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Local government needs courage and creativity and #townstock

Terry Ryall
Chief Executive, vInspired

Theres a rush of community town centre conferences this week; I suspect that #townstock was the grounded, honest, activist one
Dan Thompson
Author, Pop Up Business for Dummies

80 ideas in 2 days
5-6 November 2012, Halifax, West Yorkshire #townstock

In November 2012, 147 people from 50 towns came to Townstock. They brought experience from all over the UK, from community projects, local government and business. The big message was that our high streets and town centres are far from dead, and that we already have the ideas to make them great again.

There were more than 1,600 tweets and a hundred written messages of inspiration shared in the room. Here are just 80 of those ideas.

Townstock: really inspiring stories of people using shops, parks & streets to create places people want to live in
Maria Adebowale
Director, Capital Global

This was made by Jane Johnston Julian Dobson With photos by Silvie Rackham & Sarah Goodwin, and the help of Sarah Murphy, Amy Shepherd & Alistair Johnston

Ideas for making town centres better

New Start magazine joined forces with Townstock to nd the best ideas for reviving town centres. The competition was open to projects that have already proven they can work and that can be replicated for a small budget in towns and cities across the UK

Winner #1 Mud Pies in Tottenham A pop-up free play service on high streets in London. A London Play initiative that began as a response to cuts in play provision in the capital. The rst Mud Pies etc was set up in a former council building on Tottenham high street that had been damaged during the riots. In an area where many families have no garden, it offers a space for kids to be creative in the outdoors. Read more: document_id=1838

Why organise a Townstock

Jane Johnston @jane_ston Many people, particularly local independent retailers, have asked me just why am I doing Townstock? Whats in it for me? Theres no one simple answer to this. Im not a council employee. I have an internet shop. My own business gave me the space to get involved with social enterprise Totally Locally. I saw this free initiative give communities positive ways to help their shops and markets, and the condence to talk about the things that make their town home. Townstock is my response to the need to share support like this more widely. Read more: why_am_i_doing_townstock/

How to build a #townstock? It's easy nd a phone, pick it up, talk to people.' Loved every min - lots of food for thought!
Fi Cunningham @Fiizumi

Energise indie retail through collaboration

Paul Turner-Mitchell Chair, Rochdale Borough High Street Foundation Despite the fact we are facing some of the most economically challenging conditions many of us can remember, during the rst half of 2012 more independent shops were opened than were closed down. Over 850 new indies appeared on our high streets. Compare that with the net closure of nearly 1,000 multiple shop closures. There is a sense of momentum now and we have to build on that. Its great seeing glossy supplements wax lyrical about the best independent shops in some of our major cities. And its wonderful reading about the deep love of independents in places like Totnes, Hay on Wye and Hebden Bridge. But we cant rely on warm sentiment alone to transform our high streets. The momentum thats building with independent shops needs to become a movement. To do that we need more independents coming together under a common umbrella to create a powerful identity.

Mentoring, smart marketing and collaboration - 3 top tips in an inspiring talk by Paul from Rochdale at #townstock on boosting our high streets

Read more here: 2012/11/07/indies-need-to-cluster-paul-turner-mitchell-attownstock/

Great to see indie shop guru @paul25ten highlight #retailready as good project at #townstock
Dan Thompson @artistsmakers

Ideas from the Townstock audience

Time Credits in Chippenham and Salisbury In Chippenham and Salisbury we are piloting time credits as a way of thanking people for giving their time. They can then be spent (an hour for an hour) on a range of cultural leisure and other services and activities. Six months in and one third of members are people that have never volunteered before. This includes people with learning difculties, the homeless, and those with dementia. The lead agency who have developed the model are Spice. Read more:

Yes!!! RT@Shoportunities: High streets should be places of celebration and community gathering, not just shopping. #townstock
Jamie at AMT @TownsAlive

