Well, that was an interesting experience! Those who know me, or indeed those who have been reading this blog from the start, will know that I'm not one to get involved with politics or attend a town meeting. But I did, I just had to... and here's what I thought:
What drove the Portas Pilot - and indeed what fired my passion to start this blog - was the amazing community in Warwick. The camaraderie and energy behind the businesses, shops and eateries in Warwick is nothing short of legendary, and tonight only cemented that further in my mind. Warwick has been struggling lately and I won't sugar coat it. The roadworks have been terrible, the traffic has been awful, and Warwick has become less desirable to visit. I know, it's very unlike me to be negative, but there's no point in pretending everything is fine when it clearly isn't, is there?
Tonight the town's traders had a meeting with the councils to get answers, to ask questions, and to meet the people accountable for the failings that have caused so much grief and heartache for Warwick businesses. Tonight was the council's (County, District and Town) opportunity to explain and answer the burning questions... except they answered with their absence. Not one representative attended, leaving a very potentially positive meeting with a very negative outcome.
So it's all bad and Warwick is on its knees right?
Well, not quite. Held in the ballroom above the Tourism Information Office and over looking the roadworks in question, some very passionate and influential people more than filled the void left by the sheepish councils. Led by Chris White MP, who I must say I have the upmost respect for, for standing there alone stood up by his council peers, the meeting commenced with the promise that everything discussed would be relayed immediately to the accountable people at the council.
The discussion quickly moved to the roadworks and the decisions surrounding it. "Poorly timed and poorly executed," resonated around the room, from traders, to Chamber of Trade, to business owners. The communication issue (or lack thereof) also was a big issue with the majority in the room. Coming from WarwickTweetup, a community built on communication, this is the issue that really gets to me too. Simply responding with a, "thanks for your email/phone call/letter" would be something.
So does Warwick still rock? Do we still have that spark that people came to see? That something that made the Portas proposal headline news...? ABSOLUTELY YES! Passion and energy is stronger than ever in Warwick. The people living, working and enjoying Warwick are doing so because it rocks. You may hear negative reports and argumentative conversations, but the people of Warwick all want one thing:
A better future for Warwick.
The works currently happening in Warwick are on time and will, I think, improve the visitor experience. As the saying goes:
"You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs."
Yes, there's pain and suffering for motorists and traders alike, but when you're stuck in that traffic or worrying about that quiet cash register just look up, yes up, not to God or the heavens, but to the bunting. Bunting? Have I lost my mind? Well think about it. The works are on schedule, the Jubilee is coming and Warwick is getting ready to party. Why don't we get ready to celebrate? As one trader said tonight:
"Let's look to Warwick's future, not the past."
I really hope the accountable people in the council get to read this blog. I hope those responsible for standing us up tonight are listening. We are powerful, we are passionate, and we are the people that make Warwick work...we make Warwick rock. Your absence tonight only cements that vision further, and if we win one of only 12 Portas Pilot places, its because of the people of Warwick. As one trader said tonight:
"Let's spend that marketing budget on helping businesses; we are doing a much better job of it anyway."
Comments as always are very welcome - we do at least read and respond to them!
Feel free to Tweet me @WarwickTweeup and @UnderwoodWines on Twitter too.