Visitors poured in, traders enjoyed a bonanza and the sun was shining.
Derek Jarvis, Southend Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, said: “From a visitor point of view to see so many people here enjoying the seafront, I can’t think that’s anything but a good thing for the town.”
Fast forward a few weeks, and this was Councillor Jarvis’ response when asked about the possibility of an event for cruisers in Southend: “I’m sceptical it would have any great advantage on days which are already extremely busy.”
It’s bizarre to hear the man responsible for tourism so dismissive of an event that could potentially draw thousands of visitors to the town, but the cruising community is still lumbered with a bad reputation that’s almost as outdated as the Wayne and white stiletto stereotypes.
Perhaps Councillor Jarvis and other critics have watched Fast and the Furious and fear the seafront will be taken over by Vin Diesel lookalikes drag-racing muscle cars past the 20mph speed cameras.
This is nonsense. The vast majority of cruisers are perfectly responsible people who invest time and money in their cars and love nothing more than showing off their pride and joy to an appreciative audience. They don’t get drunk and they don’t get high.
Banning popular activities merely drives them underground, which does cause problems.
Why can’t Southend Council, the police and the cruising community have a discussion and organise a legal, safe and professional event that would undoubtedly draw visitors to the town and benefit the local economy. Perhaps there could be a charity element to it as well, to make it even more worthwhile.
If it causes trouble then review the situation and, if necessary, cancel future events, but at least give it a go.
If the council and police are still unwilling to support an event, then the cruisers should rebrand themselves as “classic car enthusiasts”, and then they’ll be welcomed with open arms.