Sunday, 18 November 2018

Let’s work together, says new head of Henley Partnership

THE new head of the Henley Partnership believes structural changes to the organisation will help create a more united front

THE new head of the Henley Partnership believes structural changes to the organisation will help create a more united front for businesses in the town.

Julie Perigo, who runs a professional careers advice service, has been appointed chairman having previously chaired the business and retail group of the partnership for more than a year.

Previously, the partnership was divided into three sector-specific groups of arts, tourism and business and retail.

The partnership was chaired by Jonathan Hobbs, managing director of Hobbs of Henley, and events organiser Pete Smith but decided not to replace Mr Smith after his resignation in December 2011 while it went through a transitional period.

Mrs Perigo said: “We decided last year as we were going through a period of change and renewal that it was probably better, rather than rushing into getting a chairman, to see how things might develop.

“By the end of the year we saw that the way to go was for a holistic and inclusive approach.”

Several sector-specific working groups, each with its own co-ordinator or co-ordinating group, have now been created. They include an accommodation providers’ forum, Chilterns-focused tourism, Henley charities together, retail and markets, membership communication policies, health, wealth and wellbeing and sports together.

They will be represented at steering committee meetings chaired by Mrs Perigo every two months.

She said: “Rather than splitting into sectors looking at different issues, we’ve set up the working groups as structured rather than industry specific.

“There were a number of businesses and organisations that didn’t know where they fitted in, such as charities and emergency services, so we said let’s get rid of that structure and have the partnerships. We think it will enable us to be more active, attractive, transparent and inclusive.

“The recession has given an impetus to the partnership because people realise we can do more together rather than toughing it out on their own.”

Some of the existing groups, such as Henley as a winter destination, the Henley Young Partnership and new business attraction and welcome, will remain in place.

Mrs Perigo said the groups crossed sectors on purpose. For example, the winter destination group involves aspects of art, retail and tourism.

She launched the Living Advent Calender on behalf of the partnership in December 2011 and this year hopes to stage an autumn jazz festival. There is also talk of an arts and crafts festival in 2014.

Mrs Perigo said: “Henley already does a lot in the winter but what we haven’t been good at doing is packaging it and helping with publicity. That’s one of our big focuses — to try bring it together.

“There are probably about 25 marvellous things, from concerts to exhibitions and arts shows, in the winter. We want to make a list of all those and work out what’s going to appeal to different audiences.”

Next month, the partnership is organising a Henley Day of Design in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects. The aim is to bring together businesses in the architecture, construction and design fields.

There are also plans for a wealth and wellbeing exhibition in June, which will help people aged over 55 to find out how they can benefit from local organisations.

The partnership’s monthly network lunches will continue and it is launching quarterly members-only meetings in the evenings at venues such as Phyllis Court Club, the Henley Business School and Leander Club.

The partnership has grown its membership to more than 100 and developed links with Henley Town Council and South Oxfordshire District Council.

Mrs Perigo said: “The valuable thing about an independent, voluntary body like the Henley Partnership is that like-minded people can come together within it and work together on actions and activities which matter to them.

“Our members are in it for their businesses and for organisational reasons but the other aspect is it’s for the good of the economic health of the town as well. It offers an opportunity for good ideas to find a home.

“Some of the working groups will work wonderfully and some of those may not work so well but we want to encourage people to be active about their interests and get involved.

“I’m amazed at how much we’ve achieved in the last year and it’s about continuing to build and grow.”

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