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Award-winning producer and screenwriter, Dominic Minghella, reminisces about Ryde

Award-winning producer and screenwriter, Dominic Minghella, has a deep affection for his home town of Ryde and in this blog post he shares childhood memories and his hopes for how the High Street can thrive in the future. 

“I had a very particular childhood growing-up in Ryde and became independent from a very early age.

“I was the last of five children and by the time I came along, my parents had become well known in the community.

“They were on the council, serving on committees, supporting charities and running a very active business on the High Street opposite where Woollies used to be.

“We were a very well-known family, which had its bonuses, but you couldn’t pick your nose on the High Street without it being reported back!

“Because my parents were so busy, I was left to my own devices with so much freedom to do what I wanted. My sister enjoys recounting how she told my Mum she had seen me on my bike on my own on the seafront. My Mum said that was fine as it was perfectly safe – but I was only 2.5 years old.

“That was the advantage of being part of a tightly knit community. As a child, I thought it was great because if I needed anything I could just go to the shops where we had an account to get what I needed.

“If my Mum was too busy I would take myself off to the shops where I could get my school uniform and buy my own trousers.

“I can recall bringing friends home from school for tea and it would be cooked in the kitchen of the cafe. We made it ourselves putting the chips in the fryer and afterwards we would want to play football and as we left through the back of the shop, we would try to dodge my Dad who would be in full production making ice cream.

“Most of the time we would end up getting roped in, putting lids on the tubs and carrying them into the cold rooms, and in the end my friends weren’t keen to come round because it was too much like hard work.

“I did enjoy so much freedom when I was growing-up and when I look back it’s not so much with rose-tinted spectacles as with technicolour glasses. My memories are the colours of Nigh’s iconic 1970s postcards of the Island – the flower beds along the esplanade, and somehow that sense of the Island being  at the centre of the world – the place to which everybody wanted to come for their holiday.

“But by the time I was thinking about going to college in the mid-80s, I did feel I had outgrown the Island and I think my school friends and I felt that if you wanted culture, it was on the other side of the water. That’s just how it was.

“Looking to the future of the high street in Ryde and what can be done to bring people there, I think about what I’ve noticed on my travels around the world.

“When you have a defined centre or square, people will gravitate towards it. Everything flows when there is a nice place to sit and there are good restaurants, bars and coffee shops to visit.

“We need to find a way to nudge Ryde and Newport forward, so they become aspirational – there are already lots of positives with the new restaurants and bars springing up and the Island becoming known for its local produce.

“I do believe in the nudge theory, where if you feel like there is a commitment to a cause that is long-term, you would feel more inclined to want to take a risk and set up a business.

“With strong ties to the Island intact (my sister and niece live in Ventnor and I am often visiting my Dad in Ryde, as well as my partner, Sarah Beardsall’s family in Cowes) a cohort of friends who left when I did has now returned so it’s nice to catch-up with them. The Island still feels like it has that strong community which served me so well, but we  need to find a way to help young people to have the choice to stay here rather than being forced to go elsewhere for work.

“Whenever I visit I see the Town Hall in Ryde increasingly in a state of disrepair and it is a tragedy. It is a place of my youth as I used to have to sit in a back room while my parents attended council meetings there, my brother Anthony performed with his band there, and all of us took part in those slightly terrifying IW Musical Festival competitions on its stage. I suspect many Islanders share my fond memories of this important and beautiful community space.

“It would be great to get it back into public use and a long-term strategy is definitely needed so it can become a viable venue.”