Influencer of the Week – Hemel Hempstead
This week’s Influencer of the Week goes to the residents of Hemel Hempstead, after the Hertfordshire town was voted the ugliest in the UK.
The poll was conducted by Crap Towns books, which is capturing the ugliest towns in the UK and collating them into a book due to be released in October. The book, Crap Towns Returns, is a sequel to the first edition published in 2003, which sold more than 100,000 copies and caused controversy across the UK.
In this year’s poll, of which 3,000 people voted, Hemel Hempstead came out as the ugliest with 785 votes, beating the likes of Luton, Slough and Bracknell, which followed in the league table.
So why have I chosen the reportedly ugliest town in the UK as my Influencer of the Week?
I chose the town because, when the story broke, residents didn’t sit back and take the criticism – they fought back.
Residents took to social media to voice their opinions, launching a #lovehemel Twitter hashtag (started by online community radio station Radio Dacorum) and a Facebook page, ‘Hemel Hempstead Remembered.’ And they didn’t just use the channels to discuss how ‘beautiful’ the town was and share photos and suggestions of pretty sites. Many took to the Facebook page, which has over 4,000 fans, to reunite with old friends and co-workers to share fond memories.
So, in addition to getting the attention of the people of Hemel Hempstead and creating much dispute on social media, the story received blanket print and online coverage, some of which featured rather idyllic images of the town. Other coverage was less positive naming the town ‘bog standard’ and characterless. Whether this will have an impact on future visitor numbers is questionable but I can (hesitantly) say it’s on my list of ‘unusual places to discover.’