Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Ormskirk Has Got The Edge support video - Three years on from the Mary Portas Pilot town bid.

The Ormskirk Has Got The Edge video, first produced in 2012, has been updated with subtitles for the hearing impaired and for speakers of English as a foreign language.

I originally filmed this video back in March 2012.  It was a week before the deadline to submit the bid proposal to the Portas Pilot scheme and the video was originally filmed to form part of the bid proposal.  More on that later!  The video was shot very quickly and came together thanks to the support and help of it's many contributors.

Three years on and I am in the process of adding subtitles to all the travel videos, holiday video diaries, community stories and interviews on my Life In Another Town YouTube channel.  While typing the transcription of the dialogue in the video and repeatedly having to watch the video again and again, it caused me to think back to that time and contemplate where we are now, three years later.  Now the shouting and fanfare has died down, what has been achieved?
Looking back, it was amazing how quickly the video came together over a several days.  At the time I didn't have a video recorder with an external microphone and this is apparent when you listen to the sound quality.  Filming outside was a double edged sword; the sun was shining, but the wind was blowing a gale.
Ormskirk Historic Town
Ormskirk Historic Market Town
It's also clear that we did a good job with the video, all things considered, and yet, if it was done again today, I would perhaps change a couple of things.

Let's go through the video.  The first segment shows the problems the town faces, with contributions from some townspeople.  The second shows the support Ormskirk has from local institutions.  We were very fortunate that there was a good deal of good will which contributed to getting the video completed.  Notable contributions were made by people including Dr Jonathan Parry Chief Executive at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Hospital Trust, Dr Jon Cater Vice Chancellor at Edge Hill University, Rob Bailey, at the time, the Mayor of West Lancashire, Rosie Cooper our Member of Parliament and the local news press: Roger Blaxall from QLocal and Rob Pattinson from the Ormskirk Advertiser.  The third segment shows the town had the support of local small business owners, a long list!   The final clip was the tag line "Ormskirk has got the edge!" shouted out by students at Edge Hill University.

What's missing?  I remember that it was clear at the time of filming, there wasn't an actual plan to improve the well being of the town.  I was a bit short of ideas for additional footage to demonstrate the town plan, which was a pre-requisite of the bid proposal rules.  I should add at this point; over the subsequent months, the "Love Ormskirk" campaign did come together and is still going.

I also should confess, I allowed my feathers to get a bit ruffled when I presented the video to the bid team leader.   Although, I had great feedback from many people who saw it, including the Mayor, Rob Bailey, the bid team over the course of the few days, while I was filming and producing the video, had gone down a different path and in the end the video was not used as part of the bid.  Even so, I think the testimonies in the video were worth showing and so I put the video online.

So, three years later, where are we?  I think the "Love Ormskirk" campaign harnessed the passion of many towns folk to support the town and became a flag around which people could gather.

The Ormskirk Motorfest is a success and looks set to continue.  Now, in 2015, there are now concrete plans to revitalise the town, beginning with the renovation of Moor Street. You can read about this project on the Lancashire County Council website.

The state of the economy really hurt northern towns like Ormskirk.  In recent weeks, the news is that Tesco is closing, resulting in several redundancies.  Although, a Netto store recently opened up on the retail park.  So, it's a story of swings and roundabouts.  We haven't fared as badly as many other towns in the region.

Given the experience of a couple of the actual winners of the Portas Pilot Town project, it is possible that the winning towns were provided with a poisoned chalice.  A Guardian newspaper article, reports that 10 out of the 12 Portas Pilot towns suffered a down turn in business. There were many reports in the media that there was little or no substance to the actual project, money was wasted and it was seen by some as a a vanity project and a promotion vehicle for both the celebrity and programme makers supposedly supporting the towns.

I believe what the hullabaloo at the time did achieve, was to provide a focal point for citizens, politicians and businesses to get together, talk, then plan and finally action some ideas, with which to help their towns survive the downturn in the economy and the difficulties which lied ahead.

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