Pop up shops on our High Streets

Dan Thompson Author, Pop Up Business for Dummies Pop us are nothing new; the reworks shop, the Christmas craft market, and even seaside shops which open for the summer season and explain why seaside towns like Margate have a surplus of shops. Pop ups are especially useful right now for the researching, testing, prototyping what comes next:Only a fool will build in deance of the past. What is new and signicant must always be grafted to the old roots, which are chosen with great care from the ones that merely survive. And what a slow and delicate process it is to distinguish radical vitality from the wastes of mere survival. But that is the only way to achieve progress instead of disaster And as part of that failure is an acceptable outcome. Pop ups are agile, fast, and affordable and they make failure a possibility.Becket said Try again, fail again, fail better. Read more: the-high-street-isnt-dead-dan-thompson-at-townstock/

Ideas for making town centres better

Winner #2 Gloucester Night Market In response to a residents consultation, which highlighted concerns with visiting the town centre in the evening, the council launched a night market. It gave 40 new traders a stall for free to test their ideas, asked big retailers to open late on the evening of the market, invited local communities to sell food and local cultural groups to perform on the stage. The mix of a market and entertainment kept people in the town centre for longer and turned it into an event for the whole community. Read more: PressReleases/June2012/290612Night--market-for-IndependenceDay.aspx

The Spirit of Townstock

Julian Dobson Director, Urban Pollinators It will take some serious rethinking of our local economies to make our town centres productive again. That will not happen quickly: there are few signs that central government is prepared to grasp the nettle, and local councils have battened down the hatches for another storm of spending cuts. Much as systemic change is required, it is not around the corner. Thats why the small scale and individual is so important: not because it changes the world on its own, but because it demonstrates visibly how the world can be changed. That is the value and the importance of pop-up shops, of community owned assets, of a Totally Locally or Incredible Edible campaign. They all show that in the face of sometimes overwhelming challenges, life can be done differently. As Pam Warhurst pointed out, 'We've seen people who never thought they had a chance get a handle on their own future.' Thats the point and the spirit of Townstock. Read more: 2012/11/the-spirit-of-townstock.html

Ask young people what they would like to create...

From the Townstock audience Nelson Portas Pilot project could ask their young people what they would like to create themselves to get them into their town centres. Then offer funding, premises and support to assist their young people, enabling the sharing of existing skills within the community. Things I'm going to do because of Townstock 1. Feed loads of fab ideas into planning for edging social enterprise creating local jobs for young people. 2. Make links with former colleagues working on the National Citizen Service - 30,000 16-17 year olds and around 60,000 next year red up and enthused to get involved in social action close to where they live.

RT @Sarahrose2790: Young people are not something wrong that needs to be xed - they are assets. // Love this! #townstock
VInspired @vinspired

Need to keep 1 step ahead of digital if we are to engage with young people - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram so easy to do! #townstock
Street Angels - CNI @cninet

Inspiring young people in our towns

Sarah Goodwin (22) Young people are so passionate - they think rst with their emotions and nd it natural to speak out upon injustice, (this is what I LOVE about working with them). When we see young people as an asset we can turn them into an opportunity by asking quote 'what are YOU passionate about and how can WE take action on that? Some inspiring ideas that came directly from young people were found in 'Teenage Markets' in Stockport set up by Joseph Barratt that used the creativity of its citizens to do something for and by young people. He spoke of 'collaborating and fusing generations' i.e. bringing people together to provide something new and fun for their area. I loved this idea as it put the power back into the hands of the young, young people thrive off being given responsibility and ownership - this is something we MUST invest in and encourage. Read more 2012/11/townstock.html:

Teenage market @joejamesbarratt really inspiring and dynamic presentation

Kate Longmate @katelongmate

Running towns as if they are a business is wrong. Turns citizens into mere consumers. #townstock
Phil Wood @philwood11

Ideas for making town centres better

Winner #3 Placecheck Placecheck is a simple method for deciding how to improve an area. A Placecheck consists of one of more walkabouts, followed by discussion of the information and opinions the walkabouts turn up and some more serious thinking about the next steps and who needs to be involved. A Placecheck can be initiated by anyone without much preparation and can help put local people at the heart of making a better place to live and work. Read more here:

The dominant retail element of the high street is dying. But the high street aint dead, it abounds with nonretail possibilities! #townstock
Neil McInroy @nmcinroy
Centre for Local Economic Strategies

