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2017 Festival Programme

Thursday, 17 December 2015

What kind of a city is Lincoln?

The other day I was walking down the High Street and was stopped by two students with recording equipment. They asked if I would agree to be interviewed. On saying yes, they both uttered sighs of relief; it seems I was the first and they had almost given up.

Their question was simple. Why had Lincoln been voted a top tourist destination?

My response was equally simple. It is s city steeped in history, we have it all from Romans to 19th century engineers, with Gothic Cathedral and Norman Castle to boot.

I went on my way slightly embarrassed that I had forgotten Magna Carta. It also set off a train of thought that prompted me to ask the bigger question at the head of this article: what kind of a city are we?

Some time ago I was involved in discussions about whether Lincoln should seek to be a World Heritage Site. It would put us firmly on the map and encourage even more visitors.

But is that what we are, a city that once was something.

We are much more: two universities, a college reaching out across the globe, world class engineering, an arts sector that is getting stronger all the time. All good, but are they what we are? Aren’t they rather, what we do?

I then saw on the evening television news that a famine was fast approaching in Ethiopia. I thought, oh no, not again. I would like to say that the ‘not again’ referred to the appalling famine that hit that country in the 1980s. I have to admit that it was rather, oh no, not another crisis seeking help.

Whether we like it or not, and indeed we do not like it, humanitarian crises of huge proportions are likely to characterise our world more and more, not least with global warming. It is not only global crises, there are those much closer to home, those in our city without homes, those in need. It was once said that the poor will always be with you. Too true.  

A little while ago I heard about a world wide movement called Compassionate Cities. This really is a loose collection of cities all around the world that had concluded that what they are is typified by the word compassionate.

It links to the local movement slowly emerging here called Compassionate Lincoln. This isn’t yet another organisation seeking to help those in need; there are already many of those. It is more a description of whom we all are. It seeks to draw together the strands of what is already happening to make it more accessible for both those in need and those wishing to help. It came about as a result of the frustration of seeing images of refugees in great need but without any way of helping. The feeling of compassion was there, but not the means to express it in a way that could make a difference.

#CompassionateLincoln is a campaign to encourage compassionate, positive and pro-active community-led responses to some of the social challenges that affect our beautiful city and those who call it home.

People in Lincoln are compassionate, but to be effective we need to be better joined up. More fundamental though is whether we citizens want to take it one step further and say out-loud to the world who we are?

At the end of the day, it is a choice for all of us, citizens of the Lincoln. What sort of a city are we?
     

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