Pride in Ryde
“Ryde has always had a history of quirky, independent shops. Liz Earle built an international brand from her shop in Union Street and we even had a Dr Who shop that was world famous.
“I can remember we used to have a branch of the shoe shop Russell and Bromley, where I proudly became the owner of a pair of white leather stacked heel boots back in the day.
“While Union Street has retained some of that charm, our High Street has struggled. I Heart Buttons is a great example of the sort of business we need to be encouraging on the High Street – I love picking up something really different there and sending it to my granddaughter.
“With the Ryde Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) we have a huge opportunity to bring the buzz back to the High Street.
“I love the quirkiness and history of Ryde. I enjoy nothing more than travelling on the upper deck of the fast cat from Portsmouth and as you approach Ryde, you look up into the town and it looks like somewhere on the Italian coast.
“We are the town on the beach and I love Ryde’s motto ‘A healthy, beautiful place.’
“There used to be so much music in Ryde. The Vectis Hall was used when they were filming ‘That’ll be the Day’ in the early 70s and I got Ringo Starr’s autograph.
“Bands like Pink Floyd performed at the Royal York hotel which also had tea dances that were really popular.
“Sadly somewhere along the way, Ryde lost its identity and we have been trying to claim it back ever since.
“We need to celebrate our heritage but also think about our young people. There is a message of hope. We have a youth service based on the High Street. St Thomas church has lain empty for years but we are bringing it back into community service.
“I left Ryde to get work when I was a young man but if we can start to create more opportunities for our young people, we can retain our talent instead.
“HAZ embraces all of these strands and I am very excited about the difference it will make for Ryde.
“When I came back to live on the island eight years ago, I had never been involved with politics up to that point and if anything I had actively avoided getting involved.
“But when there was a by-election in 2016 for the town council, I was asked by local people if I would stand and in 2017 elected onto the Isle of Wight council.
“It was the start of a trend to give a wider community voice into the Council. We shared a love of the town but we all had a feeling it was looking a little bedraggled.
“My vision is for the whole of Union Street and High Street to get back their wow factor so people can enjoy shopping for something that is a little bit different and enjoy the experience.”