I haven’t managed to watch much of Heston Blumenthal’s latest TV series ‘Heston’s Fantastical Food’, but I did get to see the ‘Big Brew’ one, where he created a large tea-break with giant biscuits and a new take on the traditional cup of tea.
Ignore whether you like Heston’s approach to food but consider instead what he did to the town centre of Darwen.
He created an event – an event which gathered a crowd of locals; a crowd of locals who got caught up in the event of a community getting together to see something happening; an event in which they got involved and played a part; an event which got them talking and smiling and trying something new. The locals who were there seemed to enjoy it; enjoyed having a reason to stop and talk and get to know other users of the town centre, and even meet people they haven’t seen for years. It made them stop and consider their local town.
I have long said that town centres need to put on more events, and this got me wondering whether any of the Portas Pilots, or other Town Teams, are spending their money on events. Many of the town centres have little money to spend, and it may be that the best use of their funds would be to put on some events. Few will have the money to copy what Heston does, but why not use what they have to pay for, say, free tea and cakes from local cafes and bakers on a Saturday – perhaps combined with a bring-and-eat baking event?
Whatever they do, I say that many of our struggling town centres and high streets need to have an events programme as part of their regeneration strategy.