Town Team Take-Off
Warwick hosted a Town Team initiative this week; an event organised by Action for Market
Towns (AMT). The AMT, who were already working with Town Teams before Mary Portas,
thought that it was a real shame to let all the energy and ideas created by the Portas Pilot
campaign to disappear. Led by Jamie Veitch, the AMT invited all the 'unsuccessful' Town
Teams to their "Town Team Take-Off" workshop at the Lord Leycester Hospital on July
The AMT contacted me via Twitter after our very high profile and positive Portas Pilot
campaign. The sheer energy and get-up-and-go attitude of Warwick has inspired many,
and Jamie is certainly one of them. It was a great honour to be asked to help to organise
the workshop, and even more so to present a session about the use of Twitter to get a
Town Team off the ground. As I’ve said before:
"We didn't lose the Portas Pilot, we won so much more than £100,000."
This AMT event echoes that. Opportunities and a new energetic profile are bestowing
themselves on Warwick. We certainly need to keep the Warwick Rocks brand and
community spirit going... and there's plenty of plans to do so!
Today's workshop was aimed at getting Town Teams from across the country to share ideas and stories with each other. We are all unique towns with unique issues, and the day enabled us to learn from each other. 35 different towns came to Warwick's historic Lord Leycester Hospital, from far and wide. With representatives from Essex, Shropshire and even Ilfracombe, it certainly shows that Warwick is on the map in a whole new network. Many were already aware of the success Warwick has had during the Portas campaign, and it was great to see the visitors descend on Warwick for lunch too.
I sat in on the morning workshop presented by Mike King from AMTI (working in partnership with the AMT). Mike told us of a simple yet effective model for measuring footfall, car parking, customer demographics, and more. Having recently found my head attached to a desk, because I was told there are no official figures for businesses in Warwick, this was an exciting prospect. They can measure anything from footfall to businesses category and survey the demographic of visitors. The data is then collated and sent back in English (you know, that language anyone can read without the help of a Masters degree). This is certainly something I'll be chasing up for Warwick... £250? Surely there should be another zero on that?!
Lunch was not part of the free workshop, so the Town Team were thrust into Warwick. I wandered off to Cafe Catalan with a few new contacts, whilst others used the on-site Brethren’s kitchen. Some commented on our new "shared spaces" on High Street and Jury Street, and certainly seemed to like the Warwick Beach (our nickname for the new surfacing).
The afternoon saw more workshops from Alison Eardley of the AMT. Alison works on development and influence of central and regional policy relating to market towns. I gave a presentation on the use of social media - mainly Twitter - and how to use it get a Town Team off the ground. Joined half way through by former Mayor Trudy Offer, it certainly cemented the story that Warwick not only uses Twitter a lot, but that it uses it effectively. There were some great questions from Councillors, Town Team members, and also a representative from the Co-op group. It’s always great to chuck ideas around about my favourite subject... especially when they come round to the idea that Twitter can work for anyone.
I was sorry to miss a workshop from Barry James. His 'Social High Street’ initiative has many direct connections to the work that WarwickTweetup does:
"Driving footfall from Facebook"
It certainly sounds very appealing to us social media types in Warwick! I hope to hear more about that later this month. 365Highstreet.com is well worth a look.
It wasn't all about social media though; far from it. Many Town Teams had grown from far more traditional beginnings. It was great to hear the points of view from Councillors and town centre managers, they too had struggles and failings similar to ours. I do believe the day helped us all to improve, and more importantly to continue the work. It would be such a shame to give up just because we didn't win the Portas funding.
Thanks to Jamie and to also to Chris Wade from the AMT. They clearly don't want the Portas Pilot to be the end of our journeys... and I fully agree! It was a great event and having it in Warwick only cements the Warwick Rocks phenomenon further. Who knows what's next for the rocking market town...?
Thanks for reading, comments always welcomed.