Mr BIG encouraged traders to participate in a loyalty reward scheme this year, with cards being delivered to thousands of homes around Market Rasen in the weeks before the promotion began. Shoppers could collect stamps on their Christmas Tree card at participating shops, for spending £5 in the shop. The first prize in the draw was an amazing prize of £1000 travel voucher was very generously sponsored by Lincolnshire Co-operative, who have been so supportive of the town and town events to match the £500 donated by Mr BIG. Eleven of the high street retailers donated prizes to a minimum value of £50 each. “It was brilliant,” said Bridget Pitman-Brand, owner of the Market Rasen pet shop. “It really, really worked. People were coming into my shop to buy cat food simply because of the loyalty card – they usually buy elsewhere.” The big draw took place on Christmas Eve outside the Lincolnshire Co-operative Travel Shop in Market Rasen, and the first prize of a £1000 travel voucher was awarded to Vikki Bakin and a lot of other prizes were won by people all over the town.
Around Christmas time last year, we drew up a bid and submitted it to government, explaining some of the great things we’ve achieved in Market Rasen and outlining some further ideas we would like to implement to continue our journey to re-invigorate the High Street.
We were one of 55 towns who applied (and submitted videos) and only 7 towns were given the award. In the words of our representative from Government – we are a truly exceptional town. We asked for £79K, But we were awarded £101,057. . .and it’s taken us a little while to find out why, which is why we’ve not been super-quick to announce the details of the win. We wanted to get our facts straight.
So here they are.
Our bid was formed from the ideas laid down in our town transformation plan, written with the input of traders and business people back in February 2012. It builds on the four promises laid down in our Portas bid: Town Tidy Up, Markets, Shopping and Marketing and Promotion to drive footfall.
This bid includes a host of activites, they include:
Town Tidy Up
‘Operation Ice Cream’ which will create a fund to help shop owners and businesses repaint their shop frontages
- Gardening initiatives, including community groups and schools to improve unloved areas of the town
- Love Your Street – a scheme to encourage groups to ‘adopt’ and care for areas of our town
- Management fund to ensure we can continue to host BIG monthly markets and to continue to fund our Town Centre Manager for a 2nd year
- Funds to try new and different markets formats to keep things fresh and exciting
- Work with local councils and transport providers to provide market day buses and trains from Lincoln and Grimsby.
- Community cafe with gallery space and family friendly facilities and visitor information.
- Personal shopping service and outreach for vulnerable people and people without access to transport.
- Develop overnight accommodation provision and ensure our visitors have a VIP experience
- Formal support package for start-up businesses
- Improving the visitor experience through signage and information.
- Shop Local campaign
- Regional tourist promotions to create a branded offer to visitors, showcasing our towns assets including Racecourse, outdoor activities as a Lincolnshire Wolds Town, Biker events, Food Tourism etc.
- Promote Market Rasen and surrounding villages regionally as cultural destination for arts and crafts
As you can see, there’s a lot to do here and the money we’ve won is allocated in small portions against each of these activities, so we need to think carefully about what projects we undertake in what order.
There is no deadline on when we spend the money and we’ve still got approximately 50% of our Portas funds left – so there are plenty of projects on the go already.
We were keen to understand why the Government had awarded us an extra £22K. The answer is that these funds are there to help us make our projects sustainable – so to pay for the people resources required to keep things moving, but also to help us spread news of our projects by networking with other town teams. They are not to be allocated to new and additional projects to those outlined in our bid.
In the couple of weeks since the X Fund win was announced in the national media, I’ve been approached by a handful of concerned townspeople, who were worried or unclear about the purpose and remit of MR BIG. First, a number of people expressed concern about the idea of having a ‘community cafe’ as part of our plans and that it would encroach on other eateries in town. To be clear – there is a limited budget of £10K against this activity and the focus will be on creating a family-friendly environment that fulfils a number of different functions for residents and visitors. The location and format of this initiative is not agreed and the opportunity will be tendered out at a date tbc for local businesses or groups to ‘bid’ to take this activity forward.
Secondly, I’ve been asked on many occasions for MR BIG to extend the scope of works to tackle a host of different issues the town faces. Again, we want to be clear that as a business improvement group there is a limit and focus to our remit that is around regenerating our High Street and businesses within Market Rasen. Activities that encourage business growth will continue to be our primary focus. Whilst these may have benefits to the overall community as a whole, our Group is not a catch-all for every issue our town faces.
Our Board takes time and care to ensure that we remain true to the vision we set right at the outset at the beginning of 2012 – which was to make Market Rasen a more inviting place to be and to drive the footfall on the High Street that will benefit local businesses so that they, in turn can invest in our town.
In light of recent feedback from our members, we will be looking to meet with them more regularly and informally over the months ahead, so we can continue to canvass the views, opinions and ideas that have been critical to our success thus far.
Sara Scott – Chair MR BIG