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Winchester at Christmas shows how shared values can improve city life

Places can have values. Marketing teams, charged with bringing shoppers and tourists into Britain’s regions, counties and cities, have long made claims for their particular locations – Glasgow Smiles Better, Incredinburgh.

But values are different. They cannot be imposed by a snappy creative, they have to develop organically from within. Values are about recognising what is both true and of importance to the residents.

This year, there has been a lot of talk about what makes Winchester special. Because there is something distinct about the nation’s historic capital, which surpasses its glorious Cathedral and Jane Austen connections.

In the consultation around the city centre regeneration, people talked of a development which encapsulated ‘Winchesterness’. At the Civic Prayer Breakfast in December, participants from all walks of life made frequent reference to the ‘Winchester way of doing things’. A gentler, less frenetic, more generous spirit which, at its best, brings the city together as one.

Steve Brine MP recognised this when he told the prayer breakfast, “Winchester is the heart of the Big Society.”

This was beautifully exemplified by the online campaign to select the celebrity who would be invited to turn on the city’s Christmas lights. Not the brashness of Piers Morgan (does he really represent the Stockbridge brand?). Not even a well-respected local TV star like Alistair Stewart or Sarah Parish.

No. Winchester saw a surge of support online for popular Big Issue seller, Kevin Collick.

Kevin is well known and well-liked because, pure and simply, he cheers people up as they make their way along the High Street. Kevin lifts the spirits of Wintonians and they, in turn, lift his. As he told the BBC, the city was different from other affluent towns because he was not snubbed by passers-by.

Winchester BID, which arranges the city’s Christmas lights, had the good sense to follow the public’s lead and the result was a triumph for all. The city’s generosity of spirit was seen in the public response to the event, which saw thousands of pounds contributed to homelessness charities.

Generosity, public spirit, community, sensitivity – Winchesterness indeed.

University chairman, Alan Lovell recognises the benefits this brings to the institutions who operate here. “The University knows it is lucky to have Winchester in its name.”

Winchester residents appreciate their city. What values do your location or brand show off to the world?

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