Community representatives, local bloggers, media and assorted VIPs gathered in Hoole for the visit of the Great British High Street award judges. Hoole is currently leading the public vote that makes up 50% of the final result at http://thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/high-street-of-the-year-award . The visiting judges were relationship manager and marketing professional Alan Taylor , Alana Renner, communications officer with the Post Office and civil servant Hilary Paxman who works for the Department of communities and local government. The judges were greeted in Art at 41 just off the busy high street by Chester the Cat and Council leader Sam Dixon.
The judges were led on a brief tour of the businesses on the high street, including the award-winning Deli- vert, Cafe.com, Mr Fruity and Pioneer shoe repairs. Resident Linda Hobbs talked the judges through what makes Hoole special and its distinctive community appeal as well as the successful social media campaign that has helped to drive the bid.
Stripey ice cream was supplied by Anna from L Lewis , who have been trading in Hoole since 1931.
The judging panel also visited the Nail Spa:
Judge Alan Taylor took a quick break for a live phone in with Gavin Matthews on Dee106.3 and expressed many positive thoughts about Hoole. “It’s not necessarily about money, it’s about people and communities coming together, joining together and pooling their resources. That’s what’s been marvellous about todays visit. It’s great to see the bars and the pubs, it’s another thing that gets overlooked with high streets.. the night-time economy is just as important. bringing people in with places where people can go, it’s all part of the atmosphere. It’s certainly been a great visit to Hoole and I wish them the very best of luck”
After a quick visit to the Faulkner, the judges tasted oysters in The Hollows with council leader Dixon and The Lord Mayor joining in the fun.
Finally everyone gathered in the Hobson’s Cafe in the community centre. The community centre won funding from the Peoples millions lottery fund last year, and the cafe staffed by volunteers, is running IT training sessions in October. Judge Alanna Renner was full of praise for Hoole “its been an amazing experience coming to Hoole. I’m so pleased that I was asked to come. ” She praised the strength of community spirit from the independent shops along with the support of larger ones such as Sainsburys. Meg of @chesterculture said that Hoole was “an easy place to be, and to be feel part of” with everyone agreeing that social media has played a part in bringing people together. Sue Mason of @Nottinghoole said that for those that didn’t use facebook etc, the businesses and residents have been encouraged to speak to their neighbours as well as the increased use of signs and notice boards on the street. Alanna asked what Hoole would spend its share of the prize fund on, if successful and manager of the Faulkner Darren Lea replied “We’d just put it back into the community… there’s loads going on out there”
Alex Sharp of Art at 41 ” I think it went particularly well, just reinforces the fact that the businesses are all working together. Event launches are a good opportunity for businesses to pull together and network. Everyone’s out on the street and its looking good!”
The voting goes on into mid November, and the result will be announced in early December. You can vote, daily at http://thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/finalist-local-centre