A community-led movement
Gemma Collins, Project Manager, 3VTV There is a grassroots, community-led movement gaining momentum around the country. Its made up of a myriad of schemes, projects, and enterprises with a common aim. And if one of them is not there already, I bet it will soon be making a difference in a town centre near you. As I write this Im on the train home from the Townstock conference in Halifax. For the past two days Ive been energized and inspired by stories of how small towns around the country have been turning around their fortunes. How? People-power. Big Society. Call it what you will it boils down to the fact that local people whether traders, residents, local government, young people have got together and got on and done something to help their town. Read more here: For Gemmas hyper-local media project in Blaenau Gwent visit 9

Ideas from the Townstock audience

Halifax Festivals Knitted Grafti Knitted Grafti was a project Halifax Festival did to encourage people to knit. It brought hundreds of people together to share knowledge and stories. Just shows how we all have something to share and communicate. Focus your mind to nd a couple of hours a week out of our busy lives to do something that matters. Nurture condence in others to do things. Read more:

Expectations conrmed. Totally inspiring day at #townstock. Now going to get involved with #totallylocally
Charlotte McCormick

Brighouse Business Initiative turfed the high street and held races and games the day the Olympic torch came to town #townstock

Moffat Lets Live Local Lets Live Local has developed a community networking website - Moffat Online. We host events using online car boot and free share facilities, ways of connecting with other peoples passions and skills and interests. Weve helped do everything from develop groups, nd lost dogs and get volunteers for local projects. Were just starting with online neighbourhood watch notications, working with the community police. We currently have 620 members! Read more:


From Townstock to Nightstock

Paul Blakey, Street Angels Part of the vision of Street Angels - CNI Network is to see villages, towns and cities move from the binge culture to better. In over 100 towns across the UK we have seen the results of the local community getting on and doing something to tackle night-time problems: violent crime, sexual assaults and anti-social behaviour reduced; people investing hours of time and resources to the wider community; thousands of people receiving help; perceived no-go areas becoming safer for everyone... But we recognise there is so much more that is done and can be done. Inspired by the brilliant Townstock conference we have launched NightStock - an A-Z of brilliant ideas. Join the conversation - share ideas and resources - pinch the others mentioned and try them in your town! Read more:

Civic enterprise very important today statutory, business & voluntary/faith working together - vision for locality #townstock
Street Angels - CNI @cninet

Many inspiring people here who are doing the do for their communities. Its good to see what others are achieving
Ossett Observer @ossettobserver

At Eight Sixteen Coffee we feed kids from each coffee we sell. Business can achieve so much when its more than itself
Pete Green, 816, Caterers for Townstock 11

Big business and our town centres

From the Townstock audience There is anger and frustration at what big businesses are doing to our town centres. Councils need to listen and channel that anger into something positive. Inspirational talk from Andy Godfrey of Alliance Boots cant wait to approach Boots now to see if we can work together in our community. I think Ive put approaching big businesses at the bottom of my list until now! I just assumed it would be fruitless. Lesson learned - never assume! How many schools, colleges, councils and universities support local business? They are some of the biggest employers in towns and cities. Need to consider these business opportunities.

Morrisons please go one step further: celebrate local distinctiveness and really promote local produce, character and tastes #townstock
Walk & Ride Festival @WalkandRideFest

Can supermarkets like Morrisons share retail science, knowledge with small independent stores?
Dan Thompson @artistsmakers

Need to see car parks as a way of attracting people to town centre not just way of managing trafc - Andy Godfrey Alliance Boots #townstock
@TimSwift 12

Really like shift in society from they dont do to a culture of were going to shown over and over at #townstock
Dan Thompson @artistsmakers

Totally Locally volunteer from Leek gives 12-15 hours a week to their town #townstock
Ossett Observer @ossettobserver

Ideas from the Townstock audience

Flock to Ossett and 1000 Snowakes The Ossett Observer is a collective of residents, artists, mums, dads, thinkers and doers. We decided to use the title Ossett Observer because its a name that means something, it used to be our local newspaper. Weve hosted a Tweet Up, a Creative Swap Shop, started a Ukulele Club, hosted theatre music and spoken word events and participatory arts resulting in the tremendous Flock To Ossett festival. Our next project is 1000 Snowakes, from yarnstorm to snowstorm... @ossettobserver Read more: See giant sheep and ukeles at v=RfKpK2GP5sE


