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High Street Camp report

By • May 28th, 2012 • Category: Insight June 2012, News


(See our previous posts on High Street Camp from 23.5.12 and from 30.3.12).

An “incredible day of talking to the people who are trying to work out how communities can work together to rejuvenate High Streets” according to one attendee, High Street Camp – on Friday 25th May – was an informal conference – or ‘unconference’ – organised by Julian Dobson. Julian – who runs the think-tank Urban Pollinators – worked with AMT on our 21st century town centres report and was a co-collaborator in our submission to the Mary Portas Review in 2011.

People from all over the UK – “from Stirling to Stepney, Weston-super-Mare to Walsall” – came along to High Street Camp to exchange their ideas and learn about how we could rethink high streets. And an active stream of tweets from participants using the hashtag #highstreetcamp helped the event to engage many more people who could not be there in person but could follow the action and post their own ideas and questions.

AMT’s chief executive, Chris Wade, went along to High Street Camp and said:

“What an imaginative event with an emphasis on sharing ideas.  Any one of the attendees could pitch to run a workshop on the day and these included town branding, arts-based regeneration, community-run assets and Neighbourhood Planning. 

“There was an informal atmosphere and eclectic mix of participants from rural towns to inner London Boroughs.  An empty bar and cinema used as meanwhile space for community groups provided a suitable venue, whilst closed shops on Willesden High Road were a reminder that the recession and systemic decline affects many different places – even those that are a few tube stops from Central London in an Olympic year!

“Mary Portas popped in and spoke passionately about her ongoing commitment to campaign to save High Streets including the need for stronger government intervention in deciding controversial applications for out-of-town supermarkets and shopping centres.”

Julian tells us there are:

“three things we can draw from the buzz and excitement of High Street Camp. The first was captured by Mary Portas, who dropped in at lunchtime. Social capital, she said, creates economic capital. In other words, wealth is created by making connections and building trust and friendship.

“The second was from Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, who helped us to reflect on the day’s events at the end of the afternoon. He encouraged participants to think and research before rushing ahead with apparently good ideas, and put in a good word for the oft-maligned bureaucrats whose job is to balance competing interests. Public servants can be key allies in achieving progress.

“The third point is about the scale and speed of change: for many high streets, it may be too late to prevent the loss, so creating the new becomes more urgent.”

(Read Julian’s round-up of High Street Camp in full here.)

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is Jamie is Towns Alive's Communications and External Affairs Manager and works for Towns Alive for 1 day per week looking after press, external affairs, website content, social media, marketing, some events and some membership support. A freelance consultant to charities, social enterprises and small businesses, Jamie co-founded and was managing director of the respected 'New Start magazine' (now owned by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies) and has worked in a PLC. Jamie lives in Sheffield, is an active rock climber and mountain biker, and is a volunteer board member for a local social enterprise.
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