Monday, 12 March 2012

Halesworth: Mary Portas Pilot

A few random suggestions for Halesworth in the Mary Portas Pilot Town application.

Open a Chamber of Commerce/Tourist Information in a booth or empty storefront in the Thoroughfare or at the train station that could sell tickets for travel and events; even if just for Saturdays in summer months. Serve coffee to people waiting for trains and taxis.

This might also encourage more taxi drivers to wait at Halesworth Station rather than Darsham and encourage taxi drivers to 'steer' people to Halesworth when meeting trains.

Operate a family-friendly cycle hire near the Thoroughfare or train station. Some local people are interested in doing this but lack the capital. It would be a tourism magnet and every hire would get a local shopping/dining/activity guide.

Provide free parking for 1 hour but increase charges for parking over two hours as people are known to drive to Halesworth to take the 588 bus to Norwich. This clogs the town car parks with little benefit to trade except increasing WDC revenue.

Adopt a "Day Two" strategy that sponsors at least one late bus from Southwold back to Halesworth so visitors can day-visit Southwold by train and surrounding area and eat and drink without driving but will stay in Halesworth. Next day they'll look around Halesworth. Those that think this will detract from Southwold trade just don't get it.  It will increase business for both without the downside of more cars.

The shops and restaurants if equipped could give free cups of tea or coffee to shoppers presenting a valid bus ticket for 520, 588, 511 etc.  (it could be limited to a number per day per establishment).

The 511 Hoppa bus could hand out shopping leaflets and coupons.

Involve everyone to practise more joined-up thinking: cluster events around other events to get a 'buzz' going such as have the Thoroughfare shops stay open later for Lions Carnival or Gig in the Park or High Tide.

Open later into evenings and on Sunday during Latitude/High Tide etc. weekends and run/support a shuttle bus to Henham for Latitude and Wings and Wheels, Henham Steam Rally etc. so people can visit by train.

Encourage more 'backpacker' price accommodation to open up nearby. Blyford Church would be a good location. 

Incidentally, some research into the design of music and movie production and circus trailers and tenting and temporary buildings suggests there are ways to convert large buildings for other uses without harming the fabric which can be removed later without trace.

Hold a winter and summer cycling jumble sale in the Rifle Hall (perhaps on the w/e of the Dunwich Dynamo). There is definitely a gap in the market for this.

Ensure every interesting building and place in Halesworth gets listed on every possible film location register. The views of the church, Market Place and Chediston Street could be excellent locations and could be easily transformed into the 1700's - 1800's period. Such publicity would greatly help the town. Eastern Screen didn't have much on Halesworth on its books and were quite useless anyway.

Give out window stickers with bold, catchy slogans and encourage them to go viral. 

Hold the 'Alesworth Beer Festival. Once there were 40 pubs on Chediston Street.

Promote the business-positive attitude of the TC: 

It's Halesworth, not Jobsworth

A small town, big for business.

Sell Halesworth T-Shirts and souvenirs, even go as far as post-modern ironic tat.

Promote the local architecture. Old and new. Heveningham Hall. Sliding House, Balancing Barn etc.

Promote Halesworth for a week at Liverpool Street Station. Set up a market of local produce and displays of local shops and services.

Spread rumours that Brad Pitt was seen house-hunting in Halesworth...

Draw up an alphabetical list of every product available in Halesworth while thinking how to fill the gaps. Highlight the exotic, the expensive, the cheap and the unusual. Create a shopping treasure hunt with a substantial prize.

Someone once had a plan for 'The Fine Art Town' branding for Halesworth. It can claim it has as many galleries as Cork Street!

Grant honourary Halesworth 'local' status to anyone who settled in Suffolk after 874.

Follow the application on twitter @HwthPortasPilot