Movement calls on people to help restore city’s worldwide reputation

Press and Journal, p3 – 27/05/2011

City leaders are joining forces to spearhead a new campaign which aims to restore Aberdeen’s reputation around the world.

Lord Provost Peter Stephen says he is tired of people running down the city – and he had recruited an A-list of influential Aberdonians to spread the word about everything it has to offer.

The Aberdeen 1st movement will bring together business figures, athletes, public servants and charity workers to inspire citizens to take a pride in their city and shout about its charms.

Mr Stephen said “It’s about starting a culture change – a different attitude. We want people to realise what the city has to offer.”

He will chair the new Aberdeen 1st Core Group, which also includes deputy lord lieutenant Dennis Davidson as deputy chairman and Alan Reid, communications director for city social care charity VSA, in charge of publicity.

lord-provostThe other members of the panel are Aberdeen City Council enterprise, planning and infrastructure director Gordon McIntosh; Aberdeen Sports Village chairman George Yule; council chief executive Valerie Watts; Grampian Chief Constable Colin McKerracher and one of his predecessors George Esson; PCL Group managing director Jeanette Forbes and Fred Dalgarno, Dean of Guild.

They will liaise with a series of sub-groups, considering particular areas such as education, energy, sport, heritage, tourism and transport, and making sure everyone is aware of any good news coming out of the city.

Mr Stephen said it was important the group was non-political and not lead by any one organisation. “It’s a gathering of people from all walks of life, who care deeply about Aberdeen,” he said. Aberdonians aren’t renowned for making a fuss, admitted Mr Reid.

“This is a place where if you ask someone how they’re doing and they say ‘nae bad’, you know they mean great.”

But the dangers of allowing the good things going on in Aberdeen to be overshadowed by negative publicity is that it starts to affect the way the place is perceived elsewhere, warned Mr Reid.

“These days, negative comment goes round the world in an instant,” he said.

As a former chief executive of Derry City Council, Mrs Watts has experience of what civic pride can do for a community’s fortunes.

Northern Ireland’s second biggest city had put the troubles behind it to be named the first UK City of Culture in 2013. She said she would be “leading from the front” in the Aberdeen 1st campaign, ensuring the council takes responsibility for issues like cleanliness and encouraging others to take a pride in their surroundings.

“We are lucky here that we are starting from such a position of strength,” she said.

“We have a great city. There is so much to be proud of.”