Thursday 29 January 2015

Carlisle Ambassadors

Today I went to the Carlisle Ambassadors meeting, to discover what it was all about. After a brief welcome from Katie and Michelle, who had organised the event (very successfully indeed), we had a short talk from Simon Harrison, the co-owner of the Halston Aparthotel, which was hosting the meeting.

He told us a brief version of the story of the hotel: which revealed some of his passion for making Carlisle a more vibrant and positive city. In fact his take-away message was that positive things happen to positive people, so it was up to us to make Carlisle the place we wanted it to be, as it competes with other cities with higher profiles.

Jason Gooding, the CE at the City Council was up next. He reflected on the origins of the Ambassador idea, which started germinating in his mind when he was in Coventry and saw how well they had constructed a narrative for the city, that was consistent, credible and compelling.  He saw that Burnley had done the same thing - so why not Carlisle? The City Council started it, but the politicians were bravely stepping back, to allow others to shape the agenda in a collaborative way. His parting message was that we need to make the place the hero, and to make it more natural to be optimistic and proud of Carlisle.

Fred Story, the Chairman of Story Homes then took the stage. He said that at the heart of the Ambassadors project was the idea of collaboration to deliver projects of real value. There were also all the other benefits of a good business network, such as sharing best practice, using local suppliers, and having a laugh together - but all these would be much richer from the experience of getting to know each other through doing worthwhile projects together. And I loved the fact that he stopped his car, got out, and cleaned the Carlisle sign at the entrance to the city!

Andy King of Carlisle Leisure introduced his new boss, from Greenwich Leisure Ltd, following their merger.  I was pleased to learn that GLL is a social enterprise; and even more so to hear of the ambitious plans to re-fit the Sands Centre.

Finally Jane Meek, the City's Director of Economic Development, told us the headlines of the Local Plan, including the proposal to build 9000 houses, and the benefits of that.

And then there was time to chat with other guests, and enjoy the very good food provided by Simon's team.

All in all, a very interesting and enjoyable meeting; and one which I think holds the seeds of something great for the City and the Region.

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