As a self-confessed champion of my town, I am the first to encourage residents and visitors alike to support local. When I say “local”, I mean things created by people who live in my community, for my community. It’s the local independent businesses, locally registered and funded charities and local community groups and initiatives. What I mean by “support” is to choose them over corporations and big businesses. Buy their stuff, spend your money and time with them, share their stuff on social media, talk about them, promote them, show up to their events and tell them they’re doing a great job. However, after a couple of years of blindly supporting local, I’ve had my eyes opened and what I see, isn’t the idyllic, lets-all-support-each-other picture I thought existed.
When I first started putting myself out there and organising community events and talking about the importance of bringing people together, I got stuff happening pretty quickly and got some attention for it. 99% of people thought it was great, but I was told in no uncertain terms that “There are people who’ve been doing this for a while you know.” In other words, wind your neck in, you didn’t invent community development. Of course, I never suggested that I had, I just seemed to be shouting loudest about it, so I put the comment down to insecurity on the other other person’s part and carried on regardless.
So there am I, trying to practice what I preach, helping businesses, creatives, musicians and charities. Shouting about everyone, promoting the shit out of people and ideas, giving my time and expertise for free all over the place. I wasn’t doing it for reciprocity, but sometimes that would be a happy by-product of what I considered to be “doing the right thing”. More often than not though, the balance was weighted against me. I was getting far less support for my initiatives than I was giving to everyone else. So, one day, I stopped. I stopped volunteering, I stopped offering to help everyone and I stopped working for free. I felt hella guilty about it and I missed being needed, but the line needed to be drawn.
Since that point, I’ve been supporting myself and my projects in the way I supported other people’s and the balance has shifted. I’ve had AMAZING people championing my initiatives and I’m super grateful. It seems now though, that the more “success” I have, the more it annoys people and I get told about people bad mouthing me, calling me unqualified and hypocritical because I’m all about supporting local but I don’t support what they’re doing.
What I’ve realised is, not all local businesses, charities, initiatives and people are good. Some local people are aresholes, some local ideas are shit, some products are rubbish and some local businesses are run incredibly badly. There. I said it.
Now, as someone who has built a community project based on saying only good things about local stuff, the above may seem like career suicide. But as you all know by now, I’m a bullshit-free zone and I don’t see the point in lying so I’ve started to say no to supporting local. If you run your business badly, if you don’t treat your staff well, if you don’t pay your suppliers, if your customer service is terrible, I ain’t supporting you. If your community initiative doesn’t resonate with me, if I can’t connect with it or it doesn’t make sense, I won’t back it. If you’re a complete fucking twat, I will definitely not be supporting you, whether you’re local or not.
Just to be clear: if I knew that Starbucks, for example, weren’t paying their staff, I’d be outraged and telling anyone who would listen, not to buy their bloody pumpkin spiced latte. If I hear a local business has done that, I won’t be bad mouthing them to all and sundry. If I have bad customer service every time I go to a “fancy” bar because the manager thinks her shit doesn’t stink, I won’t make a big thing of telling everyone not to drink there. Why? Because we live in a community together and my thoughts and opinions are my own. I don’t want to have awkwardness when I bump into little-miss-shit-don’t-stink in the doctors or the supermarket. It’s up to other people to have their own experiences and make their own judgements. I will just quietly withdraw my support and get on with my life.
So am I a hypocrite? In a word: no. I love and support local more than most but I’ll support those who are truly benefiting the community and doing what they do to the best of their ability. Being local isn’t an excuse for being shit and it’s certainly not an excuse for being a cunt.
P.S. If you invite me to stuff and I don’t go, or ask me to promote something and I don’t, it’s not necessarily because I don’t like what you’re doing, it’s usually because I only have 24 hours in a day….. But when I hear you’ve been talking smack about me because I haven’t made it out or I didn’t manage to do that Insta story to promote you, you’ll notice I won’t be supporting you in future. Don’t worry though, I won’t tell anyone you’re a dick.