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Southampton’s tourist drive

Southampton could be the biggest and brightest city in the UK that you’ve never been to and tourist bosses are stepping-up a campaign to get you there.

It has been ranked as one of the top three places to live and work in the country and they claim historic city of Southampton is a treasure trove of hidden gems.

It has been a hub for transport and commerce for thousands of years and its city walls, the longest original medieval walls in Britain, have borne witness to some of the most pivotal moments in English history.

In recent years it has complemented this long heritage by adding a plethora of new developments, shops, hotels and cultural offerings to explore. And there’s even more in the pipeline as part of Southampton’s ambitious redevelopment ‘Masterplan’.

The newest jewel in Southampton’s crown, and one of the city’s biggest developments in recent years, is its Cultural Quarter, comprising of one of the UK’s few remaining producing theatres, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, and world class contemporary art gallery, John Hansard Gallery. Bolstering the city’s cultural offering even further is the Mayflower Theatre, the third biggest theatre outside of the capital.

The city also has a thriving music scene, with numerous venues playing host to a diverse range of musicians spanning an eclectic mix of genres, from 90’s revival in the Engine Rooms, to indie up and comers at The Joiners, to current chart toppers at St Mary’s Stadium.

Southampton is poised to bid for the next UK City of Culture due in 2025 and James Gough, director of Southampton Cultural Development Trust, said: “It is an exciting time in Southampton with a recognition that the city’s heritage and culture are key drivers for the development of city pride and economic growth.

“A number of strong partnership projects are underway that look to ensure that collectively the city maximises the social and economic value of its strong cultural sector. It looks like the city is well on its way to experiencing a resurgence.”

Southampton is quietly creating ripples in the digital world too, and last year ranked among the top five fastest growing tech clusters in Europe in a report published by estate advisors CBRE, EMEA Tech Cities: Opportunities in Technology Hotspots. And through the InLink UK service from BT, Southampton has the fastest free public wifi service available in the country.

The concrete tower blocks that were hastily built in the 50’s and 60’s have been removed and the new developments are revealing and celebrating parts of the medieval city that have been hidden from view for over half a century.

The city’s maritime heritage is set to take centre stage in the next few years too as part of an international commemoration of the sailing of the Mayflower from Southampton to America, Mayflower 400.

The SeaCity Museum focuses on the city’s connection with the sea, including its Titanic heritage and the stories of the people who have travelled in and out of the city by sea through the ages.

The largest working steam ship in Britain, Steamship Shieldhall, based at Southampton’s Eastern Docks, still serves as a sea going tribute to Britain’s maritime heritage.

Solent Sky Museum, meanwhile, is uniquely concerned with the development of the aviation and aircraft manufacturing companies in the Solent area over the past century. Its collection includes the legendary Spitfire, which was designed and built in the city.

That’s the blurb. My interest has been whetted. Has yours?

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