To outsiders Portsmouth can mean the Royal Navy, the dockyard and the football club.
You might also hear a not-too-flattering description of it as ‘a northern city on the south coast’.
But ask anyone who lives here and they will tell you it is much more than that.
So to spread the word 100 dedicated volunteers have been entrusted with the responsibility of becoming ambassadors for the city.
The initiative is part of the multi-million pound Shaping the Future of Portsmouth programme, which aims to transform the region with public and private investment over the next 25 years.
Drawn from various backgrounds and professions, the ambassadors have been recruited to inspire businesses, residents, young people and visitors with their passion for the city.
They will also outline the ambitious plans for the transformation of Portsmouth, including projects such as the long-awaited Northern Quarter, the Tipner regeneration, plans for a bridge to Port Solent and investments in Portsmouth City Council-owned land.
There is hope these plans will create more than 16,000 new jobs and lead to 5,000 new homes being built over the next decade, backed by a mammoth total investment of at least £1bn.
Each Portsmouth ambassador has been given training by Highbury College in Cosham to equip them with the skills they need to deliver presentations to schools, businesses, neighbourhood forums and community groups.
Part of the scheme herself, Denise Barlow wrote the ambassador programme and the workbook in collaboration with Theresa Cole from Highbury College.
She said: ‘I sat on the city brand group and at one of our meetings we decided to create ambassadors to promote the regeneration and celebrate the success of Portsmouth.
‘Each ambassador will have their own take on how that works – there are business ambassadors who will celebrate the regeneration of the city and use that to attract more investment, whereas the youth ambassadors will talk about everything that is great about living here.
‘Initially the ambassadors will be giving talks inside Portsmouth, but we are also looking further afield.
‘For example I am speaking to Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, which happens to be meeting in the city this year.
‘We want to let people know we are not standing still, we are in the middle of a fantastic regeneration programme which will take place over the next 10 or 15 years.
‘And it is something we can all promote in out own ways; I have helped create the workbook which will let the ambassadors give their presentations.
‘The landlady of the Shepherd’s Crook pub has created a Pompey quiz which, once it is finished, could be played in pubs across the city.’
Denise said the most important thing the ambassadors bring is a burning passion for the city where they live, work and play.
She adds: ‘My family were evacuated here out of Yemen when I was around eight years old. ‘Then I went to live in the north of England and came back during the 70s.
‘The city changed so much in that time. I remember when Arundel Street was still bombed out after the war, but when I came back the city was starting to change. It lost some of the navy work but you had big companies like IBM moving in.
‘I love Portsmouth because these days it is a beautiful city to look at.
‘And I love what is happening to Albert Road, it has completely changed from how I remember it.
‘When I was young you couldn’t go out at night, but now I think this is a safe city.
‘And our transport links to the rest of the south are second to none. You can be in London in an hour.
‘I also think we have the best waterfront in the country.’
Ambassador Circe Barnes, 38, from Fratton, works for Portsmouth City Council’s regeneration team and manages the website jobcafe.co.uk, which helps young people break into the jobs market.
She said: ‘As the parent of
a teenage boy it felt reassuring to know my son is growing up in a city which is growing. It’s nice to give that positive message to people, particularly young people.
‘I see Portsmouth as a place with lots of prospects, lots of potential to get even better than it is now. I moved here from the countryside 20 years ago and now I’ve got a family of my own.
‘And there’s so much here for young people – you’ve got the seafront, Gunwharf Quays, the nightlife, all the walks around Hilsea, and a great selection of restaurants and bars. There’s a lot of great stuff that goes on here.’
For technology firm boss Peter Reed-Forrester, Portsmouth is bursting with possibilities for companies to grow and invest.
‘I’m not from Portsmouth originally, I grew up in south London and then spent 10 years in Spain,’ he said.
‘So I am able to look at life here from an outsider’s perspective and I have come to love it. It is a great city and not having grown up here I think I’m able to look objectively at it and its prospects.
