So, I was at a training course today – a local course, for local people, if you will – and the course leader made a comment, when discussing the two largest cities in the South West, that “Plymouth is the poor relation of Exeter”. Now, as some of you will know, the whole Rockpool team is Plymouth born and bred and we’re super proud of our city; however, I’d arrived late to this course and didn’t really know anyone, so I did what most “it isn’t polite to make a fuss” people do: I huffed passive-aggressively and rolled my eyes.
But it’s been bothering me ever since: why on earth is this myth still being peddled? Before I start, I must stress this isn’t a “my city’s better than your city” rant: I really like Exeter and (aside from their football team…) I think the city has bucket-fulls of brilliant things to offer the South West as a whole: the shopping, the uni, the architecture, all a big thumbs up. I don’t really subscribe to this local rivalry thing: I like Exeter. There, I said it.
However, what does irk me ever so slightly is the constant comparison between Exeter and Plymouth. It’s completely baffling, as historically, geographically, demographically, in every way they’re so completely different. And what irks me even more is that Plymouth seems to come off, well, as “the poor relation”. Poor?!? Plymouth is well over twice the size of Exeter, and has the range of shops, restaurants, bars and facilities you’d expect to meet the needs of one of the UK’s top 20 biggest cities. (Admittedly, a Jamie Oliver Italian Restaurant wouldn’t go amiss, but it’s OK, apparently another nearby city is getting one soon…). We have (nearly) 3 universities, the National Marine Aquarium, the largest Naval Base in Western Europe and a jolly fine lighthouse. And whilst it’s not to everyone’s taste, we have the highest number of post-war listed buildings in the UK, outside of London, after the city was largely decimated during the Blitz. It’s a city of spirit, humour and stonking amounts of history. Like proper history: going off to discover new lands-type history.
So, if you’ll indulge me, this is what I wish I’d said to this misguided woman:
“Excuse me Cynthia* – I think you’ll find that’s a load of outdated twaddle, peddled by out of touch people like your good self, who no doubt live in Exeter and want to boost the value of their postcodes. Plymouth is a diverse, interesting, buzzing and beautiful city with more history in 3 cobbled streets on the Barbican than the entirety of some British cities. Now, I can see why you might be brainwashed – it’s the easiest thing in the world to poke fun at Plymouth: it’s working class roots, it’s marmite architecture and frankly, the funny sounding accent, could make it a figure of fun to other, more middle-class cities. But I would strongly suggest you take another look, for these are the things which make Plymouth great, and certainly no one’s poor relation. And if this still hasn’t convinced you: Plymouth produced Tom Daley; I doubt Exeter could boast producing anything as beautiful”.
I wish I said all that. But I didn’t: I sat and inwardly drafted a blog post.
*Names have been changed to protect the ignorant.