Warwickshire County Council was joined this week by the county’s retailers, Town Centre managers, Bid managers, and a selection of the country’s top town centre experts at a conference designed to help boost Warwickshire’s towns.The ‘Warwickshire Together’ conference took place at the Holiday Inn, Kenilworth and focused on a range of initiatives to help invigorate the region’s town centres in the face of increasing competition from the internet and out of town shopping.
A key project launched at the conference was a new collaboration between Warwickshire County Council and a crowdfunding platform – Spacehive. Through the platform, the County Council is providing a new £134,000 capital fund to support civic projects in Warwickshire’s Towns.
We heard about how the crowdfunding platform could be used to encourage town centre communities to generate and fund civic initiatives that they would like to see in their town centres.
Niraj Dattani of Spacehive spoke about how the platform has helped to transform other town centres in the country with projects that have generated footfall in the towns. Initiatives are paid for by contributions from the public, businesses and agencies including local authorities where pledges are made via Spacehive.
He said: “A crowdfunding idea has to have local appeal and be accessible if it is to succeed. It empowers people to make change in their area. It creates the kind of atmosphere that will make a town centre sustainable.”
We also heard from a number of experts including Ojay McDonald, Head of Public Policy for the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM); Xav Anderson of Clockwork City, specialists in helping retailers increase their profits through better online promotion and effective use of social media; Alison Read of Decisions by Design, whose expertise has been used by large multinational firms and small independent retailers to become more successful; and Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick, Senior Lecturer in Retail at Loughborough University.
One of the most engaging Guest Speakers was Councillor Johnny Hayes MBE, from York City Council, he inspired us all with the story of Bishopthorpe Road, known as ‘Bishy Road’ with his story behind the transformation of an otherwise unassuming, run down high street. Winner of ‘The Great British High Street 2015’( the same year the Alcester won its #GBHighst RISING STAR) Bishopthorpe Road has now become a hive of popular independent businesses that brings personality and local charm to what is now a destination in its own right.Cllr Hayes said: “What we did with Bishopthorpe Road was market the street as a whole rather than individual businesses. It showed the power of people working together.”
Definitely inspiring!!!! Watch out Alcester we have ideas in the pipeline!