Ashbourne’s bunting is a spectacular sight and something which has drawn the national press’s attention. In answer to the obvious “so what” question the benefits are in tourism and footfall in town from daytrippers. Every single shop, cafe, restaurant and market stall has benefitted from it’s power of attraction and photographic qualities whether they care to admit it or not. Even Derbyshire Dales District Council has benefited from the increased parking fees. The problem for the bunting team is that they are the ones faced with the big bill – not the people who benefit from it.
I’ve blogged previously about just what a spectacular team effort this has been with lots of local businesses contributing time and materials. The guys who put it up and take it down have to do so at antisocial times to avoid disruption. I personally love it. I think it adds to the theatre of the town by creating a false ceiling to make everything a little more intimate. On a sunny day the shadows are beautiful and the view from Madge corner along to St Oswald’s is fantastic. Along with the displays of flags and Christmas trees on the shop fronts, the bunting is becoming a part of the Ashbourne landscape. There are eight miles of bunting already and I’d personally like more not less.
Of course, the bigger it gets, and the greater the publicity, the greater the challenge for the organisers. I’m not really sure why this isn’t funded in the same way as the Christmas lights but sadly, the organisers have to do it all themselves. Organising stalwart Stuart Lees has raised the spectre of losing the bunting. Rightly he has pointed out that the bunting itself (but also the’bunters’ if that is the word) is starting to show the signs of age and weather and needs replacing or supplementing. This can’t and shouldn’t be done on fresh air, charity and goodwill alone – they have started something which is very worthwhile and they deserve a little breather from trying to make ends meet and drumming up reluctant volunteers.
This is where we all need to help out where we can if we think it is worth preserving. The Ashbourne News Telegraph has created a donation page to give everyone a place to give. You can now do this online at http://www.gofundme.com/fa3jts. I am assuming that Waitrose can add a suitable location for customers to deposit their tokens to show their support and pubs would be willing to have a collection tin on the bar. It is also an opportunity for local businesses who haven’t already contributed to its success to show their appreciation. By all accounts it hasn’t been a bad 2014 on the Ashbourne High Street so far so perhaps they could put a little back against the estimate £5000 needed. The solution doesn’t need to be in one big cheque – lots of little ones will do but the total amount needs to be achieved.
Of course, it is £5000 now but it’ll be the same again in three or four years time and maybe we need to think a little more creatively at this point. I’m thinking that with a little clever marketing we could make this work for all of us. I am thinking of something which is self-financing – perhaps with installation taken on by the council on that basis but organised by the current team. Here are some ideas on how we could make this sustainable.
- Firstly, rather than just donations, businesses could look at sponsorship. I don’t know how feasible it is for the same bunting to be in the same location each year but businesses could maybe sponsor the bunting outside their premises in return for displaying a logo or colour scheme. Of course we need to preserve the overall look but this seems an easy extension of the sponsor-a-roundabout idea. In the same vein, local groups and schools could design and make sections of bunting to reflect their projects all of which would add character as long as they were done within some overall design scheme. After all this isn’t too far away from the idea of well dressing which works so well in our surrounding villages. It doesn’t even need to be businesses paying. The Leisure Centre has a big board listing the names of people who have supported it. There are hundreds of people around the country with a fondness for the town and who may be willing to sponsor a flag with their name on it if they were given the opportunity. Of course, all this personalisation creates paid work for local businesses in addition which must be a good thing.
- Secondly, the bunting itself could be fundraising. The Tourist Information Centre could sell treasure trails and hire out binoculars based on clues on the flags themselves. There are already some guided routes around the town centre that are revenue earners and this is just a small extension. Imagine a town-wide Where’s Wally trying to find the one pennant with a particular image on.
- Another way of embedding the bunting more into the town and therefore gaining
support would be to have special flags within the design which reflect our history and civic pride. Remember the Golden post boxes which sprang up around the country to commemorate gold medallists at London 2012? I am thinking of individual pennants to commemorate those who have fallen in combat, a pennant or two added each year for people who goal during Shrovetide and finally maybe an awards ceremony each year which adds five flags per year for worthies of the town past and present.
- And finally, one that is perhaps a little too far…could the cords themselves carry lights as well as flags? That way we could have a year round, day and night spectacle which could perhaps offset against some of the Christmas decoration costs?