Small Town Sentiments: Boring Bognor Attempting a ‘Bitty’ Emulation of Brighton

Bored…

I’m in the mood for brutal honesty. I’m bored. Genuinely bored of my life. Highly passionate and optimistic about my future and my everyday life, but highly bored of my present location and the opportunities it presents. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey — but my current strategy to a better environment is to leg it.

Bognor Regis is incredibly boring. The picture above is supposed to be the saviour of that bore. Exciting huh?

I’m 27 years old and my life revolves around music and technology. I love live band music, I love electronic music — and I love it loud with a few bevvies to really get into it. I also really enjoy going out and meeting like-minded people and being surrounded by a ‘vibe’ of culture and something happening. The busyness, the volume, the selection, the freedom and the feeling that a good night doesn’t have to end until I’m ready to go to bed. Bognor has none of this. If I want to go out, these are my options:

Nope, that’s not what I need…

Going out to have fun is a logistical nightmare for me. I have to plan expensive travel and often accommodation just to go somewhere that provides what I seek.

What I seek is networking with like-minded people who are into tech, culture, business and music. I want to be around artists & entrepreneurs.

Is there a lack of those people in the area? I don’t think that there is! What there is, is a lack of platform and environment to support development of congregation and investment into the culture from these people.

Enter the Bognor Regis Creative Digital Hub

I’m going to take a little dig at these guys here. But I’m not trying to hinder their progress, the rest of this publication will be optimistic.

I would just like them to take off the rose-tinted’s for a second and consider there is a sociological change management required to achieve what is being fantasised. They won’t achieve any improvements to this town as a whole by putting web developers, social media marketers, a few local businesses and representatives from a council (who have done more damage than good to this town) together in a room to talk about how students will fill, and bolster the economy, of the town with the new uni campus and a digital business hub and this will make the town innovative. It won’t, students will just leave town to find the environments they need to grow — like I did and do.

Some open constructive questions to the hub:

  • To work hard is good and having somewhere to do that is great also. But to grow a culture to develop a town, play hard is equally important. Where are users of the hub going to go to ‘play’ and develop their relationships outside of a working environment? Currently, Bognor will not provide.
  • How does music play into the hub’s plans? Will there be music licenses? Alcohol licenses? Or is this just a place to go to sit in front of a laptop and attend networking events and seminars hosted by the same old Bognor hosts? Boring.
  • What are you doing to create a more inspiring town for musicians and artists who are constantly pushed out of town by licensing issues, venues being closed down and a lack of audience due to residents going to other towns to spend their money?

And don’t ask me to come to your events to get these answers. If you are truly trying to change this town, your efforts need to be public. Very public, not contained in little ‘elite’ groups who try and control the development.

Why Brighton is the Role Model

Brighton openly invites diverse culture, it invites open-mindedness, it invites art and quirkiness, it says “fuck you” to the people who complain about music and says “well done” to the venues that grow a good band.

Why am I banging on about music? Because it’s music that brings people together best.

Brighton has a strong independent foundation and elevates anything which is homegrown or anti-establishment. Brighton has no time for being told what to do, Brighton will elect what it thinks it needed to make the world a better place. Will Bognor?

Support Local

‘Local’ does not just mean the town itself. If we succeed in what we’re trying to achieve, local will mean everything in between Portsmouth and Brighton. We will be the exciting mid-point of the coast. The magic? We’ve got a lot of venues for a small town. We don’t need more. What we need to do is change what we have:

  • Rox Festival — needs to be more regular, more central, more advertised, with more features, better managed with more direct outreach to local artists rather than waiting for applicants, better division throughout town and better enforcement to prevent anything that will hinder the success of the project. There are plenty of amazing and experienced event managers around — the council should make the investment.
  • Shutting down of music venues needs to stop. A different approach needs to be taken to encourage and support music but prevent illegal activity. Arun District Council should change their stance on enforcement and shutdown and change that to guidance and consultancy to ensure venues stay open.
  • Where music licenses can be provided — they should be frequently offered to venues. If venues choose to waste the opportunity they are presented with, this should be exposed so that other owners can offer to buy them out of their premise.
  • Outside drinking and dining needs to increase.
  • The town centre needs bars and restaurants.
  • Local pubs need to up their game DRAMATICALLY.

Aesthetics & Selection

Places don’t just become ‘hip and trendy’. Local venue owners have to make the effort to make things quirky and attractive. Just keep it clean, put some fairy lights up, get some Brewdog in the fridge, make sure there’s always some unusual/forgotten gem music on at a decent volume and make partnerships with some other local business people and craftsman. Look what Brighton venues look like compared with ours:

They make an effort to make things look cool and they realise that busy but sophisticated street drinking and dining is massively beneficial for the town’s economy.

Nostalgia

Is everybody aware that David Bowie played in Bognor in his early career?

Bognor is technically well-situated to be a central coast hub to bolster art, technology, business and UK culture. But first, serious investment and commitment needs to go into the attraction of the town, because right now it is dead-end.

4 years ago this video was shot in Bognor, it says a lot about the way people think around here…

The best times I remember having in Bognor were when you could go to Oceans Bar and grab a decent cocktail, walk out of the open face into the warm summer evening and there being loads of people outside the bar and The Hardwicke opposite. The Thursdays bus used to pick up from here so there’d always be people outside these two bars with an eagle eye, but having fun and dancing to the music coming out of Oceans. Oxfords Bar (what is now what Oceans was) have actually done a really decent job with the interior of the place and has great potential:

I went to the Mud club rather than Thursdays. That place is so missed, the music there was great, absolutely on-point bookings — there was a great club culture and the variety of things on meant that there were general reasons to venture into town at the weekend.

That is nowhere near enough compared to what’s needed, but it was a start. It got people out spending their money in town instead of ‘pre-drinking’ or going to another town.

Conclusion

I want to make Bognor a great place to live in and I have some ideas of how B-DEM Records can support this. But, it’s got to start with a realistic viewpoint of the current situation.

Using the good things about Bognor and putting a bit more effort into making the town and the venues look more attractive will make more of an impact than is being considered. The street paving is not as important as what that path leads, or what businesses sit on it. This town will go nowhere without drastic change, and this Digital Hub will be a waste of time.

Leisure-time facilities tie in directly with the business and growth offerings of the town, if there is nowhere to go get comfortable and have a good time away from the working environment then people won’t stick around. Good leisure-time is fuelled by good food and good music.

If we want to be anything like Brighton, let’s make more of an effort to bring independent music into a focus as Bognor on a large scale.