03 Jan Where it all began
The end of 2021 marked 10 years since I left my job, to set-up what is now known as The Assembly Line and what an interesting time it has been!
With a few jobs in regeneration/place related roles throughout my career, I’d also spent several years in marketing and business development in large financial and business services companies, which, I left back in 2011. It was then a house move and wanting to get involved with a local project that started this chain of events which led to a change in direction.
A local high street was struggling with footfall, which resulted in empty shops and were looking for people to get involved in generating ideas to revive it, one of which was a market. In 2009, I went along to a public meeting, put my hand up to get involved (using my marketing experience).
Everyone involved lived locally, had a ‘day job’ or ran a high street business, so things happened slowly, and we were all learning as we went, from how to fundraise, to running a public meeting and working with the council.
As the plans for a market gained support, it became a bigger job and I managed to negotiate a 4-day week in my full-time job. We went on to formalise the group as a Traders’ & Residents’ Association (and later a CIC) and by the end of 2010 we had organised three street markets.
Being at the market – manning a stall as the TRA, organising it and running a marketing campaign around it – convinced me that I wanted to be part of a community project and be people-facing (rather than desk-based) and to see change happen at a local level. To do this, I needed to be freelance to balance my marketing projects with more place-based ones.
A lot has happened since then! You can see some of the projects I’ve led, on the website as either independent work or as part of a multi-disciplinary team, led by The Assembly Line or as a collaboration with others.
What I’ve learnt
- My corporate and local authority experience now overlaps, whereas before, they used to be very separate worlds
- My marketing experience is invaluable when it comes to the communications element surrounding consultations and engagement, particularly in how we engage business owners on high streets
- I’ve continued to work with business and financial services companies, where I help them with launching new services, developing marketing campaigns, and growing sales. Now, I also work with start-ups and SMEs to help them grow their business through programmes run by organisations such as Echo and as a mentor at UCL’s Hatchery
- I’m not a fan of developing a ‘shelf piece’. I’d rather focus on action plans and supporting change locally to show clear results
- Engagement and consultation are changing – hopefully to be more accessible, but it’s never been more important. Online engagement reaches new people but a combination of on/offline marketing, delivers the best results
- It’s much more interesting collaborating with others rather than being an individual freelancer which is how most of us start out. There’s now a brilliant group of people I regularly pull together for projects which is good news for client. They bring expertise in areas I don’t cover, or they provide much needed resource when work gets hectic and there’s the added benefit of learning from each other.
2021 was another year of large-scale change, factoring in the ongoing Covid-pandemic and its influence on how work is tendered, won, and delivered but its led to more collaborations than ever.
I also completed an MSc in Place Management & Leadership at MMU and learnt a lot from the cohort over 2.5 years, keeping each other motivated and persevering with dissertation research whilst under Covid-restrictions. My research on business-led regeneration of seaside towns will be available soon.
I’m now splitting my time between London (where projects continue) and Liverpool, a city I’m enjoying getting to know via new collaborations and from where I’m working on several place-based projects across the north west in 2022. I’m also working with places across England via The High Street Task Force on Unlocking Your Place Potential visits and expert support workshops.
Thank you to those who have collaborated and/or supported along the way and I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
Do get in touch if you would like to explore how we could work together.