What did you think of Southport?

I’ve just completed my Conference feedback survey with more than my usual irritation that it didn’t give me the chance to give the feedback I wanted.

If you attended Conference, you will have a link to the survey in your email.

I had a marvellous time in Southport. I had an amazing b and b, The Leicester, which was very cheap but spotless, comfortable, well decorated and there was even a doggie for me to pet.

It was the first time that I’d been there in 20 years and I regretted not having the time to see more of the place. However, I did sneak out for afternoon tea on Saturday at a fantastic place called Love to Eat where the portions were, as you can see, generous. it was great that the cake option was the Welsh fruit loaf Bara Brith.

You really had to go quite far from the venue to get some decent catering. I was smarting after paying £4.80 for a small cup of tea and a Crunchie in the Ramada on Friday afternoon.

There were also a lot of steps in the venue and I was always worried that I was going to end up forgetting about those steps at the start of the exhibition hall, go flying and end up splat in the middle of the Prospect stall.

I wanted to talk about the accessibility issues and the fact that the venue was a long way from food outlets, but the questions didn’t really give me the scope to do that. I basically had to sacrifice the fringe to get some food on Saturday night because I didn’t have time to walk up to Lord Street, find somewhere to eat and walk back, especially when most places closed quite early.

In York, there’s a much wider variety of pubs and restaurant within a few yards of the Barbican.

Having said all that, the people in Southport were incredibly friendly and almost everyone seemed to have a very cute dog. It also had the advantage of being by the sea.

I’d go back there again, but I much prefer York in terms of travel time, food and venue. What do you think?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Alison Whelan 17th Mar '18 - 11:58am

    As one official put it, I am quite bloody-minded and still do not fully accept my limitations – and perhaps they are right, but I have to say that I also ” …wanted to talk about the accessibility issues and the fact that the venue was a long way from food outlets …”.

    Due to chronic health conditions, I find it hard to walk any distance, but I have so far refused to rely on a mobility scooter to get me about. Most venues are OK – although it would be good if those of you who are fit could head up a few rows leaving the seats with level access to those of us who struggle (a continual problem in York).

    Southport, though, presented new challenges: steps everywhere! ‘Use the ramp’ said an official, but just measure the increased distance that means I have to travel.

    The real challenge, though, was the auditorium. I couldn’t even see a disabled access and was just presented with impossible step access. An official soon rushed to my aid – and then dashed off ahead to direct me in the right direction! But I found the level access to the auditorium and then the challenge started. Narrow corridors so my wife couldn’t properly support me without us being jammed against the walls (I know, I should lose weight) despite the length of the corridors meaning I needed support.

    I don’t think I will ever visit Southport again without a mobility scooter – but I shouldn’t be forced into that situation.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 17th Mar '18 - 4:33pm

    @rob The BBC never cover our Spring Conference. They didn’t even do it when we were at the height of our powers.

  • I didn’t go to conference I tried to watch conference on my TV but failed (my TV’s browser is out of date and there are no plans to update it [an hour and half on the phone talking to technical services didn’t fix it]). I would have liked to be able to watch the debates when they were over on my computer, but I couldn’t find them. There was the rally and I think the Saturday afternoon session (all in one) but not all sessions individually available. Please could we have this at future conferences? (I think for one of the Glasgow conferences there were lots of previous sessions available to watch.)

  • Katharine Pindar 17th Mar '18 - 7:18pm

    I liked Southport much more than York, personally. I found I could walk from the train station easily to my hotel, the delightful Clifton Villa in Bath Street, where the friendly owners let me dump my case without signing anything and gave me keys then and there. It was less than five minutes’ walk to the Conference Centre, and the conference hotel was right next to that, so that I was able to get to the discussions sessions in the hotel just in time, at 3 pm on the Friday. What a contrast to York, where my own hotel was fifteen minutes’ walk to the conference hotel and then it was another five minutes to the Conference Centre. (And the room I had in the York hotel, fussily decorated, was right by the noisy main road.) The only downer in catering at Southport was (as Caron says) the expensive tea-and-bun in the conference hotel. But there were convenient buffets and bars in the Conference Centre, lots of places around the attractive exhibition hall to sit and talk and have a drink, and no corridors to get lost in, just a straight walk through the exhibition hall (great place to catch people for a chat) to the auditorium. Fine for the fit, obviously. And, from the excellent breakfast in my hotel to the lovely Italian meal I had at a good restaurant in Lord Street with LDEG people and other members (only ten minutes’ further walk), it was an enjoyable experience in an attractive town I hadn’t visited before. All that without mentioning the excellent debates, Q and A sessions, and Fringe!

