Matthew Munson: If you don’t like it then change it – but love where you live

Love Thanet

I’m a Thanetian, born and raised here. Actually, I’m a half-Thanetian; one of my parents was born outside of Thanet, and didn’t even visit the area until he moved down here aged 10.

Whether I’m a Thanetian, half-Thanetian, or an eccentric soul with a propensity for sarcasm and low wit (and I’m certainly that), I’m one of a strange breed of people – those who actually love their home town. No, I’m not being facetious; I genuinely do love Thanet, and I’m also genuinely surprised when I encounter people who hate where they live – primarily because I find myself wondering, “Why don’t you just move out and find somewhere you do like?” Or, perhaps more pertinently, why aren’t more people getting involved in dealing with whatever issues are bothering them?

Here are a few thoughts as to how people can – and should – get involved if they do genuinely care about their local area;

Stand for election: I’m starting at one of the more extreme ends of the spectrum, as this involves a time commitment that not everyone has. Local councils attract a certain degree of opprobrium due to their resources, their priorities, and their funding (inwards and outwards). I worked for the local council for a number of years, and I often found myself frustrated by all those issues – but also a consolation that I was trying to do something, even when I failed.

Organise a local Neighbourhood Watch group: If you’re worried about security, why not offer some precious time? My mum was heavily involved in a neighbourhood watch group for a long time back when I was a teenager; she was pretty much running the entire thing for a long time. It was tiring, but my mum didn’t mind putting the hours in because she knew that people would feel comfortable living in a Watch area – as well as the more capitalist benefits such as better deals on home and car insurance, for example (hey, you’ve got to think of things like that). It was a genuinely admirable way for my mum to give something back, and she did it without complaint until she felt that she had served her time and decided to pass over to a new generation of residents.

Write: Whether that’s a blog post, a letter to the paper, or a regular article in a periodical raising awareness about particular issues that are important to both you and the local area, just write. Kathy Bailes, editor of this esteemed organ, is doing just that, and this newspaper (is there a new word for online papers?) is a fine example of a new trend in independent, fresh journalism. And no, Kathy hasn’t put me up to this!

Take an interest in changes in your community

Don’t agree with the largest pub in the UK being built on your doorstep? Agree with Dreamland re-opening and charging per ride instead of a flat rate entry fee? Then get involved! Go along to consultation sessions if you can, and if you can’t, then read the supporting materials or find an online discussion group that’s productive and interesting.

Eat locally / Visit locally / Buy locally

It amazes me how often people think that they have to go to the chain stores or the big name restaurants in order to get any service, forgetting that the smaller places offer more local connections to the area, more reason to survive because they’re a sole trader, and more aware of the local needs as a owner/manager in the area.

Agitate for change

I’ve said it once, but it’s worth saying again because it’s so important. If you don’t like something, make a suggestion, get involved, do something. If you do like something, then support it. Give the thing your custom, your time, your interest, and let it flourish.

And lastly – for heaven’s sake, be proud of Thanet.

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