Dartford Town Centre ... Could be better though, couldn't it?
There are a number of tricks you use when you're handing out leaflets. I've done my fair share of flyering, asking people to take everything from night club discounts to slimming world coupons to Conservative Party campaign literature (yes really - I was 12, and I wanted to be helpful). I've learned every trick of the trade. But I happened upon a new approach when I was at the Dartford Festival this year.
I was handing out leaflets about the Town Centre, and Dartford Labour's campaign for change. It was hot, and it was muggy, and it had been 'about to rain' for eight hours, so people were hurrying past before we'd had a chance to say a word. Then, in one of those awkward I've-gone-blank-but-I've-already-started-talking moments, I found myself telling a rather flustered festival goer "Dartford Town Centre, er, could be better though, couldn't it?'
It will not surprise you to hear that he didn't correct me. He didn't seem angry that I'd insulted his beloved and beautiful town. He laughed. Now, it might just be me, but people don't tend to laugh at observations they don't agree with. So I tried my accidental tactic again, and got the same response. Everyone laughed, everyone took a flyer, some people stopped to passionately agree.
As it turns out, the bandstand is lovely and all, but people were hoping for more than that. It turns out that their ambition for the town is a little more than 'what we have now, but with a Tesco.' They have a lot of feeling for their town, but not as much of it is pride as you might hope.
Normally, this is when someone would jump in to ask me 'well, if you think you're so smart, why don't you do something?' again implying that anything I can't personally fix must therefore not be worth talking about..? But that logic aside, the first step for any council, or councillor, surely should be to listen rather than tell? How can any of us hope to put forward a plan for Dartford, when we've not asked the people that live and work there?
So that's what I'm doing, or rather, what Simon and everyone at #TeamDartford are doing, and what I'm sharing. And if you think Dartford Could Be Better, then please take the time to fill out the survey and share.