I don’t like my high street very much. If I’m not dodging chuggers and pigeons, I’m choking on clouds of cigarette smoke and gagging from the smell of the public toilets. Don’t get me wrong, shopping is one of my favourite activities, I just prefer to do it in a nice, clean, pigeon-free, chugger-free, smoke-free mall.
I felt like a fraud when I was asked to work on the High Street Renewal Awards, but I lead on digital communications for local economic growth so I had no choice but to start tweeting about supporting local businesses.
It was only when I started visiting the High Street Renewal Award winners that I began to buy in to what I was tweeting. Seven teams in different towns around the country are using government funding to help improve their town centres. Many of them are volunteers with full-time jobs who are giving up their spare time to help because they care so much about their communities. They won funding to put towards their regeneration projects because they came up with the most innovative ideas.
My original brief was to visit the winning teams, find out what they’re doing and share it on social media so that towns that didn’t receive any funding can learn from those that did. I decided to use Pinterest to showcase the different projects as it’s a nice way of including images, video and links to local websites on a map.
I was hoping to be able to share some low-cost ideas but I’ve found that most of the projects require a huge amount of planning, collaboration and funding from multiple sources. I’ve had to rethink my objective and have decided to try and get towns talking to each other online so that they can share experiences and learn from each other.
I still can’t resist the lure of a shiny shopping mall, but I’ve started giving local shopping a go too now that I can appreciate how hard people are working to keep small businesses going.
Image: Billy Alexander