Southport: ‘Your town can be your future’

Chief executive of Southport BID, Rachel Fitzgerald, on how her Your Southport campaign is looking to instil pride and a sense of ownership in the coastal town

Rachel Fitzgerald
Rachel Fitzgerald, chief executive of Southport BID. Picture by Gareth Jones

 

In the run up to Christmas last year we decided to take a different approach to attracting people to Southport during the festive season.

We are all familiar with the traditional ‘one-hit’ approach employed by towns and cities up and down the country – a minor TV soap celebrity is invited to switch on the Christmas lights and the crowds are treated to an evening of fun and entertainment, usually with the addition of Santa’s sleigh and reindeers.

As long as it is properly organised you can attract a decent crowd to the centre for a few hours. But what about the next night, and the night after that? How do we keep people coming in and spending money in our fantastic array of local bars, restaurants and retailers.

So at Southport BID we did something different. We focused on organising a series of smaller events and attractions stretched out over the festive period. And this strategy to create a real sense of place throughout December really paid dividends with a steady footfall into Southport.

As we emerge from the pandemic against the backdrop of the rising cost of living, it is more important than ever that towns such as Southport keep innovating, keep thinking differently, keep formulating new ways of highlighting what a hugely valuable asset our town centre is.

This philosophy is at the heart of our new Your Southport campaign which seeks to create a compelling narrative around the remarkable individuals and entrepreneurs who are the engine of growth for our town, who bring life to its streets and create prosperity.

Our Christmas campaign drew praise from Chris Bliss, former estates director of the £1bn Liverpool ONE complex and now a leading retail and property consultant. He said cities had the upper hand in terms of recovery from the pandemic but added that towns such as Southport could still thrive if vision, energy and new ideas are applied.

Southport is on the cusp of an exciting renaissance. We have secured £37.5m from the Government’s Town Deal fund which will be used to leverage hundreds of millions more in inward investment.

READ MORE: Southport transformation to take a step forward

Already there are real signs of an upward curve. The fantastic Southport Market was relaunched last year. Plans are well advanced for a new conference and events centre at Marine Lake and plans are also in the pipeline for a £75m ‘leisure beach and thermal spa’.

But, as amazing as those big projects are, it is also vital for us to recognise the importance of our people, communities and businesses who help create and maintain the eco-system that offers benefits way beyond just extra footfall and consumer spend. It is about creating a sense of place and a sense of pride and ownership.

And Southport BID is putting its money where its mouth is. As part of the Your Southport campaign we are currently advertising for a new creative content executive. This role will last until October 2024 and the successful applicant will be tasked with spreading the campaign’s message as widely as possible across multiple digital channels.

 

Eastbank Street
An artist’s impression how a transformed Eastbank Street in Southport could look
Southport
Image of the new conference and events centre planned for Marine Lake in Southport

 

We want people living in and around Southport to know that by valuing the assets we have in the town, they can offer an investment that can impact on their own futures, creating prosperity for themselves, for their children. It is about reinforcing that emotional connection with the town. It belongs to them and they have a stake in its future.

As part of that we will throw a spotlight on the individuals running the businesses that are helping Southport to thrive. All those owners of shops, bars, restaurants, hotels, and visitor attractions are not separate from the town. They are part of our community. They are our family, our friends and our neighbours. We aim to highlight their immense contribution.

By establishing and nurturing that eco-system, that sense of place, we can help create a more prosperous future and, at the same time, build resilience for the tougher times that will inevitably come along. We are stronger together.

Of course, this isn’t just a conversation with people in and around Southport. I have been talking for a couple of years now about writing a new script for Southport. To create a place where people don’t just come to visit but somewhere they can come to live and work.

We want to broaden our business base, bring more companies into the town. There are exciting plans to create an incubator in Southport that will nurture small businesses in the creative and digital sector. Look at how Liverpool’s Baltic district has been transformed from an area of lifeless streets into a thriving hub in little more than a decade.

This all ties in with the central message of the Your Southport campaign. We want to revitalise our town and really make it the place to be. We want to spread that message far and wide and we want you to help us do it.

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