BEN HOUCHEN: Culture and tourism are vital to promoting town’s image
For far too long politicians and people who don’t know Hartlepool have characterised the town as just an area of decline; a forgotten town in the North East in need of regeneration.
However, people who know our area know the truth. Hartlepool is a town of history, of culture, of enjoyment and of economic importance – which needs to be recognised and championed.
Hartlepool has so much going for itself, something not always acknowledged by others when they think of the industrial heartland of Teesside, but something that we as locals know to be true. The unspoilt coastline stretches for miles, ready to be appreciated by local people as well as tourists. Not only does the coastline offer spectacular views, but the Cleveland Hills which are just a stone’s throw away are waiting to be explored.
Proud of its past, the Museum of Hartlepool takes visitors through the ages, going through 5,000 years of history from the Bronze Age to, one of the town’s darkest days in history - The Bombardment of the Hartlepools in 1914, and beyond. Next door lies the National Museum of the Royal Navy which is home to HMS Trincomalee - Europe’s oldest floating warship and centre piece of the award-winning Historic Quay. The Trincomalee is joined by Second World War Rescue Motor Launch, RML 497, which played a crucial role during the war rescuing downed aircraft crew from the Channel. The boat is currently being restored before going on public display.
The towns cultural offer does not just stay in the past though. The return of the Hartlepool Waterfront Festival, after it was forced to be cancelled last year due to the coronavirus, was welcomed by people across the region. As we begin the road to recovery from the pandemic, this festival thrusts Hartlepool into the spotlight. With diverse acts, artists and entertainers, the festival signals a much-needed return to brighter times. And in 2023 the Tall Ships will return to the town, 13 years after Hartlepool last hosted the world-renounced sail ship event. Hartlepool’s culture and tourism industries are incredibly important to our area as we look to promote our image across the world, and Hartlepool has so much to offer on this front.
Away from culture and tourism, Hartlepool is incredibly important to the Tees Valley economy. Brilliant businesses such as Merlin flex, JDR Cables, and TMD Friction have been responsible for truly global products and now that the town has its own Freeport, I anticipate that Hartlepool’s global impression will only grow further.
And finally, how could I not mention Hartlepool United. We are back. Football League status is a huge boost for the whole town and no more than the fantastic supporters deserve. It feels like the club, and with it the town are on the up and it feels like we can achieve something special as we ride this wave of momentum.
I hope local people will join me in celebrating the rich history, culture and wide offer that Hartlepool has. We must not let our region or town be presented as an area of decline any longer. While remembering our industrial and manufacturing past, we look to our future prospects and our heritage that we have retained in our museums. From the beach, to the museums, to Victoria Park, Hartlepool is a fantastic place, that I want to make front and centre of our offer to the rest of the world.