As a rule, I do not republish things I have been sent for this blog, but one of the few exceptions I make to this rule concerns Scotland’s Towns Conference, taking place (for the fifth time) this year in Perth Concert Hall on the 7th November. This has become the must attend event in terms of thinking about town centres, and this year has added vibrancy due to the Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review under Malcolm Fraser and the conference being a centre piece of Scotland’s Towns Week, organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP).
The Scottish Government’s Town Centre Review Group meet in September to begin to put in place a process at a national level to develop and support ideas for local action. Timed to capture feedback from this meeting, this conference aims to create new stories for Scotland’s towns.
“It will look at how we make a cultural change in understanding what the high street could be – beyond just retail; how we create a ‘framework for mess’ – a model which allows different people the freedom to do things; creating the conditions for locally driven solutions and recognising, and positively encouraging, different solutions in different town centres. We need to make people think about the high street as social spaces for all segments of society and to understand how and why people participate in places. The high street as a social space needs to go beyond tidiness”
As the cornerstone to a week of events, supporting, promoting and encouraging a wide range of activity in Scotland’s Towns, the conference will provide a great meeting point and marketplace to share practical ideas and policy innovations designed to help our town centres.
The STP (formed to provide a single voice for Scotland’s towns and town centres) is hosting the conference along with their principal partner, Business Improvement Districts Scotland, and supporting partners, the Scottish Government and Architecture + Design Scotland. Through the conference and other activities, the STP is bringing together the key players working to design, develop and deliver stronger places at the heart of many of our communities. Ranging across the public, private and third sectors, the Partnership engages with government at all levels to help influence the policy context in which our town centres operate through innovation, ideas and commitment.
In a slightly different form of plug, I will be at the conference and amongst other things I will be involved in a session with Matthew Hopkinson of the Local Data Company. Our aim is to look at the data that is available for Scottish towns and discuss the trends, their direction and what we really need to know to understand and affect retail change in Scotland’s high streets. Hope to see you there.
Liegh if this is a ‘must attend’ event, what is being said to those who do not have the privilege of the funds or sponsorship with which to attend at £150+ a go – or indeed the time off from hard-pressed small businesses or from ill-paid jobs in a time of recession?
This week I was working in the midst of central Govan in Glasgow. If ever there was a failed centre needing revitalisation this is it. On thinking of the Scottish Towns Conference I wondered how many of the micro and SME business in this locality would be able to attend this event, assuming they had even heard of it through the everyday network sin which they operate? How many local small third sector organisations and even small social enterprises could would be able (finance and other time wise) to attend? I exclude from those, the nouveau riche of some third sector intermediaries and large charities. Above all, how many individual citizens or single proprietors could attend – or would see any point in doing so?
A hundred and fifty quid plus travel, and maybe subsistence, and the time required. That’s a lot for the cannot attenders that I describe. Yet these are the very people who would have to take on a significant role and shared ownership of any workable and sustainable solutions. Doubtless, there will be a very few such attenders but what would that amount to?
I shouldn’t and don’t’ criticise the aims and motives of the organisers of this event, nor of the participants – but to be a ‘must attend’ event on matters whose dimensions spread from ward level to national level requiries a certain order of inclusivity, reach and openness.
This all echoes for me my fears for the Town Centre Review – what’s different about that? Will it be anything else other than the familiar Scottish routine of pass-the-parcel among those admitted around the table, with those on the ground, largely, institutionally excluded). Will it be the usual routine of power retained and existing ways and cultures perpetuated? ( “…to put in place a process at a national level to develop and support ideas for local action.” Now doesn’t that sound very familiar?)
It would be good to see new roads travelled and new means adopted. We are seemingly not there yet.