    For members not lucky enough to be there, you probably know there is the chance to comment on the discussion papers until March 31. And I was surprised to hear today from one of my friends who couldn’t go that he had been able to watch a video of Vince’s speech on Facebook.

  • Friendly reminder that FCC also collect informal feedback and I have heard this about accessibility and food outlets from more than one person so it is definitely going in mine.

    If anybody has any other informal feedback, do feel free to tweet at me or email me or leave a comment on my blog (preferably this post: https://miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org/1951779.html )

  • (link to comment collection blog post for those who have an aversion to my colour scheme, because there’s always someone who moans about it: https://miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org/1951779.html?style=light )

  • Nonconformistradical 18th Mar '18 - 11:28am

    I wasn’t at Southport – it could be that the last time I attended a conference there was while Charles was leader.

    I do feel seaside towns are generally better for conferences since they are more likely to have b&b accomodation available outside the main holiday seasons. Like Katharine I feel York isn’t a great place for convenient accomodation.

  • As a Merseyside native it was wonderful to have Conference on my doorstep. Here are a few unordered thoughts of my own:

    There are a number of excellent restaurants hidden on the side streets on the way into the town centre, but it takes local knowledge to know they are there. Otherwise the STCC can feel a little isolated.

    Perhaps in future we could have an official unofficial guide with restaurants, pubs, hotels, cash machines and other amenities listed / mapped?

    I found the decision to close the box-office entrance/exit and operate just the one route made navigation of the venue and the walk to the surface somewhat harder. Moreso for those with access issues I assume. I wouldn’t even know where the non-stair routes were (though I didn’t look for them).

    Venue & Security staff at the STCC & the Ramada were unerringly polite & efficient which is to be commended.

    A couple more newbie / 1st timer meets would have been appreciated.

    A session matrix / combined calendar in the programme itself would have been wonderful.

    Thank you to all who had a part in organising it.

  • Kay Kirkham 19th Mar '18 - 2:27pm

    I am in ongoing discussions with Southport and the conference office about the hearing loop in the auditorium. I was unable to pick it up even though I was assured it was working. I even took my hearing aids to my local ENT department when I got home to check that it wasn’t my problem. I’d really like to hear from any attendee with hearing problems about whether they could pick up the loop or not.

    On the subject of steps, there were far too many. My partner who uses a mobility scooter did not come to Southport but I automatically check access now and it was poor.

  • Gemma Roulston 19th Mar '18 - 3:45pm

    I haven’t had my feed back form, is it just as select few?
    I know that Kay did get confirmation from the conference office that there would be a section set apart for hearing aid users to use the loop in the auditorium. Not sure if this was done or not. Maybe they should get hearing aid users to test the loop in the section before conference started?
    I know Kay tried the LDDA loop, but couldn’t pick that up either, don’t know if it was because of the ceiling.
    I did think that the exhibition was cramped for space, although my daughter and I reserved two scooters, we could only use one, as there was no way that we park them both near the stall because of the lack of space.
    I would hope that the conference office might ask the exhibitors what we think, as people might have said things to us to pass on.
    It was quite difficult to get into the auditorium in a scooter, you had to go a long way round.
    Southport is a lovely place. Hope we go back there again.

  • Gemma: everybody should get one. If you haven’t got yours I’d be happy to look into that for you. Prod me on Twitter though: since you can’t subscribe to comments on here any more I may forget to check back.

  • Simon Banks 1st May '18 - 12:38pm

    True about pubs. Limited in comparison to York, certainly, but few places aren’t. Also not as good as Glasgow. Mind you, Glasgow remains the only conference venue where a complete stranger bought me a beer on overhearing that I was a Lib Dem just arrived for the conference).

    Having experienced the awful shortage of and overpricing of catering at the Glasgow millipede (or whatever they call it), I was relatively happy with the catering, but I think Bournemouth may have been better (can’t really remember).

    Compared to most places, Southport is quite easy to find your way around in, unless you’re looking for the sea.

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