Community campaigners call for action via Facebook
COMMUNITY campaigners have tapped into the power of Facebook to bring people together for the sake of their respective towns.
Across Bedfordshire there are examples of women who have taken the bull by the horns and decided to do something themselves about empty shops, using the power of social networking sites.
Bedford has We Are Bedford, with Kayte Judge and Erica Roffe (pictured).
Kayte and Erica recently took their share of the plaudits after it was announced that the county town had won its bid to be a Portas Pilot. Retail guru Mary Portas will be helping Bedford develop ways to breathe life back into the High Street.
“Facebook was the key,” said Kayte, who posted a status update on the social networking site in 2010.
“I had been driving through town and there were so many empty shops and pubs that I thought somebody has got to do something.
“It struck me that it was down to me.”
So Kayte posted an idea on Facebook for turning empty shops into arts venues and for allowing buskers to use them. Erica was among the many people who replied.
Money was applied for and won, and they used cash to organise a weekend in the Castle Quay area of town, working with local businesses to use seven empty shop units.
Some 4,000 people turned up. “It was phenomenal,” said Kayte.
Suddenly the powers that be had their eyes opened to the economic power of the arts.
“We encouraged collaboration,” said Kayte, “And the council and the Tourist Information Board started collaborating.”
Last year, people power organisation We Are Bedford won the Bedford Business Improvement District (BID) category at the Bedfordshire And Luton Rising Stars Business Excellence Awards.
The awards judges believe We Are Bedford “kicked off a revolution of positivity about Bedford,” and the legacy of the Castle Quay weekend is a “new approach to all that is good about Bedford.”
Within a year seven empty shops became occupied with new tenants and vibrancy returned. Now We Are Bedford is working in partnership with commercial estate agent Stimpson Eves to allow artists to use empty shops.
“We hope to give Church Arcade a bit of a lift.”
But as far as Kayte is concerned she doesn’t see her involvement with We Are Bedford lasting “forever”.
It has taken up a lot of time for the young mum and she is thinking of moving on.
“I am taking one step at a time,” she said. But before that happens, there are meetings to attend as one of the “heads around the table” to make a success of the victory in the Portas Pilot bid.
“We are one of the team in that,” she said. “We are not a driving force.”
Maybe not, but their ideas certainly helped.
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Weather for Bedford
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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