When we talk of coastal towns, for many of us that evokes childhood images of fish and chips, ice-creams, sandy beaches and a paddle in the clear blue sea. What is quickly forgotten is the hours of sitting in traffic on roads not built to cope with the sudden influx of holiday traffic. Perhaps it comes as a surprise to learn that coastal towns are among some of our most deprived communities in the U.K.
These communities suffer from a number of issues that are rooted in the decline of their core industries. Domestic tourism has been hit by cheap package holidays abroad, but also more traditional industries, such as fishing, ship building and port activities, have been in long term decline. This, combined with their location on the margins of the country, with poor infrastructure, leads to a struggling economy and lack of services, such as health and education.
After some initial investigation into coastal communities, through the support of Urban Expression, Sara and I moved to Looe in Cornwall three years ago. As we have got embedded in this community, we have learnt more of the joys and challenges of this community and an insight into other similar towns. I have found that, whilst there are mission agencies supporting pioneers in urban and rural areas, I have not come across any particular support or encouragement for those engaging in coastal communities. The established churches in many of these small coastal towns seem to be in terminal decline, with denominations and networks instead choosing to opt for the easier wins of investing in inland churches in larger towns and cities.
The encouraging news is that I have some funding to explore ‘Coastal Expression’, working to the values and experience of Urban Expression, but contextualising for the coastal towns. It’s early days, but I am hopeful that this could create some awareness and energy to engage with these forgotten communities. Below is a picture of the Looe Community Meals Team, who deliver twice-weekly cooked meals to those who are economically disadvantaged, those who are isolated and suffering from ill-health.
Barney can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org