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Frome’s bid to be a Portas Pilot beacon town gathers pace

A BID has been made by Frome to join the Portas Pilot scheme, which will trial new ideas for regenerating Britain’s high streets. The Government-led scheme began with a report by retail expert, Mary Portas, on the state of the nation’s high street. Towns were invited to bid to be chosen as one of 12 towns in the pilot scheme. The chosen towns will share £1million from the government and will receive help from a team, including Mary Portas, to “breathe new life” into local towns.The Frome Town Team held its first meeting in last month and agreed to support the town council’s suggestion to submit an application for Frome to the Portas Pilot scheme.The bid form was completed by Allison Herbert of Pop Projects, with wide-ranging help from other members of the town team in their own specialist subject areas.  Allison said, “I am so delighted to have been involved in this project, there is such a wealth of talent in our town and a great willingness to share it.  I have been overwhelmed with offers of support from all different people and have learnt a lot about Frome in the process.”The Town Team includes members with a diverse mix of skills from local landowners and business organisations to statistics, PR and new technology. The Town Team recognises that lots of survey work has been done in the town and started by identifying the challenges and priorities for the bid before coming up with the following 300 word vision for the bid document:“Routes through the town – A big problem when you arrive in Frome is the lack of clear signage so people can miss the best bits. We’ll ask our vibrant artistic community to create unique and special signage and we’ll create a free Frome App. This way, people can visit Frome’s attractions from their armchair but also, once here, visitors and residents can easily find out what’s on and where things are.“Routes through history – Lying beneath Frome is a fascinating network of underground tunnels giving us a unique opportunity to ‘sell’ the town to visitors. During the annual Frome Festival the tunnel and history tours are THE hottest tickets so we plan to build these into a year-round attraction for the ‘long weekend’ tourist market and grow the potential for our evening economy at the same time. “Routes to market – We want to build on our market town heritage. We already have successful twice-weekly markets and, during the summer monthly artisan/flea markets bring people on Sundays. We will sell Frome as a super market town, with speciality markets throughout the year. We want to encourage stallholders and young people to fill vacant commercial properties, creating pop-up market stalls in them. We’ll cut through the red tape so entrepreneurs can test their commercial ideas and bring vibrancy to empty shops.’“The bid also had to be accompanied by a short two-minute video.  The Town Team was extremely fortunate to have creative input from young businesspeople in the town.  Mark Grant (www.marklukegrant.co.uk) designed the video and Thom Brill (www.thombrill.co.uk) edited the film, using some new footage filmed on a small camera by another volunteer and some archive footage kindly provided by Frome TV, Red Bull and Howard Vause.  Music for the video was composed by Greg Freeman.  “One of the really wonderful features about the film is that all of the people involved in putting it together are students who benefitted some 10 -15 years ago from the impressive facilities in the Frome College Media Arts department.  Having left the town to further their training, they have gone on to have successful careers in the creative industries and are now  bringing their skills back to Frome to set up small independent businesses and support initiatives like the Town Team.“The film celebrates the best of the town and gently points out some of the weaknesses – the unfriendly signage in the car parks and the station for example.  It has already had several hundred hits so is acting as a great promotion for the town before the bid process has even begun.  Please go and have a look:    www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rWt9IrRk1c&feature=youtu.be  “Some of the proposed actions in the bid don’t require the Portas Pilot funding to be tackled and the Town Team will be meeting shortly to get started on some of its ideas.  Please get in touch via frometownteam@gmail.com if you would like to be involved – all support and expertise is most welcome.”

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