The culture of Hatfield

Empty shop To Let

Hatfield town centre

First published in Hatfield News by

WHAT is the culture of Hatfield? With its part-demolished town centre and the looming incinerator plans that will make it the dustbin of Hertfordshire, it could be easy to dismiss Hatfield as a cultural vacuum. However, there is more to the town that that.

Hatfield may not be a central hub of a fine-arts movement. Its streets may not be lined with independent cafes, filled with literary types casually ruminating over life’s meaning. But to use those clichéd indicators to show the absence of culture is missing the overall picture. As a resident of Hatfield, I have often heard derogatory tones used when the town is discussed. I’ve also encountered many people who are so positive that it is a pleasure and inspirational to be around them.

Hatfield has a proud history. It is the town where Elizabeth I was when she discovered that she had become queen. It is the birthplace of the world’s first passenger jet airliner. It has a strong engineering heritage. Now, inspired by the words of an ex-colleague of mine when he was about to retire, there is the danger that Hatfield’s future is all behind it.

The engineering base has long since gone. The skills that remained have been left to be swallowed up by lower-paid, service industries. The presence of the University has not created a buzz of enthusiastic, young academic minds that feel that they can change the world.

The thoughts of locally based writer, George Bernard Shaw, in his famous work Pygmalion, come to mind. It is the way people are treated that forms their view of the world and themselves. A positive view and experience creates a person with a more positive outlook. A person who experiences constant criticism and poor treatment will have a more negative view of life. Within the world of psychology, this is known as the Pygmalion effect.

Hatfield has a town centre that desperately needs regeneration. The Bill Salmon Centre has been demolished and very little else seems to have happened since. Residents have marched the streets to protest against the sighting of an incinerator in Hatfield that will handle waste for the whole county. But, work continues to regenerate Queensway House in the town centre. Overall, the message appears to be a negative one for the town. That message can have a negative impact on the collective self-esteem of its residents. It is the residents that create the culture.

Culture is, after all, the collective result of the minds of the people. It can be seen in art, writing and the behaviour of people. Everyone will have their own take on what is the real culture of Hatfield and it would be good to hear your views. Hatfield has many residents that work quietly for the good of the town. Tell us your story and we’ll let the town know.

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