WHY ISN’T NORWICH HIGHER IN THE POPULARITY CONTEST?

by James Anthony

A poll of over fifty-thousand people has found that Norwich is more popular than major cities including Manchester, Birmingham and even London, ‘The Big Smoke’ itself. However, many areas across the country have been rated as more popular than our beloved city, creating local headlines such as “How can Stoke be rated a nicer city than Norwich?” and comments of, “At least we have Delia Smith!”. Norwich ended up as the twenty-fourth most popular city in that YouGov survey, and I was certainly amongst those who were a little disappointed with the result.

Regardless of passion about Norwich, looking at the full results of the poll suggest that our city has the winning formula for popularity. Those places far down the unpopular end of the list tend to be small, northern and industrial such as Bradford, Coventry and Hull. Even larger cities which benefit from more cultural attractions and infrastructure such as Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool – all fall below Norwich – and seem to be penalised for being northern and industrial. The winning criteria as demonstrated by number one choice, York, as well as top ten cities such as Cambridge, Bath and Canterbury seems to be as follows:

  • Have a relatively small city centre
  • Be historic with lots of older architecture and landmarks from different periods
  • Based in the south of England (this is a general rule with the overall table, although there are notable exceptions)
  • Have an under-industrialised economy

Bizarrely, Norwich fits all these criteria. Our city centre is very walkable with a fantastic selection of shops and restaurants, we are generally regarded as being in the South, are far from industrial and have a wealth of history spread across the city, spanning several time periods. Even aside from these general trends, we have a fantastic university, surrounding rural areas and a treasure trove of attractions to explore. Why then, do we not feature higher in the popularity contest?

Mentioning Norwich anywhere further afield on holiday will usually bring blank stares followed by the ever frustrating line, “is that near London?”

Having been away from Norwich a fair bit over the summer for breaks and in search of post-university work, any mention of my home city tends to be met with vague mutterings about mustard and Alan Partridge, or jokes about farmers, incest and being painfully average at football. Mentioning Norwich anywhere further afield on holiday will usually bring blank stares followed by the ever frustrating line, “is that near London?” Perhaps, it is no surprise that Norwich struggles for popularity, or even recognition. Locals will admit that it is largely unknown outside of East Anglia, owing to poor rail connections with the rest of the country and the city itself being rather out of the way. Despite Norfolk and The Broads being a popular attraction for tourists and holidaymakers, Norwich itself often falls under the radar for being miles from anywhere and is seen as just another little city. The simple answer for our lack of popularity is, nobody knows about us.

many of my friends and colleagues who moved here for work or education have ended up falling in love with the place

Now, I could make a case for turning Norwich into a tourist hotspot, begging the government to improve our transport infrastructure and spend money on expanding what our city has to offer, but I’m not sure that is necessary. This light-hearted article in the Eastern Daily Press recently gave us many reasons to view Norwich as better than York, the city which topped the popularity poll. I’ve been to York a couple of times and found it pleasant enough and very pretty, but it is a city which tries too hard. It’s packed full of gimmicky tourist attractions and feels devoid of actual local people and any sort of atmosphere. I don’t believe that Norwich should aspire to be like that. It is the uniqueness and standalone qualities of Norwich that make it so fantastic. Everybody I know who has visited Norwich has something good to say about it, and so many of my friends and colleagues who moved here for work or education have ended up falling in love with the place and staying. Who cares about a popularity contest and what the general public think? We all know that we live in a very fine city indeed.

Image Credit – Andrew Hurley


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