Eastbourne Life with Graham Walker: We love Eastbourne Harbour?

“Where shall we meet?” asks a friend coming down for a long weekend with his family. I suggest the harbour. “I’m not falling for that one, another Walker wind up. I still remember you sending me to the builders merchant for a Long Weight!” replies my friend. I forget the harbour as happy memories of the friends I grew up with flood back.

The next day, I am looking at some corporate blurb about Sovereign Harbour and I read that it was named after the Sovereign Shoals. I wish I had been in the room when this was discussed. Shall we name the new harbour after that big town up the road, the sunniest place in Britain with more than four million tourists a year, or shall we name it after an area of shallow water a few miles out to sea? The answer should have been obvious. It should be Eastbourne Harbour!

Surely, it can’t be too late to put this mistake right? I understand that there would be some renaming costs but the benefits of having an Eastbourne Harbour are likely to massively outweigh these costs. How many potential visitors know that Eastbourne has a harbour to stroll around that is full of fishing, pleasure and sailing boats and has plenty of places to shop, eat and drink? It makes sense that this simple name change would attract more visitors to the town and go a long way to the Council’s stated aim of attracting different types of higher spending tourists. How many poor yacht owners do you know?

I occasionally I read complaints from Sovereign residents and business owners that the harbour is too often overlooked as a tourist attraction and when local amenities and activities are planned. In my view, they have a point. We should all do what we can to make better connections between the town and our harbour. We can do this by better communicating the connection, by always calling it Eastbourne Harbour, and how we include the harbour and its residents when planning local events and promotions.

The harbour could do more too. Some of the facilities seem poorly used by the town as a whole. For example, the Sovereign Yacht club has a nice bar, dining and conference facilities but it doesn’t feel like a well used community resource. If the owners were to dramatically cut membership and room booking fees they could fill the place up and increase their food and bar takings. Currently, it is a bit of a white elephant. The bar and dinning are only open a few days a week and the conference room with spectacular views lies empty most of the time.

I have no idea of who owns the naming rights of the harbour. My suggestion is that we simply change its name by people power! If we all begin to call it Eastbourne Harbour whenever we talk or write about it this will stick. My suggestion for the Herald, the Council, hoteliers, and tourism chiefs is to immediately begin to use “Eastbourne (Sovereign) Harbour in all official communications, at least for a few years before dropping mention of Sovereign altogether.

Getting the name of Eastbourne Harbour right would be a good start. Not just for tourism but to make the residents and business owners feel that the town is proud of them. For my part, I’ll get the “We Love Eastbourne Harbour” T-Shirts printed in good time for the summer season.


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