Last week, YouGov published its survey of the most popular British cities. Out of 57 cities, Wolverhampton came a miserable 56th. (CityMetric covered the results here.)
This got me annoyed. I might live in London these days, but I still feel a strong affinity with my hometown, and I feel like I’m one of the few people banging the drum for the city.
Responding on Twitter to a friend that it was ridiculous that Wolverhampton was so low, another friend from school commented: "[The Survey] is bang on. F***ing s***hole". And this isn’t the only time Wolverhampton has been so publically humiliated: there was also the ridiculous survey carried out in 2009 by Lonely Planet which stated that Wolverhampton was the fifth worst city in the world.
I’ll be honest Wolverhampton isn’t exactly York, which topped the survey. (And rightly so: it's lovely.) But I'd argue that Wolverhampton gets a particularly bad rep, not least from its own citizens, who forever seem to talk the town down. Indeed, at the time of writing an online survey for the local paper Express & Star had 52 per cent of respondents agreeing that Wolverhampton is the second worst city in the UK! Come on folks, it’s not that bad!
And if we think so negatively, no wonder the rest of the country does. If nearby Stoke-on-Trent can be 16th in YouGov’s survey then Wolverhampton should definitely be higher.
There’s a wider issue with the survey: people often hold negative views of their own towns. This isn’t surprising, as many have been forgotten in recent decades and have suffered massive underinvestment, leading to decline. Much of the focus and the money tends to pour into the bigger cities, leaving the smaller towns and cities behind.
I can understand the frustration with Wolverhampton. As soon as something decent opens up in the city centre, something else will close down; and it has struggled as a result of the recession, and increasing competition from the Merry Hill shopping centre, Telford and Birmingham.
Still, though, Wolverhampton has a lot going for it. We have some great cultural assets like the Art Gallery, Grand Theatre and the Civic Hall; Moseley Old Hall in the east, and Wightwick Manor in the west. We had the first automatic traffic lights in the UK, and our local newspaper, the Express & Star is the biggest in the country. Notable Wulfrunians include the band Slade, athlete Denise Lewis, former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King and popstar Liam Payne (who I used to ride the school bus with back in the day), not to mention our Premier League football team, the Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Looking to the future, we’re getting a new train station and tram extension, investment into new developments such as i54 in the north of the city, a newly revamped Mander shopping centre, a new home for our market, the Westside leisure complex and new housing and office developments. All of this will be a much needed shot in the arm for the city.
I’m proud to be a Wulfrunian. And I strongly feel we need to take more pride in the smaller towns and cities, like I do with Wolverhampton, rather than talking them down. After all, if my fellow Wulfrunians don't do it, then no one else will.