Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending Association of Town & City Management’s 2023 Place Management Conference 'Whose High Street is it Anyway?' at the Wellcome Trust Collection.
Joining friends from Watford BID, Maria Manion and Jill Farnsworth as well as Colin Munro from Town & City Gift Cards it was a full house with over 150 delegates from a broad spectrum of professions.
The common thread? Everyone was heavily invested in our precious High Streets.
Now an admission. I hadn’t been to anything like this before. Coming at things from the perspective of Place Management professionals was new to me. So, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As a marketing professional that has worked with many global brands, would I be seen as a part of the problem, or could ideas from my sector be part of the solution?
I’m delighted to say it was hard not to feel at home after the wonderful opening from Ojay McDonald. Immediately I felt amongst people who understand the challenges of local businesses, believe very strongly in bricks and mortar and the power of local community. This was going to be an interesting day.
My takeout was an infectious mood of optimism for the future of ‘places’, but an acknowledgement that the right leadership needs to be in place and highly engaged to drive the changes required. That leadership needs to have the tenacity to bring together three distinct parties, breaking them from any historic silos, and getting them working together for a shared, common goal.
Those parties are Local Government, Local Business & Local Community. Experience shows any party can lead the change, as dependent on the specific project one party may be better suited to lead, but the best results will come when all parties work together under that strong leadership.
Some really inspiring examples from the day for each party leading were:
Driven by local business - New Brighton by Rockpoint. Developed in the early 19th century by a wealthy entrepreneur on the model of Brighton, New Brighton once had a tower taller than Blackpool’s, the UK’s longest prom, a grand pier and the world’s largest open air swimming pool. But things took a turn in the 20th century. Fed up of waiting for things to change, Daniel Davies stepped in with a £7.5 million privately-funded three-point regeneration strategy which focuses on the commercial revitalisation of the area, public realm improvements and the introduction of a seasonal calendar of animation and large-scale events to attract visitors. https://youtu.be/CmhBhUrIJUA
Driven by Local Government – Stockton Waterfront Urban Park by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. Driven by the same challenges as many of our High Streets, this Borough Council devised ambitious plans to transform its Town Centre, tackling its empty shops and encouraging new uses with this landmark waterfront development. Councillor Nigel Cooke explained how Stockton is creating a high street and a town centre that's fit for this new era with an amphitheatre and areas for markets, events and community activities. https://youtu.be/_GTN3TN3FUk
Driven by Local Community – Hastings Commons
Rebecca Trevalyan, Co-Founder of the amazing Library of Things, came to talk to us about her newest venture Platform Places. Their aim is to solve the broken town centre property system by convening and supporting councils, communities, and asset owners, to create Local Property Partnerships in their town centre. Hastings Commons was an area of forgotten history and neglected assets, poor quality accommodation and businesses struggling with low footfall, today, 12 buildings and spaces (over 9,000 sqm) are being brought to life with widespread profits reinvested locally to benefit the area. https://youtu.be/Ow2Xh5hk2xM
I recommend you Google all of the above to see more about these amazing projects that result from business, local government & community all working together. The High Street is dead? I don’t think so.
If you'd like to find out more about how to activate your brand with high street audiences get in touch with We Are Acuity. You can book a FREE 30 minute chat here. We'd love a chat, even if it is just to discuss a mutual love of local retail.
Or if you'd like to read more about Local Marketing have a look at our blog page "Local Thinking': https://www.weareacuity.com/local-thinking-our-blog