Do you have pride in Blackpool?
Christine Hodgson certainly does and she is hoping businesses and individuals will join her and her fellow members of the Blackpool Pride of Place Partnership in doing all they can to ensure a prosperous future for the resort.
It’s more than three decades since Christine left the former Elmslie School for university and she has gone on to a high-flying career which takes her all over the world.
But she is immensely proud of her Fylde coast upbringing and was delighted to be invited to chair the Partnership.
It’s a pioneering Business In The Community (BITC) project made up of voluntary, public and private sectors, including Blackpool Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
Those involved include the head of Merlin’s Blackpool attractions Kate Shane, Steve Fogg, managing director of shared services at BAE Systems, and Frank Heald of Wyre Dock Development.
Christine is proud to be chairman – and determined to do all she can to ensure the best possible future for Blackpool’s economy and its townsfolk.
“I will always have a huge affection for Blackpool and the Fylde,” said Christine.
“It was a wonderful place to go to school and I have really fond memories of going shopping and to shows with my family and of the many lasting friends I made in my schooldays.
“I’m always really proud to say I come from here and I think anyone who grew up in Blackpool develops a great affection for the place that lasts forever.
“Any negative things people say about the town just make me more determined to stress the positive and that is a common value of the Partnership.
“It’s all about doing all we can the very best for Blackpool.
“We can’t wave a magic wand but there is a huge energy around the table and that aim is certainly achievable if we do all we can to encourage everyone to work together with that aim in mind.”
Christine has long been based in London but still travels back to the Fylde regularly to visit her parents Tony and Audrey, both 91 and based in Kirkham, and brother Thomas, who lives in Fleetwood.
“I always feel so positive when I come back and see how Blackpool is doing,” she said.
“There is so much about which to be positive.
“It is vital that we ensure its lasting place as an all-year-round leisure destination and great strides are already being made to bring top-class events with the building of the new conference centre.
“It is important Government plays its part and we will be doing all we can to lobby for that – not just in terms of closing what is far too big a gap between the economies in the north and south of the country but also when it comes to legislation.
“For one thing, it is vital that the benefits system is adjusted to help cut back on transience, which would in turn help with the housing situation.
“Building for the future starts with the schoolchildren and it is important they have stability.
“Switching schools on a regular basis as families move from one area to another is hardly the ideal grounding.
“It is also important to ensure young people are given experience of work as early as possible and we will be encouraging local businesses to get involved.
“It’s all about creating the opportunities.
“For instance, looking at it from the point of view of technology with which I am associated, it would be wonderful to make Blackpool a centre for digital skills.
“There is so much to build on but is vital that we encourage and nurture aspiration.
“Blackpool is a wonderful place - and we need to all work together to do all we can to make it even better.”
Christine and Partnership colleagues are eager to see a big turnout of local businesses when the Fylde Coast Responsible Business Network is launched with a breakfast meeting at the Winter Gardens next Monday.
The Network, a coalition of businesses committed to supporting their local community, has been created, and is supported, by the Partnership and the launch will feature talks from local business leaders about how they have embraced responsible business and the difference it has made to both the community and their organisations.
Guest speakers will include Mark Adlestone, chairman of Beaverbrooks jewellers, who are sponsoring the Responsible Business Network for the first two years, and Steve Fogg.
Monday’s event is in the Pavilion Theatre at the Winter Gardens and starts at 7.30am for 8am.
Details of how to get involved from project manager Michelle Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07734 495212.