Making Places

We Are Placemaking’s Louisa Bass explains how events celebrate and strengthen communities.

Crowd attending outdoor filmOver the past year we have experienced many significant changes to the way in which we have had to adapt to our new environment. Part of that shift has included the sacrifice of the vast majority of events in 2020 with a major knock on effect to the hospitality sector.

Following the government’s latest roadmap we are now at a pivotal point. We are able to start looking ahead to how we bring people back together across the country, a perfect time to focus on events and the important role they play in strengthening and celebrating communities and, in doing so, ‘making’ places.

‘Celebration’ is a key word in itself, evoking thoughts around the social nature of humanity and our need for collaboration and social interaction. We come together to celebrate all sorts of moments in time, be it the launch of a new development, a Christmas celebration, an arts festival or a food market. These events create ample opportunities for not only local food and beverage operators (F&B) and retailers but also for local community engagement and interaction, which then has a positive knock on effect to local economy, general wellbeing and localism.

outdoor lights exhibition
Photo: Tom Chaplin

We refer to the ‘Village Green’ when discussing events in the public realm where we create a platform for stakeholder engagement, making events relevant and representative to the local community in which they sit. In our work in placemaking events, we reach out to multiple organisations including artists/arts organisations, F&B operators, local retailers, musicians and schools. An example of this, was a project we developed and produced with Peabody Trust when we supported them in delivering their first Light Festival in Thamesmead. The key aim was to make it an engaging community event. We worked with Peabody to involve local schools, performers and artists. We curated light installations from our roster mixed with a light installation delivered by the local school, ‘Dear Disco Ball’ by the local winning artist Nathalie Coste, local F&B traders, and storytelling in the woods. This was a great example of a place strengthened through a celebration of the local community. Stakeholder engagement is a key driving factor to ensure that events are relevant, unique and also of interest to the resident community.

Raising local profile
A key driver to holding events is the impact on local business and there are various ways in which they can be of benefit. Firstly, the opportunities provided directly by the events themselves. An example of this being road closure events where local retailers are brought out of their stores into the public realm, able to broaden their reach and celebrate the local business community. This also provides a fantastic opportunity for wider tourism to drive interest and show off local heritage and identity. Each place is unique with a different story to tell and events provide a fantastic platform to raise local profile.

At We Are Placemaking, we always aim to design and deliver experiences that are accessible to all, extend dwell time and increase engagement. This is particularly relevant as we look to the future of retail and the necessary changes being made to the high street as we have previously experienced it. We believe that creative experiences need to aim higher than the traditional ‘surprise and delight’ moments to more curated and considered programmes that deliver a wider experience.

Wellbeing
Aside from the community representation and economic benefit, another consideration is wellbeing and creating spaces and places that the whole community can enjoy. We have heard a great deal this year about the impact on national mental health of not being able to come together and enjoy experiences. This could be anything from an annual fireworks display, a music festival, to an art trail; all of these events have an impact.

As event organisers, we are looking forward to the next phase where we are able to play an essential role in generating these forms of collaboration and bringing communities back together in the public realm and in festival fields, stronger than ever before and with even more of an appreciation of what events bring to communities nationwide.

Event in a field


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Louisa BassLouisa Bass is account director for We Are Placemaking, a specialist creative placemaking agency powered by over 16 years’ worth of award winning event production experience through sister agency, The Fair. We Are Placemaking works alongside public and private sector organisations within the property, retail and public realm, animating spaces through live experiences. The agency delivers world class experiences for customers and communities, supporting clients from the initial planning stages through to feasibility, event concepts and programming to production and measurement. www.weareplacemaking.co.uk

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