Culture means different things to people; from art to sport, music, theatre, dance and much more. In our series of 'Our Community' interviews, we wanted to introduce you to some the many Sotonians who have helped to keep culture alive in our city throughout the recent pandemic.
In our first interview, we caught up with Chris Rees, founder of ReesLeisure, the company behind local mass running events such as the ABP Southampton Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k. Chris told us his Southampton roots and about how he has helped to keep Southampton running during the pandemic.
Tell us about yourself and your links to Southampton
I'm a local boy, born here in Southampton. I am a keen runner and cyclist and my company organises large sporting events in the city including the ABP Southampton Marathon, Southampton Sailing Week and the NEW cycling Event - Southampton Sporterium.
Why is Southampton special to you?
I think we are so lucky to have a city that is on the water as I love to kayak, swim and sail. There is so much going on, every weekend there are sporting events, amazing live music or things to go and see and explore in the city. I moved away for University but came back later as I just love the vibe and feeling in the city. It's also a very well connected city so friends from all over the UK always enjoy coming down to see us and to find such a range of things to do.
What’s your favourite place in Southampton?
My favourite place in the city - ooh tough one! I really like top of the Itchen Bridge. It gives you such a great view of the city and you can see the stadium, guildhall, out over the docks and all the way over to the Isle of Wight on a clear day. I always try to include this in my runs or walks - its worth it for the view! My favourite place to have a meal or drink has to be Ocean village on a sunny afternoon. With a cold pint and looking at all the beautiful yachts is amazing!
What does culture mean to you?
Culture to me is the people - Sotonians have a real 'can do' attitude. There is such a mix of exciting cultures, all of whom are very welcoming. The city feels alive at events when the whole city comes together, such as festivals on the common, the marathon or Music in the City. It's a city to experience and there is so much to do. We have parks, waterfront, rivers and so many activities to take part in; from kayaking and climbing to skiing. It's an exciting city - you cannot get bored here!
How has lockdown affected what you do?
Lockdown has been very mixed for us. Business has been greatly affected with events not being able to take place as usual, but our runners have really supported our virtual events and we have some great plans for a return to events later this year. The fitness boom has been great with more people than ever before taking up running and cycling, so we are anticipating bigger events as life returns to normal. Last summer we managed to do Covid secure events in the city, working with ZoieLogic Dance team. I also spent more time actually training and I even lost a stone as I had more time for running and cycling myself.
Why should Southampton be named City of Culture 2025?
I am incredibly proud of our city and the people who live here. I think most of us are extremely proud of our city but we just don't shout about it as much as we should do. I think City of Culture would be a great win for the city and would shine a light on the city's incredible cultural offering from the arts to sport. It would really show off the Southampton spirit!