Meet our Seasonal Partner, Westquay


Laura Read

We are delighted to have the support of our first Seasonal Partner, Westquay. We caught up with General Manager, Laura Read, to hear about what Southampton means to her and why Westquay are backing the bid.


What are your links to Southampton?

I grew up in Ringwood, just down the road. Southampton was always the ‘big city’ for me and in fact the first shopping mall I ever visited was The Marlands when I was about 11. I always visited Southampton for shopping and saw many different musicals and plays at the Mayflower with my parents and sister when we were growing up. As I got a bit older the main draw of Southampton was for nights out and of course, visits to Westquay…little did I know then that I would one day end up running it! My friends and I have fond memories (ok, maybe hazy memories) of dancing at Jumping Jacks at Leisureworld and visiting Jonglers. I relocated back to the South Coast in 2012 after some time ‘up north’ and resumed my visits to Southampton, loving the variety of shops and restaurants on offer compared to those in rural Dorset! I have always considered Southampton as my closest city and love the fact I now can play a role in her future.


Do you have a Southampton hidden gem or top tip?

Well, I would like to start spending a lot more time exploring more of the hidden nooks and crannies once lockdown is lifted to find some hidden gems but so far I have to say that I have really enjoyed discovering the range of different businesses on offer. I love Hooch and Candy in Bedford Place – it sells such a weird and wonderful selection of things (all very good for you I’m sure). As for a top tip – well it would have to be to come to Westquay of course! Make sure you check out our events calendar as we really do have so many exciting things planned for 2021 and beyond (as soon as government restrictions allow of course).


What does culture mean for you?

Culture for me refers to the way we live our lives – our habits, rituals, celebrations and indulgences. What is it about us as a people that make us thrive? It is more than just art, music, dance, literature (although those things are of course indicative of our culture), it’s the food we eat, the drinks we drink, the traditions we have at certain times of year, even just our day to day routines.


There are so many diverse and amazing types of people in Southampton that have brought lots of different elements of themselves to the city – this melting pot is the thing that should be on display as we progress our bid to become City of Culture.


As a local business why have you committed to the bid?

Westquay has been part of the fabric of the city for over 20 years. It is where families, friends and colleagues come to meet, eat, shop, celebrate, enjoy leisure time and do business. Therefore it is a fundamental part of Southampton’s culture. We want to see the city prosper and to tell the rest of the world what makes us so exciting.


What benefit do you hope to see for your organisation's employees or customers?

We hope that being a seasonal partner will allow us to be immersed in the exciting events that will lead up to the City of Culture bid and hopefully to 2025. We look forward to being able to bring more people to Westquay to display what we have to offer and to give our existing visitors even more reason to come back. Our Westquay team are incredibly proud of being part of such a large part of the Southampton landscape and hope to bring that pride to more people through our partnership with the bid.


How do you think that UK City of Culture will impact Southampton and the wider region long term?

UK City of Culture will help us to unlock the potential we have within the city for great things to happen. We already have fantastic institutions, a thriving commercial port, a great range of businesses and a strategically important location. We just need the rest of the world to pay some attention! By raising the profile of the city and the region on the UK and international stage we will hopefully see greater levels of investment, relocation and tourism flooding into the Solent!


Would you urge other business to back the bid and why?

The UK City of Culture bid is the biggest thing to happen to Southampton in a very long time. It is exciting, inclusive, game changing and more than anything….it is fun! As we emerge from some of the darkest days for the UK business community, we should be looking to grab hold of opportunities for optimism and let them carry us back towards the ever-growing light at the end of the tunnel. I think we have two choices at the moment, focus on the past, or look towards a brighter future. That is why I would urge any business to get on board and back the bid.