Around 150 people gathered at the Dover Sea Sports Centre for the event and among the guests was Dame Vera Lynn, the one-time forces’ sweetheart who through accident of history will always be associated with the town of Dover and its iconic coastline.
Also present were representatives of the ferry companies, Robin Wilkins for SeaFrance and Sue Mackenzie for P&O Ferries. Both expressed their belief that Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke’s vision of a people’s port, seen as a prime example of the big society in action, would be beneficial for their organisations and their relationship with the port authority.
There were a number of speeches given during the proceedings at the seafront, but some locals who turned out told me they were unhappy with the lack of substance, while one chap described the whole affair as simply a photo opportunity and expressed his disappointment that there was not a chance for questions to be put.
But then this was always likely to be a symbolic event more than anything else, and it is still impressive that Mr Elphicke has been able to move so swiftly to put a solid proposal for the future of the port in place. When I visited him at Westminster shortly after the election in May he told me he was working on a plan with regards to the port issue, but I would not have believed he would have been able to get as far as he has so soon.
It is obviously still early days, but it is clear there is real enthusiasm among people in the town for taking greater ownership of the port. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Mr Elphicke and the trust will be getting the message across so those supporting the bid so they can fully understand what success will mean for them and how the community can have a genuine say in making sure the port becomes a driving force for the regeneration of the town both now and in the future.