Monday, 08 August 2022

Outdoor performers in summer would help boost business

Outdoor performers in summer would help boost business

OUTDOOR performances could be staged in the town centre in a bid to encourage visitors.

New town centre manager Laurie-Jane Cann wants to launch a “Summer Series” over four weekends in August, starting next year.

Street performers would set up in the Market Place to capitalise on the burgeoning “café culture” in the town and help create a “European city feel”.

Mrs Cann, who works for the town council and replaced Craig Buckby in the role in May, first thought up the idea when she was chief executive of Newbury Business Improvement District but she had left the role before it got off the ground.

She said: “In Newbury it was always an ambition when I was there as chief executive to do it in its market place, which was very underutilised compared with Henley.

“The idea behind it is that when you go abroad we all love the café culture and that vibrancy of having things going on and in Henley we have the most amazing Market Place to bring a series of activities over the summer to encourage that and create a European city feel to it.

“It’s not just about getting visitors in to support the night-time economy, we could get people to put on morning activities to get people going and set up for the day.

“There is no proven example elsewhere so we hope Henley would be the first to really get it.”

Mrs Cann says one of the most important aspects of her job is creating and maintaining civic pride and thinks these events will have a positive impact on residents.

She said: “We want our residents to get behind and support what is going on in the town and we want to have a mix of having events that brings people into Henley and the benefits that brings and also events which residents will support.”

Mrs Cann says that having more attractions at the weekend will help to create a safer and more pleasant shopping experience.

“By having events in the town centre it also creates a safe space. The more an area is used for something positive the less likely it can be used in a negative way.

“I hope we can get a range of things happening, there is lots of local talent, it would be great to have an environment just like you get when you see buskers playing in the evening.”

Meanwhile, Mrs Cann is carrying out “visual audits” to ensure Henley looks its best to visitors.

She has been walking the streets looking out for any damaged street furniture, “exceptional” waste, graffiti and vacant shops.

Mrs Cann told a meeting of the council’s town and community committee that she called this part of her job “brilliant basics”. She said: “I am keen to encourage all to do this as they are out and about and feed into me to enable the quickest response to such issues as possible.

“These are fundamental basics of good town management such as cleanliness, good toilet facilities, seating areas and accessibility, and should never not be a priority. If Henley cannot get these things consistently correct then visitors will soon vote with their feet.”

Mrs Cann is also planning to set up a quarterly retailers forum to discuss matters raised by them.

She said: “These meetings may be held in the town hall but I will also encourage businesses to host them, if their premises allows, to ensure a better feeling of ownership of the meetings amongst the retailers.

“I am very keen to also use these forums to promote more sustainability amongst our businesses and so will look to encourage participation in green initiatives.”

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