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Re-opening Southend Marine Activity Centre will re-connect Southend's heritage to the water

You would think living in a city with ‘on-sea’ in the name might mean that its citizens might have been brought-up equivalent to Spartan warriors when it comes to our abilities on the water. If ever there was a time when this was true, it has long since passed.

The return of SMAC is long overdue.

If it’s potential were realised both children and adults alike would be re-connected to the waters. It is part of our heritage as a community who lives by the sea and yet most of us are sailing illiterates.

Only the folk that can afford it are the remaining few that have continued the culture on the water. The rest are left only to view the water as a museum piece with the summer window allowing us to splash around in it from time to time.

Astonishingly, rather than working on a plan to bring it back, an extension to a restaurant and a couple of extra toilets is being earmarked for the property.

How is this possible?

Not that long ago we lost Warrior Square swimming pool. Wonderful facility that I regularly visited with my family growing up. The Olympics came along and so Garon’s pool was built, but instead of welcoming facilities that could be used by residents from different parts of the then town, they demolished Warrior!

I mention Warrior Square swimming pool because it existed within my lifetime. I was only recently privy to the fact that Genting Casino was in a former life a brilliant lido!

From the footage I have seen it was magnificent. What vision our previous leaders had. People looked like they were having terrific fun and how much would our city benefit from something like that today? A horribly shortsighted decision to close it down.

Focus Youth used to be a hub for young people to meet. Gone and forgotten.

So it is not a surprise that SMAC has been lying dormant for half a decade or more.

No drive. No want. No desire. These things are not that big. Some parts of the world are sending spaceships to Mars! We can’t even get our sailing doors open to a captive audience.

I will be working with Urban Cure, run by my fellow Confelicity member and candidate, to bring it back to life.

Dee Curtis, who is the passion behind the re-birth of SMAC, has previously run a CIC named Red Onion, in Walthamstow. When she moved to Southend nearly 7 years ago, she was surprised that Southend did not have a community club for water sports.

The yacht clubs across Southend cater for a fairly specific audience, which really means very few Southend residents get on the water.

Thus, our greatest asset is left untouched aside from a touch of sewage overflow.

The plans from the council will see SMAC finished forever.

It is true, the hundreds of thousands of people that never learnt how to tame the waters will never know what they missed out on.

The memories they never had perhaps won’t feature as a regret. But, the elders of our city know full well what they would have missed out on. And yet they make their decision anyway.

We are a good city, but sometimes I feel we are going backwards. Just look at the Pier. The height of ambition was to build a glorified cafe!

We get involved in schemes no one asked for such as Queensway, Seaway and Southend United, and destroy what we actually want such as the Kursaal and the High Street.

Re-opening SMAC is not ambitious. It is a very modest undertaking with immeasurable benefits to almost everyone in Southend.

Dee has worked hard to attain what is termed a ‘right to bid’, which means her organisation gets 6 months to complete a business plan before anyone else can take it on.

It really shouldn’t be so desperate.

It’s another reason why Southend residents need to involve themselves in the political decisions making that is going on.

I sincerely hope Dee is successful because if she is, in years to come there will be hundreds of thousands of Southend residents with skills, knowledge and happy memories of being on the water. And we could be a city built on the foundations of our waters.

And when the kids are standing on their wind surfer boards trying to get it to move in the direction they want, when they are sailing their boats along the Thames Estuary, when in years to come some go on to become Olympic sailors, they can look to a moment they will never know, inspired by a person they may never meet, but all the same will have enhanced and enriched their lives and generations after.

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