Thanet Star

Mary Portas is not the massiah

Anyone would think we didn't know how TV companies work.

With all the fuss that Ms Portas has caused one could be forgiven for thinking that we were expecting the second coming of Christ. The company that won the bid to tell us what's best for us and to spend a wedge of money doing so is a TV company. That means that they are going to behave like TV company.

Mary, my-way-or-the-high-way, Portas is not here to fix our high-street she's here to turn it into feel-good entertainment.

So called "reality TV" has not, is not and never will be about reality. Reality TV is manipulated, directed, staged, scripted, set up, orchestrated for maximum impact, carefully edited and gagged to appear like no effort was ever made.

The reason for the outrage is that we were expecting a knight in shining armour to come and save us from incompetent and selfishly motivated high-street failure (posing as governance). We hoped for a messiah to save our dying high-street. This is not what we got thus this:

Off with her head! How Mary Queen of Shops enraged Margate's traders - Home News - UK - The Independent

Her charisma, drive and retail savvy were meant to rejuvenate some of Britain's most deprived towns. But residents of Margate are rising up against Mary Portas, claiming she is putting the interests of her television company before their own.

Of course there are those of us that hope that being in a freak show could somehow help. Maybe it will.

There are those of us fearful that being in the freak show will only further the carrier of Mary Portas at the cost of failed hopes. Maybe it will.

There are those of us that think that the money could have been spent on something more sensible, safe, conservative and ultimately doomed to fail. That it could.

The only sure thing so far is that we are clearly divided on this:

Margate divided over its role in Mary Portas reality show | Saturday sktech | Zoe Williams | From the Guardian | The Guardian

Zoe Williams: The Kent seaside resort is not sure whether the Mary Portas pilot for its high street will be good for business

There is no denying that money cannot buy the attention, and national awareness that this controversy will bring.

Fan the flames. Summon the villagers with flaming pitchforks. Call for the heated debate. Find an opinion and strongly disagree with it. Pick a corner and fight it. Do the dance of vroomfondel and majikthise like never before. Make a fuss. Post angry letters to editors. Object. Object to the objection. Make the most of it.

But when we are done with the fun let us not forget to hold the TV company and Mary Portas to account. Let us tell the story that they do not want told. Let us report what happened when the camera's stopped rolling.

Let us, in short, tell the truth boldly and publicly.

If we don't what good are Thanet's blogs?

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Public Comments

This Normal comment was left by Joe [score: 0]:

[Naughty IP:] There are lots of inaccuracies and misinformation in this report Matt.

First, there are two different things happening: 1. a government grant which is being paid to the Margate Town Team, a voluntary group of people and 2. A TV programme being made by Optomen.

Mary Portas is, unfortunately, in both camps, however the receipt of the former is not related to the acceptance of the latter.

And the plan is the Town Teams, not Portas'. By all means monitor the effects of the Town Team (bearing in mind that they're all volunteers, not Thanet Council and working on a small budget) but do not imply that the plan they've put forwards is Mary Portas'. And if the TV company does film in Margate, do not assume that the effects are just down to her.
16/06/2012 12:44:42

This Normal comment was left by caroline beatty [score: 0]:

Why do people always moan and blame others, something does need to be done about the declining shops etc in Margate. The council are mostly to blame because of rediculously high council taxes and us people also to blame for not using our local shops as it is easier and cheaper to go to the out of town superstores. So any help from Portis may help even if it is filmed, who cares so long as change may happen but the council need to encourage businesses aswel
16/06/2012 13:40:39

This Normal comment was left by caroline beatty [score: 0]:

Stop moaning people, it may help!
16/06/2012 13:41:31

This Normal comment was left by Dave [score: 0]:

There was me thinking that if the 16 millions plus capital and the 2 millions a year given to the Turner Gallery have not done the job then another 100k plus a self promotional film will not have much of an impact. Margate has had a lot of good media cover in the last year with the TC opening and the royal visit.
Local people already know what needs to be done and the state of the high street does not need exposing on TV. Say no to this programme.

I thing the government have put themselves in another situation that seems to allow one of their friends to profit from this initiative. Maybe a contract should haave been drawn up to prevent this.
17/06/2012 18:09:54

This Normal comment was left by Dave [score: 0]:

Joe is right, the people of Margate must remember that Mary Portas is in more than one camp. First is her contract to supply a number of high street shops with her knickers brand, then there is her contract with Clarks shoes, previous associations with Tescos can be found on the internet and of course her 500,000 contract with channel 4.

People of Margate might like to read the story of high street regeneration in todays (18/6) daily mail. Leyton high street hs been done up in preparation for the Olympics at a cost of 475,000 - paid for by the goverment and local council.
18/06/2012 10:03:09

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Joe your accusations of inaccuracy is itself inaccurate. What do you hope to gain by telling me I am wrong and then restating my point?

Mary Portas is, as I said (and you disagreeably agreed), not without a conflict of interests. I am glad you have managed to grasped this.

Joe, had you bothered to read the all of the post you would see that it is a discussion of public expectations and Mary Portas' conflict of interests with plenty of links to the full story as told by the press.

Regardless of any small print people's expectations and the reality of the method of delivery are not in alignment.

Mary Portas is a self publicist who may or may not find herself in a position where her self interest might benefit Thanet.

Mary Portas would not be here if there were not benefit to her proportionate to the effort she is putting in. This is truth that we cannot change. The question is will the cameras bring benefit that the money will not be able to do alone?

We may (or may not) gain something from working with her. We have little to loose but what we do have is not to be unquestioningly frittered away to benefit some out-of-town drama queen.

Caroline, people moan and blame others because it is in our nature as human beings. We seek to blame just as you too blamed the council. But if the council are to blame then so too is everyone of age - we voted for them (or failed to vote which is the same thing). So in some way it is our fault - you and I are to blame for Thanet's condition. We got ourselves in the mess that Mary Portas can use to make herself look good while she has a go at helping us.

I agree with you Dave it does look foolish in this light but as long as no significant loss (other than our rather tatty pride) will come from the Mary Portas profiting we can perhaps hope for some gain although it is far from assured.

We are unlikely to be poorer for her getting richer.
20/06/2012 23:47:14

This Normal comment was left by Joe [score: 0]:

Matt, the national press are wrong, Zoe Williams comment "The Kent seaside resort is not sure whether the Mary Portas pilot for its high street will be good for business" is wrong. The issue is the TV programme not the government Portas Pilot grant which is secure whether or not there is agreement about the TV programme.

"Mary Portas would not be here if there were not benefit to her proportionate to the effort she is putting in." this implies that she is here for the TV programme only, which is not the case. She will be advising the Town Teams on behalf of the government in an entirely voluntary capacity whether or not they are in the TV programme.

"There are those of us that think that the money could have been spent on something more sensible, safe, conservative and ultimately doomed to fail. That it could." This could be a criticism of the Portas Pilot government programme but is unrelated to the debate about the TV cameras.

As I said, you conflate the two things.
21/06/2012 09:45:04

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

The award for failing to listen goes to Joe.

I think we all know that the cash is a given. It was never up for debate.
24/06/2012 21:35:46
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