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Not another Essex rebrand. Why?

February 22, 2022

Stuffy Essex tourist bosses have decreed that the county needs a rebrand to shed what it rather insultingly dismisses as TOWIE – The Only Way is Essex – stereotypes. What it ignores is that these stereotypes have brought a lot of money into the county, especially Brentwood, the town where I live.

Just as provincial high streets like Brentwood’s were taking a nose-dive, TOWIE rode into town and saved it from the grim spectre of empty shops.

The fans of TOWIE – which I have never watched – flocked to Brentwood to see where the stars of the show were filmed and the night clubs and restaurants they frequented. TOWIE tours and hen parties arrived in such numbers that the TOWIE stars, led by Amy Childs, started to open shops in Brentwood. In no time there were around 14 shops owned by participants in the show, together with several new restaurants that opened to serve the new visitors. 

The response of the local council and most residents was straight out of the same patronising play book that seems to have fallen into the hands of Visit Essex. Instead of welcoming these new visitors spending money in our town most people looked down their noses at them. While TOWIE was at its peak it was if the town centre inhabited two parallel, disconnected universes.

I know some people point to the occasional Friday and Saturday night disturbances down the High Street and blame them on the TOWIE visitors but almost every town and city centre suffers the same blight. It is just another manifestation of the English disease we export to holiday destinations across Europe most years and we saw all too vividly at last year’s European Championship final at Wembley.

We should have been laying on town centre entertainment for our new visitors, encouraging more of the retailers left in the town to stock merchandise of appeal to the TOWIE generation and making them feel more welcome. A few may even have taken an interest in some of the other shops and features of the town and the locality. I am not naive. I know that 99% would have only been interested in TOWIE but at least they wouldn’t have gone away feeling unwelcome.

It seems very strange for a tourism organisation to be sending out a message to a large group of people that can only be interpreted as “we don’t want you” – or your money.

Essex is a very large county and offers some wonderful countryside and coastlines but the powers that be have a habit of falling into this snobbish trap from time-to-time. For years it was Southend they used to look down on, now it is Brentwood. It is simply not good enough. Why can’t they be proud of the diversity the county enjoys and promote all of it equally? I am not surprised that the TOWIE cast feels offended.

If Visit Essex has £300,000 to spare it should be embracing TOWIE, using that as a platform to promote the rest of the county and its attractions. A re-think is needed.

• Image By ITVBe, Jump – https://www.jumpdesign.co.uk/towie/

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