We are delighted to have the support of our Media Partners, Our Version Media CIC. We caught up with Founder, Veronica Gordon, to hear about what Southampton means to her and why Our Version Media CIC are backing the bid.
Tell us about yourself and your links to Southampton
I took my first breath of air in Southampton. I was conceived, born, raised and educated in the city. So, I guess my links go way back!
My name is Veronica Gordon. I’m a broadcast journalist turned social entrepreneur, and I’m the founder of the Southampton-based community media enterprise, Our Version Media CIC. I equip people from the city’s black and diverse communities with media skills to tell and share their own, authentic stories. Their stories showcase the beauty - and sometimes the grit - of the city’s residents.
Why is Southampton special to you?
Southampton is special to me because I chose to build my life here. As my childhood friends grew up and “fled the small-town life” as they called it, I decided to stay. I’ve watched the city grow and change over the decades & I love what I see.
I’m hugely excited about our UK City of Culture 2025 Bid. Southampton is so ready for it. It’s the push Southampton needs in order to “level up”, to take its rightful place amongst the major UK destinations. I also think that this bidding process is the push we need to help us ‘bounce back’ from the devastation of the pandemic.
The biggest reason Southampton is so special to me is because my parents are here. Most of my family is here - my siblings, daughter, nieces, nephews, aunties, uncles, my huge Caribbean family. My friends are here too, and I love the diverse communities that I’m part of - where lots of places feel like home.
What’s your favourite place in Southampton?
So many of my favourite places just raced through my mind! From my favourite restaurants, to the parks and green spaces, to the water, Unity 101 Community Radio’s studio, the theatres, the cultural quarter, my neighbourhood.
But my favourite place is my parents’ home, spending quality time with them, or being there with the whole family, that’s where I feel happiest. I’ve been really missing that over the past year, and I’m missing hugs with my mum and dad! I’m from a big Caribbean family and, pre-pandemic, we’d all regularly flock to my parents’ place. It was beautiful and my dad, who’s a former restaurateur, cooks up the most delicious Caribbean dinners!
What does culture mean to you?
When I think of culture, I think of my vibrant Caribbean (Trinidadian & Jamaican) and British (England & Southampton) cultures, and the beautiful blend of them that makes me, me! From the food, to the music, to the traditions, to the communities, beliefs and values - and the elements of each that I’ve adopted to create my uniqueness. To the other elements of culture that gives me shared experiences and bonds with others. I love my cultures - well I should - I have so many I can pick & mix my favourite bits! I also love sharing my cultures with others, welcoming them and introducing them to the things that are special to me.
It’s the same for Southampton, in terms of our City of Culture bid; culture is everything that lifts Southampton from a grey built up city, to a vibrant colourful one. And behind each of those things is the people.
How is Our Version Media helping to showcase culture in Southampton?
I’m lucky enough to have been volunteering in Southampton’s diverse communities for nearly 15 years. I’ve also been a broadcast journalist for close to 15 years - across radio, TV news, print and digital media. Doing those things at the same time made it painfully obvious to me that some of the city’s most vibrant communities are rarely acknowledged by the local media for the great contributions they make to our city. What’s worse is that, where you do see these communities in the press, they’re often demonised - because of their ethnic group, or they’re an immigrant, or because of their gender, sexuality or religion, or because they’re low income or single parent households, “unskilled workers”, or social housing tenants.
Our Version Media is changing that. We’re equipping local people from marginalised communities with media skills to tell their own, authentic stories. We’re shining a spotlight on their stories, cultures, vibrancy, diversity and resilience. We’ve also teamed up with organisations across the city to give media training to people in their neighbourhoods.
In fact, we’re “creating an army of mobile storytellers from diverse communities across the city” and by doing so, we are empowering the city’s own residents to, themselves, showcase culture in Southampton.
Why should Southampton be named UK City of Culture 2025?
To this question, I’ll simply say: Southampton is more than ready for its “glow up”.