Boscombe is an ambiguous suburb, tarnished with a bad reputation for its crime and housing problems, but also an area oozing in cool and creativity.
From the murals of Pokesdown station to the quiet pier standing in the Channel, Boscombe is a suburb unlike many others. Slick-dressed students listening to the latest house mix are coupled with rough sleepers; and while flurries of fashionistas flock to the The Royal Arcade’s Vintage Market, sunken-eyed folk stumble the street from the night before last. “There’s been high incidents of addiction”, said Councillor Jane Kelly, representative for Boscombe West, and a “lack of a mix of accommodation”, alluding to the prevalence of multiple house occupancies.
Yet sitting in Chaplin’s Wine Bar on Christchurch Road, the stigmas associated with Boscombe couldn’t feel further from the truth. The bar defines the word edgy, shaking off those stereotypical English drinking characteristics you might find at the local Yates’s. There are no red-faced men looking for a fight here, and no scantily clad girls; it’s the swinging sixties instead, and the who’s who of Bournemouth gather around tables with glasses of Mai-Tai and Margarita. “It’s such a cool place” said Georgie Trill, a Chaplin’s regular, “the bar is so individual and quirky”, she added.
Further down Christchurch Road there are more positive signs, as a new local business has been opened thanks to the Bournemouth Council Talent Programme. The vintage shop, named Cotton Candy, is colourful and pretty inside, as it sells handmade treasures and vintage designs. Officially opening in November last year, it’s part of the Boscombe Regeneration Partnership’s Backing Boscombe campaign, which seeks to improve Boscombe as a place to live, work and visit. One of the owners, Cara Lloyd Hopkins, said that “without the Talent programme we would never have been able to realise our aspirations of running our own shop.”
But despite these successes; the shattered glass, boarded up houses and broken bottles of Boscombe don’t tell lies. In November 2012 there were at least 580 reported crimes in Boscombe, and the suburb is recognised as Bournemouth’s most socially deprived, with a drug market described as “thriving and well-developed” by the the 2006 Safer Neighbourhoods Profile. “I believe Boscombe is haunted by the idea of its bad reputation”, said Antoine Saadé, a local resident, “but with a little community awareness I think this can be changed.”
“It’s all about housing”, explained Lisa Northover, local campaigner and editor of the website Boscalicious. Due to its cheap accommodation, Boscombe has attracted people such as drug users and those who have recently left prison, which has blighted the area. As a former Council representative for Boscombe West, Lisa knows the suburb through-and-through, and she’s candid when discussing it’s problems. “Legislation has been poor or not enforced”, she said, and this needs to be “directly dealt with.”
Despite concerns, though, Boscombe is beginning to offer more to local residents. “It’s never going to be Mayfair”, laughed Jane Kelly, “but I see a thriving economy, a different mix of residents, arts and culture, and lots of small businesses.” And this sounds about right; Boscombe is finding its feet as Bournemouth’s cooler suburb, and one that the town may soon be proud of.
Main image by Alwyn Ladell