What’s in a name?

Filed under research & consultation, the map

Some neighbourhoods have names that have their roots in the history of the area, for example ‘Ramshill’, which evolves from the area being sheep pasture (originally the larger area of ‘Rams Dale’).  Some evolve over time through colloquial use – the ‘Old Town’ surely developed in this way as people sought to describe different areas of the ever-growing Victorian Scarborough. Some names are invented by councils, developers or other groups, often with an aspirational edge.

One such area is that centred around The Crescent which hosts the municipal Art Gallery, Crescent Arts studios and Woodend Creative Workspace/Gallery and extending either side to include Westwood School of Arts, down past the Rotunda museum and probably taking in the Spa and the Futurist theatre/cinema. Add the SJT and you almost form a pleasing ‘S’ shape linking these key cultural landmarks.

When Scarborough’s Renaissance programme kicked off about 7 years ago this stretch was referred to as a potential ‘cultural quarter’ – a phrase that’s very much late 90′s / early noughties town planning speak but at least suggests the importance of culture to the renaissance of Scarborough.

So is the label still valid? The Crescent didn’t quite expand culturally as intended although Woodend is a renaissance success story. An idea for a sculpture trail through the gardens linking the main locations didn’t come to fruition. But there’s a definite arc from the top of town to the seafront that takes in at least 7 culturally significant venues.

[current council-produced town centre map - i've marked the cultural venues with a pink dot]

Some stakeholders in the CHART Scarborough project think the label shouldn’t be used. Our focus groups thought it should, even if it is still partly aspirational. One person suggested it might even prompt renewed focus on the area to finish the job.

Maps have long put names to places, often turning the vernacular into the ‘official’ in the process. Should ‘Cultural Quarter’ become an accepted name for this part of town?

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