Incredible Edible transforms their town

Cormac Lawler One of the most inspiring talks was from Pam Warhurst of Incredible Edible Todmorden- a fantastic example of how communities can learn and build enterprise together. It's an initiative taken by the community to transform their town, Todmorden, into an 'edible landscape'; taking over any and all available spaces and planting vegetables, fruit and herbs that are available for anyone to pick, for free. Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) has subsequently grown to involve a market garden training centre, a whole series of local producers' and traders' businesses, and a growing international network of similar 'incredible edible' initiatives. But possibly the most innovative and fundamental thing that IET has done is to take an issue that concerns us all - i.e. food, and the need to eat - and use it as a way of engaging people in a conversation, changing perceptions and behaviours, and building community spirit and resilience. Read more: thoughts-townstock

Inspired by Pam from @incredibledible. Why cant everywhere be like Todmorden and why isnt Pam Prime Minister?!
Nick Jones @Waterloosunrise

How fabulously inspiring! I love the idea of getting the soil or agar right so that things just grow organically.
From the Townstock audience 14

Some advice for your town

From the Townstock audience Engage with all of a towns community- old and new. Celebrate history, diversity and heritage. Be inclusive it brings economic and social capital. Appreciate the role of arts organisations in supporting and celebrating smaller towns and communities. P.S. for me getting everybody singing is often a good place to start

Go where people are, talk, listen and reect via public statement, images, action and shared ownership. Towns are diverse and successful towns value that.

Future High Streets report for Business in the Community, worth a read; BITC Connectors worth tracking down.
Dan Thompson @artistsmakers

Some super ideas for towns to replicate via AMT award winners in these short lms: QgKez7 #townstock #highstreets
Jamie at AMT @TownsAlive


If yesterday was full of just do it, dont get permission anarchic intervention, today at #townstock is much more about strategy, structure
Dan Thompson @artistsmakers

amazing story of revamp of Dean Clough mill as place and space people and businesses want to be.
Chris Wade, AMT @man_about_towns

What the people at Townstock are going to do now...

Open a pop up shop in my town to with fellow crafters. Visit some great sites Spots of Time - source of bite sized volunteer opportunities. Spacehive the worlds rst funding platform for public space projects. Inspired to do great things without big bucks but also by the sense that the time has come for local nance Took a pile of Totally Locally yers and intend to put them out with coming soon to Eccleshall on the back. Go and speak other retailers and spread the word!


Im working on reviving small towns in Eastern Europe. I came to Townstock looking for ideas and for locations for a UK study visit. Expect to hear excited Russian and Moldovan voices in Calderdale before long!
Phil Wood @philwood11

What the people who made Townstock are going to do now...

Weve made a company, Redlab, to make Townstock 2013 and more events like it. You can hear about them by joining our mailing list at or catch up with what were doing at or @RedlabHX

Back in Wales with glass of wine processing ideas after an interesting, informative & inspiring day now to apply ideas to NP8. #townstock
Emma @Bookishcrick


People you should get to know

to make your town better
Totally Locally - award-winning shop local movement Empty Shops Network - reducing empty shops with popups and other projects #WeWillGather - volunteering, fundraising and community projects in the UK Street Angels - transforming towns nighttime economies with volunteers Incredible Edible - community engagement through local growing CLES - leading charitable research organisation, with a focus on local economies Urban Pollinators - thinking, research and analysis for better towns and cities Action for Market Towns - providing small towns with information and advice vInspired - connecting young people with volunteering opportunities ResPublica - independent, non-partisan UK think tank New Start Magazine - the magazine for making better places

With thanks to
Everyone who made Townstock possible, especially those who gave their time to speak or to help the programme. Big thank you to our venue, Dean Clough Mill in Halifax

BIRA - the voice of independent retailers The Community Development Foundation national organisation in community development and Locality - network for community-led organisations


Townstock will be held again in Halifax, West Yorkshire in September 2013 Visit for more information


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