How not to promote Guildford

The Visit Guildford promotional video.

Visit Guildford or Guildford Tourist Information Office as everyone knows it, has produced a little video which is a classic of how not to.

Guildford is market town located in Surrey where the River Wey, now a navigable waterway, breaks through the North Downs. It owes its importance as a useful stopover en route from London to Portsmouth. Dating back to the 16th century, with a 13th century undercroft, the Angel Inn is the sole remaining coaching inn. It is also where Lewis Carroll lived, and Archbishop Abbott who was instrumental in the commission of the James I Bible.

Not that you would learn any of this from the video.

The video is to encourage shopping, in itself not good as we live on a finite fragile planet, and wanton consumerism is one of the many ills destroying the planet, as unfortunately is mass tourism.

The video features and please do not laugh, two coffee chains, tax dodging Starbucks and Coco-Cola owned Costa serving undrinkable coffee, a couple of indie coffee shops, little better than the chains, one sit outside and enjoy the smoke, the other nearly always empty, two grotty shopping centres, one sterile and empty, same crap chains as find anywhere and everywhere, boarded-up units and devoid of people, a department store that is on the verge of bankruptcy, a cake stall selling factory cakes.

One of these shopping centres Tunsgate Quarter with boarded-up units and no people, other than those using it as a useful short cut is a Potemkin village потёмкинские деревни in all but name. That Tunsgate Quarter is forced to have a relaunch says all you need to know.

Is this likely to attract people into Guildford? Sadly not. On the other hand a good chance it will deter visitors to Guildford. Why visit a town for the same crap corporate chains find everywhere, selling the products of sweatshop factories or serving undrinkable coffee?

Contrast with old part of York, Hull Old Town, North Laine in Brighton. Quirky indie businesses, character, interesting architecture. In North Laine, not a chain to be found. Which is why these destinations draw people in.

Sincil Street in Lincoln, running parallel to the High Street, once a thriving market, indie businesses, was between 10 am and 4 pm busier than the High Street with its corporate chains, until the local council and local Coop destroyed the street under the guise of redevelopment.

There is little point in visiting any town, for the same crap chains that can find anywhere and everywhere.

So how should they have done it?

Feature the River Wey, narrow boats on the Wey Navigation, Alice by the River Wey, the grounds of Guildford Castle, Jeffries Passage, Bamboo Shoots in Jeffries Passage, fruit and vegetable stalls at the top of the street on the Friday and Saturday market in North Street, Celtic baker on the farmers market in the High Street on the first Tuesday of the month, Ben’s Records and Krema Coffee House in Tunsgate, cheese shop in Chapel Street.

It is not only the video, the Tourist Information Centre has repeatedly tweeted to promote Cosy Club, a corporate chain fake 1930s bar, so fake it a parody of fake. Is this appropriate, promotion of Big Business that drains money out of the local economy?

Contrast with Chichester where the local tourist information promotes local cultural events, reasons why may wish to visit Chichester.

Leeds and York, Independent Life, art, culture, the independent scene. Not the usual ghastly freebie magazine that goes straight in the bin. Independent Life also publishes The Little Black Book Leeds, now vol 3, a guide to the independent businesses in Leeds. If one does not exist, I assume in the pipeline a similar guide for indie businesses in York.

Experience Guildford places a levy on all businesses in Guildford, something struggling indie businesses cannot afford and from which they see little if any return. Subsidising car parks at Christmas when they are full to overflowing, a fake beach by the River Wey, are examples of how this money is wasted.

Question how Experience Guildford spends public money, blocked from accessing their twitter feed. What are they trying to hide, what does it say of public accountability of how public money is spent? Deeply disturbing to say the least.

The irony is, Ben’s Records are doing more to feature Guildford as the destination to visit than those squandering public money.

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