What make us special? A personal view on Thurrock and why this is a community to be proud of

  Posted: 20.01.20 at 00:27 by The Editor

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THURROCK Nub News is rapidly approaching the 200,000 page views mark and is on course to smash through it by the end of the month.

It’s a news service that focuses on the remarkable communities that make up our wide and varied borough, from hyper local news about community organisations and groups, features on schools and the great work going on in our classrooms and coverage of our local sporting organisations – to the big breaking stories that frequently put Thurrock in the vanguard of national news media.

We would like to think we are at the heart of this community. Just a few years ago Thurrock made worldwide headlines as the ‘most miserable’ place to live in Britain. Was that a true reflection of the place? Is it still true?

Thurrock has been frequently highlighted as a place where Brexit will be welcomed more than most. Indeed, only this weekend we have received an email from a French media organisation that wants to come to Thurrock at the end of the month and highlight just what caused Thurrock to be at the epicentre of anti EU feeling.

It’s undoubtedly a pivotal and emotional time for the borough – and the UK. But what is it that makes Thurrock, Thurrock? Thurrock Nub News editor NEIL SPEIGHT reflects on those questions and offers personal insight into a place he is proud to call home.

SO what makes Thurrock special? Is it the place? Is it the community? Options about Thurrock vary tremendously – to some it’s a hell on earth, a place to be condemned and ridiculed. To others it is home and a place to celebrate and be proud of.

Susan Yates shares her love of history with a love of Aveley FC

I came to Thurrock in January 2004 to edit the Thurrock Gazette newspaper, In my first week, having pitched up at a B&B in Stanford-le-Hope I visited the Corringham community forum and heard tell of trouble from youngsters in the town causing mayhem and carrying out anti-social behaviour. Sixteen years later, the same story is being told.

The difference I have is that now I know the Corringham community a lot better. Like many of the neighbourhoods that make up our borough – a rich and varied tapestry of differing people from differing backgrounds – it has its problems.

But over the intervening 16 years I have learned that Corringham is a community that care. It’s a community that boasts huge talent, that has many organisations that make a difference. It is home to some wonderful people who put service before self and who care passionately about the community.
Corringham is a microcosm of Thurrock. Take a quick look and it’s a problem, scratch the surface and you uncover something special. You can say the same about Purfleet, about Aveley, about Tilbury …. In fact from west to east, via the A13 or via the c2c rail line, you wend and weave through an area that has so much to offer and which somehow manages to lift itself above and through an abundance of problems to offer hope and inspiration.

What links each area? Well for a start there’s a unitary council. It directly employs more than 2,500 people and has a hierarchy of more than 115 officers who earn more than £50,000 a year and a clutch of top brass of at least seven who earn more than £100,000 – that’s not including the pension packages that back up their salaries. The council is an easy target and I would be less than truthful if I didn’t say in my personal view, based on more than 40 years of experience of local authorities, is that it’s one of the worst run, appalling local authorities it has been my displeasure to work with. In my opinion, some of its senior officers aren’t fit to run a bath, never mind a powerful local authority.

But that overlooks the fact that of those more than 2,500 employees, the vast majority do a great job. I know first hand of the daily grind many of the underpaid and overworked staff go through.
Those people don’t go to work just for the cash, they go to work with a sense of commitment to their community, to do the best they can and to make a difference.

They face huge difficulties working in an under-resourced authority working with a public that would rather spit in their faces than acknowledge their efforts – and sadly it’s a public that doesn’t understand and isn’t educated and informed enough to know just how good a place this borough it. It’s too easy to pick the lowest common denominator and slag everything off.

Look too at 49 elected councillors, many of whom didn’t want the job in the first place but who lack the knowledge and confidence to challenge authority and do the job they were elected to do. Forgive them their trespasses but please try and understand many of them just don’t know what to do…

So we come to the question. People or place? What is it that makes Thurrock different and special?

