'Didcot's not so crap now'

First published in News by

THE author of a bestselling book which ranked Didcot in a list of 'crap towns' paid a visit to the town last week - and said it had gone up in his estimation.

When Sam Jordison wrote Crap Towns in 2003, thousands of people living in places like Middlesbrough, Hull, Croydon, Luton and Wolverhampton explained why where they lived was so dire.

The results were collected and published as a series of books and, according to the bible of rubbish places to live, Didcot was 20th in the rankings.

Mr Jordison, 30, who grew up at Morecambe, Lancashire, was in Abingdon last Friday to promote his new book, Annus Horribilis, and agreed to revisit Didcot.

He was taken around the town by MP Ed Vaizey and Alison Adams, director of Didcot First, a group set up to change people's perception of the railway town.

He dined on canapes at Splitz in Wantage Road, the first restaurant in the town to be awarded an AA rosette, and visited the Northmoor Trust at Long Wittenham, before donning a hard hat and wellies for a tour of the town's soon-to-be-completed arts centre.

Mr Jordison said he would be surprised if Didcot made the list a second time round and the town had gone up in his estimation.

He said: "I definitely feel more positive about the town, but I still stand by my reasons that it needs work. But I had a very enjoyable time and I was really encouraged by quite a few things.

"Didcot First are doing really well and the new arts centre looks like it will be a fun place to go."

He said: "The Orchard Centre was the one thing that I was most ambivalent about because it is mostly chain stores, parasite shops which offer no long-term benefit to the community because they do not put anything back into it.

"The Northmoor Trust was fantastic, I really enjoyed the view - it was beautiful, and the food at Splitz was very nice."

Mr Jordison added: "I liked the small-scale initiatives and the What's On guide organised by Didcot First because it was very useful.

"It will be a few years until the next book, but Didcot might just escape."

Mr Vaizey said: "He came, he saw and he was impressed by what Didcot had to offer. I think he is now an undisputed fan of our great town."

Ms Adams said inviting the author to the town was a worthwhile exercise.

She said: "When we realised the author of the Crap Towns book was coming to Abingdon for a book signing, we saw it as an ideal opportunity to have a dialogue with him.

"We wanted to show him how much the town has changed since the book was published a few years back."

In his first book, Mr Jordison suggested Didcot existed only because of "a void - the railway junction between the London-West Coast and the Oxford lines".

He pointed to empty shops on one side of Broadway, facing houses on the other which he felt ensured no atmosphere of privacy for residents.

He said: "Didcot has been the subject of large-scale, completely unplanned expansion."

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