – rather than events and people.
Coun Heenan is hoping Swindonians will help by taking photographs and submitting words on things that make their town stand out and which make them proud.
Other councillors are enthusiastic about the bid. Jenny Jefferies said: “Swindon is one of the UK’s largest town’s and we all know about the 1842 Great Western Railway works but this scratches the surface of Swindon’s history. “It dates back more than 2,000 years to Roman times. We were a village mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. We were a blueprint for the NHS, we had the UK’s first lending library and we built Spitfires in WW2.
“I want residents to come forward with their ideas, and say what should be included about Swindon’s identity, and any interesting heritage, history and traditions.”
Curtis Flux said: “Our local City of Swindon bid will be different to anything that has happened before. Swindon is a vibrant and welcoming community, and we will passionately advocate bringing families, community, and business people together. It is a great opportunity for Swindon to be proud about where we live. “We have an amazing record of innovation that we should all shout about, and I hope this bid reminds potential investors that Swindon is open for business. As we bounce back from Covid, let’s show our pride about Swindon!”
Swindon Borough Council made bids for city status when competitions were announced in 1999, to mark the change of Millennium and in 2002 for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.
Both times the town was unsuccessful. in 1999 Brighton& Hove, Wolverhampton and Inverness became cities. In 2002 Preston , Newport, Gwent, Stirling, and Northern Ireland’s Lisburn and Newry were successful.