As we begin a new year, 2012 certainly looks set to be a big one for the Portsmouth area. From nationally-important celebrations and commemorations to major new events, big building projects and boosts to the local economy, things are really going to be happening here.
We’ll be the focus of huge attention as the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth is marked. This literary giant began his life right here in Portsmouth and events range from a wreath-laying ceremony to public screenings of Dickens films and an exhibition featuring pages from the manuscript of Nicholas Nickleby.
But we’re also delighted that a lottery-funded Dickens community archive project started last year will come to fruition, while the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum will be improved.
Another anniversary to be marked in 2012 is 30 years since the end of the Falklands conflict. Can it really be that long since the hastily-assembled Task Force sailed from this city to fight a war thousands of miles away in the South Atlantic? It will be a time for remembrance and reflection, but also an opportunity for veterans to parade with pride.
The Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 and a party in Guildhall Square will be a fitting way to mark this happy occasion. Beacons will also be lit at Southsea Castle and Portsdown Hill, while you can be sure there’ll be street parties across the city raising a glass to Her Majesty.
We’ve also got two exciting new events to look forward to – Portsmouth Air Festival and Ribex 2012 – while the eagerly-awaited new £35m Mary Rose Museum and the University of Portsmouth’s distinctive ‘blade’ tower will open.
And of course the Olympics just happen to be taking place almost on our doorstep, with the iconic torch passing this way ahead of the Games.
Meanwhile, away from the razzamatazz, Rowner in Gosport and Tipner in Portsmouth are receiving long-overdue regeneration and £2.1m of government funding will help small and medium-sized businesses grow.
In so many ways, it’s shaping up to be a memorable 12 months.