‘Portsmouth doesn’t get the credit it deserves – we have fantastic facilities here.
‘If I want to eat well I have got such a choice, if I want to go out for a drink I have got such a choice, from Gunwharf Quays, to Albert Road, to Old Portsmouth. There is also a huge amount of sport and leisure facilities.
‘And we have so many great businesses, but we are losing great people who are being educated here and not staying to work.
‘So we need to find many ways of getting out
and talking to people – making as many opportunities as we can of spreading the news.
‘My company is just going to start a website called Positive Portsmouth, where the whole idea is talking about the positive things we do as a city. If there is a certain view of the city it is partly historical.
‘Portsmouth was regarded as a naval and dockyard city and because of that there are a variety of ongoing issues, such as people growing up with skills suited to the dockyard.
‘And that is the view people still have, without realising that we have some of the top hi-tech companies in the country here.’
n If you know of anyone who would like to sign up to shout about Portsmouth’s success, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEET THE AMBASSADORS
Name: Peter Reed-Forrester
Lives in: Denmead
Job: MD of Community UK, based in Langstone Technology Park, the company that installed free wireless broadband into Leigh Park and is now planning to do the same in Portsmouth.
He said: ‘I got involved in Shaping the Future of Portsmouth originally.
‘I sat on the city brand team and now I am involved in all sorts of things. Over the next few years I want to move the business to Portsmouth and expand from five to around 30 employees.’
Name: Richard Crawley
Lives in: Portsmouth
Job: CEO of recruitment firm STR Group, which is based in Northarbour Road in Portsmouth.
He said: ’I joined up partly because I wanted to see Portsmouth thrive as a business hub in the south. The city has just got so much to offer, we have a great talent pool and a very successful university.
‘Hopefully I can use my expertise to help engage with these people and let them know what a great place Portsmouth is to live, to work and to do business.’
Name: Denise Barlow
Lives in: Hilsea
Job: Runs training company Denique Training Services, with a background in media, marketing and public relations. She was one of the founders of the ambassadors programme.
She said: ‘I attended a Shaping the Future of Portsmouth event last year and heard MP Mike Hancock giving a speech in which he called people to action to become ambassadors for the city. That was my inspiration and that’s what we are doing – answering that call to action.’
Shaping the Future of Portsmouth: Timeline for £1bn of planned investment
2014 – Tipner Road junction (£30m)
A new M275 interchange has received planning permission and a share of a £5bn pot of government funding to bring the regeneration of Tipner one step closer.
2015 – Dunsbury Hill Farm road (£12m); Other developments (£100m)
The council owns the Dunsbury site in Havant, and is now working with the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire, the Solent LEP and Hampshire County Council to submit a planning application.
Other projects include the Zurich building becoming a hotel, a 26-storey hotel in Surrey Street and the expansion of Lakeside North Harbour.
2017 – City centre road (£30m)
The council has approved £100,000 to design a new road system for the city centre and it is now aiming to borrow up to £20m and split the remaining £10m costs with developers.
2018 – The Northern Quarter (£270m)
Centros is hoping to submit revised proposals for the £500m Northern Quarter project, which will revamp the city’s shopping centre, later this year.
2020 – Tipner redevelopment (£130m); Bridge to Port Solent (£20m); Seafront Strategy (£100m)
Proposals for the clean-up and development of Tipner include more than 600 homes, a new motorway junction and the decontamination of a large area of toxic land.
The council also plans to design and build a bridge link between Tipner to Horsea Island with a view to building 1,000 homes in Port Solent. The recently-unveiled seafront masterplan shows how money could be invested.
2024 – Flood defences (£80m)
To protect the areas of the city susceptible to flooding, such as Southsea and Farlington, the council has been awarded £1m to design a defence system.
2032 – Development of other city council-owned sites (£270m)
The council has begun to earmark some sites it owns, such as the Greetham Street car park and Drummond House, for sale and redevelopment.