What makes your town unique? Many places are distinctive, but not all have a characteristic that stands out above all other features to become the identity of the town. This can often be a product of an existing strong town character combined with a catalyst such as an entrepreneur with a big idea.
It is often not the intention to create a brand or theme for a town, but this can emerge over time. The most successful distinctiveness strategies are embedded in the physical environment of a town; examples such as Hay-on-Wye and Machynlleth have been successful because of their location and setting.
Distinctiveness can extend beyond the boundaries of a town to the national and international stage. This can create a driving force for a vision that unites the community and can provide economic benefits. However, to achieve this requires commitment, time and support.
Hay-on-Wye: The Book Town
Lying in the Wye Valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Hay was traditionally a sheep farming town and a stop-over for those travelling to Brecon. In 1963, Richard Booth opened the first second hand bookshop in Hay. The town was an ideal location for an international trade in books- close to Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff for local trade, far enough from London to escape the capital’s influence, and with easy links to Ireland. By the 1970’s over 30 bookshops had opened in the town and today there are over 40. The spin-off Hay Literary Festival has an international reputation and attracts speakers and visitors from around the world. The festival attracted over 200,000 attendees in 2010 and over the course of a year the town and festival attract half a million visitors.
Machynlleth: A centre for sustainability
In 1973 the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) was founded outside Machynlleth. Growing from a ‘green’ community to a centre for demonstration of eco-friendly research, sustainable development, environmental protection and social inclusion, the site now receives around 65,000 visitors per annum. A focus on Eco-technology has generated new opportunities for employment, enterprise and tourism in the town. CAT directly employs 150 permanent and seasonal staff. It has attracted funding and employment to the town in the green building sector and has sparked green community regeneration projects such as EcoDyfi, a community renewable energy programme and the Dyfi EcoPark.
Mold : Slow Towns & slow food
The Cittaslow or slow town movement aims to encourage town residents to live and enjoy life at a human pace through conviviality and sustainability. Cittaslow provides a series of 55 goals that aim to involve the local community in taking practical actions to enhance the environment, infrastructure, local products, hospitality, and profile of a town.
Mold is Wales' first Cittaslow town. Cittaslow Mold was conceived in October 2006 as its focus on food aligned well with the reputation the town was trying to develop. Once the decision had been made to adopt Cittaslow, the Town Council created a steering group of 15 organisations and many influential individuals that represented the diversity of the town's life. The guiding goals and principles of the movement form the foundation of initiatives, actions and projects across the town. The town now has a regular market and specialist farmers market focussing on local produce, an annual food and drink festival and the Bailey Hill Festival. The group has also been instrumental in other initiatives in the town including the Mold Spring Clean, the Mold Sense of Place study, More Trees for Mold and funding for many projects across the town.
The international Cittaslow movement fosters economic, social and environmental sustainability. Membership of Cittaslow has brought Mold a range of benefits, including reassuring potential visitors and investors that it is well run and progressive, and unlocking funds from local and central government to help finance local initiatives.
Find out more: http://cittaslowmold.co.uk