Since the town got together to discuss reclaiming Midsomer Norton High Street on the 2nd March, businesses and the community have been working on a range of initiatives that came out of the meeting. Various people are coming together to develop ideas based on their particular drives and interests rather than the initiative being led by a single committee – so avoiding the need for endless meetings. Overall the drive seems to be to push ahead with raising the profile of what the High Street with the ultimate aim of developing a clearer identity and a distinct offering to shoppers.
The Town Team headed by Lynn Guiney (Jesse Beaus Too) and Steve Bishton (High Street DIY) are working with the businesses to look at pulling together more and working to increase the number of shoppers. “I know its early days but there seems a real willingness to work together to improve awareness of what the town has to offer local shoppers”, said Steve Bishton of High Street DIY.
A promotional team led by Becky Brooks (Journal) and the Midsomer Norton Community Trust is looking specifically at promotion of the High Street whether it be with PR, advertising off the page and new media such as facebook and twitter. A spin-off from this is a project being led by Ian Nockolds (Cognisant Research) to carry out a survey with Journal readers to understand better what they think the High Street currently offers and what they’d like it to provide in future. Also young people through the Norton Youth Club (NYC), with the help of Emma Hamilton (WPA), will be giving their input as they are a group with spending power in the town. Also discussions are in hand with various tourism bodies to improve the long term profile of the town for visitors.
There’s been quite a lot of soul searching over the role of events in the High Street. Jayne Griffiths (OBJECT) has been looking at how events based on core funding from the Town Council can work with the High Street businesses to raise the town’s commercial profile. There’s talk of reviving the model of the iconic Dickensian Evenings on the first Friday in December, provided that enough businesses can take part. Key to this is rather than simply Reindeer being the attraction and traders spending months distracted from their businesses organising it – how to make Christmas shopping a fundamental part of the event. Equally Alex Davis (Community Trust) is looking to the Town Team for a stronger partnership on events such as the Arts Festival, Pride, Midsomer Norton Fayre and M-Fest. The role of a weekly market is also being explored.
The landlords are looking to get together shortly in the Town Hall with the help of the Town Council to look at the state of the High Street and develop a more coordinated push to tackle issues faced by the High Street such as maintenance of buildings and the mix of businesses. This will run alongside the ongoing efforts of volunteers backed by the Town Council’s Town Warden and horticultural contractor to have wonderful floral displays and keep a control on litter – all important contributions to helping attract shoppers.
So things are moving ahead in Midsomer Norton and already there are reports from traders that more people are visiting the town as residents back local independent businesses.