Well I don’t really think it’s place. Thurrock has its pleasant areas - and some wonderful nature reserves and open spaces – but it’s definitely not a place of great natural beauty. It’s an area of land that has been mistreated as London’s dustbin for too long and its natural resources have seen it carved open and butchered by legions of companies that have cut and bored into its landscape.

Does history have a part to play in place? Thurrock certainly does have a great deal of history going for it.

Thurrock can trace its history back to earliest times with Mammuthus Primigenius and Palaeoloxodon Antiquus (woolly mammoth and straight tusked elephant) found in July/August 1964 in a sandpit on the Kenningtons Estate, Aveley.

Thurrock has more than 240 listed buildings. The buildings range from the religious through military to industrial. Included is Thurrock’s surviving oldest church, St. Mary the Virgin, Corringham, Tilbury Riverside Station and Cruise Terminal complex, the Woolmarket at Horndon on the Hill and of course Bata at East Tilbury.

Many famous people have been associated with Thurrock.

The Rev. John Newton who wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ and lived in Marshfoot House, Aveley, the 18th century artist William Parrott, Josef Conrad who lived at Ivy Walls, Stanford le hope, Philip Conrad Vincent of motorcycle fame who resided with his uncle in Horndon on the Hill and more recently best-selling authoress Martina Cole who grew up in Aveley.

And, of course, it was in Thurrock that Queen Elizabeth first made one of the most famous speeches in history. She addressed her troops in Tilbury as they prepared to do battle by saying: “I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too.”

Her inspiring words have become part of the country’s folklore.

But I don’t think history alone is the reason Thurrock is special.

What makes it special are people.

And across the borough we have a great many wonderful people. I have been privileged to meet many of them through my work in the media and even more pleased to become friends with some of them.

They are inspirational.

Writing this I was tempted to name a few, but the danger is I would miss someone out who didn’t deserve to be omitted. So I name just two here.

Susan Yates is chairman of Thurrock Local History Society and very kindly helped me put this eulogy to Thurrock together. And I am delighted to say she is about to write a series of features on our borough’s history to share with you through Thurrock Nub News. In weeks to come you can get a flavor of her knowledge and passion for the borough through articles on this site.

Susan loves this borough and I asked her what made it special. “It just is,” she said. “There is so much to be proud of and so much to celebrate. And we can overcome our problems.”

I am delighted to say that Susan is a passionate supporter of Aveley FC and they are adding to the remarkable history of sporting success in Thurrock which has bred such wonderful sportsmen and women as world champion and Olympic athlete Fatima Whitbread and great Paralympian Danny Crates to name just two. Aveley FC, like Thurrock in general, continue to push the boundaries and challenge for a better future – long may they continue and long may Susan and her fellow supporters enjoy that journey.

If Susan is at one end of the borough age spectrum (and she will forgive me saying that) the great news is that the future is bright among a majority of our young people.

For sure we have problems with some youngsters and anti-social behavior – don’t all communities – but there is far more good out there than bad. On a daily basis I am lucky enough come across the work of great young people.

Just one of them is a young lady called Success Popoola, the chairwoman of Thurrock’s Youth cabinet. She is the future and is really making a difference in Thurrock.

Success came through St Clere’s School in Stanford where she was an exemplary student. I first came across her when I was a judge in the Jack Petchey Speaks Out competition. She was an amazing and deserving winner.

Watch her speech via the red button link below. Please take two minutes of your time to listen to her.

If you want to know why Thurrock is special, Success sums it up.

A brave, wonderful young woman who is making a difference.

Two amazing people – Susan and Success. One amazing borough.

Cynics and critics will say Thurrock is a rotten borough. But it isn’t. It really is a place to take pride in and be proud of. Its future won’t be easy, but don’t write it off.

And the good news I look forward to is being with Nub News to write about all the good things that make out borough what it is. 200,000 views this month will be a landmark – but there are hundreds of thousands more to come.

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