Tuesday, 12 June 2012

An open letter to Chris Gregory

In open response to this letter from the Stratforward 'Project Director.' 
Stratforward raise their money by imposing a levy over businesses in Stratford- Upon-Avon.

With over £40,000 per year allocated to staffing costs and a mysterious £4,000 to £8,000 budget 'reserve' i'm not sure what a 'project director' does (other than write the newsletter) but it is a well paid position. A position created by Jonathan Birkett, an outsider to Stratford who sold his idea to the town, took his generous wages for a couple of years then jumped ship.

You can not 'opt-out' of this levy. It is a bit like a con or a protection racket in my opinion. They take over £1.75 million from Business in stratford and I cant see how they could claim to be bringing people into the town.They would be better off driving a free bus than sitting in meetings telling each other how well they spend money that isn't theirs.
Is this 'Propaganda' I smell before me?

Dear Chris.
Time certainly flies when you are working every hour god sends to build your business, despite your beloved Stratford looking more desolate every day. 

I am glad you are able to call the Fringe festival a success. I did not see much advertising for this event and am not aware of anyone who attended any of the few unknown productions that were so poorly promoted. The Edinburgh fringe festival, as you probably know, grew off the back of one of the world’s premier arts festivals. Whilst the elite in opera, classical music and ballet performed, literally hundreds of long experienced street acts and diverse artists were able to play to the thousands of visitors the original festival attracted. I again congratulate you on your version of ‘success’ – empty venues and unknown acts attracting little interest with poor promotion.
I also must say that the large black chipboard poster stations with the bedraggled litter pinned to them are quite the sight. An ironic modern art take on a ‘world class’ event in a ‘world class’ town no doubt. What a novelty to see something that belongs in a skip in the centre of our town at peak time for tourism. 

I am also pleased you are proud of the diamond jubilee celebrations. Something you can take absolutely no credit for. 
As you say, “an example of what the town can achieve together” 
– without you. 
Or the £1.75million you reap from the town.

I disliked your 'school project/microsoft publisher' newsletter, expensively printed on paper in another glaring inefficiency and hand delivered by you. Not too busy having fun to deliver your self serving leatflet and to encourage evryone to vote 'yes' to another 5 years of your wages. You looked very tanned. Been away?
This is an open letter. Please resign and join me on the ‘No’ campaign.

I don't want to be so negative but your letter and this scheme do really sit atop a new peak of idiocy. 

I have a few positive ideas for the town but until you stop wasting all this money in such foolish ways I fear we won’t get the chance to actually improve things. My ideas have to wait,  you spend our £1.75million first.

I accept your invitation to your open meeting to discuss the proposal to extend the ‘b.i.d.’ on Thursday 28th June at 6.15 at the Shakespeare. Sounds lovely. I’ll bring some friends. 
I can’t wait to express my opinion that this is a uniquely stupid proposal that benefits you and the ‘b.i.d.’ more than the people of Stratford. 

We would all enjoy spending money. 
You enjoy spending our money.
People enjoy feeling self important. 

You are not an freely elected group despite your pretentions. Should we let all the residents of Stratford have an educated opinion heard at this meeting? It does involve all of our shared, public spaces, after all. 

Stratforward website 
I wonder how much it cost to complicate the online search with multiple websites. I am pleased you have decided to ‘pool resources’ with other organisations. Were you not doing this before? Surely you are not idiots? I mean, you wouldn’t be wasting time and money when the one official tourist information website for Stratford should be produced by the council and not large private companies. I am also sure you realise simply putting things online does not ensure they will be viewed by your target audience. 
I have made this simple website with blogger. One of many free ways to produce a website. I am sure you wouldn't have paid hundreds of pounds to produce a website for each different venture the Stratforward scheme puts forward. This would only really help the website production companies. Someone experienced in marketing would never make such a basic error as to ignore free web hosting and pay a premium to an external company for something that can easily be handled in house. 

I see the fashion show was a ‘success’ for one clothing retailer and a hairstylist as you are still giving them a plug in your newsletter. I am sure that offering this opportunity and advertising to such a small number of businesses and giving them an unfair advantage over their competitors is welcomed by all the other hairdressers and clothing retailers. Despite your marketing I hear it failed to cause a stir. I fear you are trying to convince me you are successful to hide the truth and ensure the scheme continues.
I wonder if as a marketing group, Stratforward are more successful at convincing businesses to part with their money than they are spending it wisely. It doesn’t matter what they do with your money, just that you hand it over. A clever business model.

 you say
""“The Stratforward BID exists to support local businesses through building a commercially vibrant town centre
Stratforward is charged with delivering a comprehensive marketing strategy; to increase and develop events and festivals; the introduction of a Town Host programme; the introduction of new street entertainment, as well as offering a range of business support initiatives.
Stratforward has a five year minimum project life span and collects and manages a budget, in excess of £1.75million. This is used to achieve the company’s key objective:
Bring more people into Stratford town centre, make them stay longer, spend more and leave happy.""

In the last three years have they achieved their objective? 
Would you spend £1.75 million on town hosts and a fringe festival?
I argue that the money would be better spent by paying for free parking and scrap this idiocy.
The more projects and poorly run initiatives that Stratforward attempt to produce, the more money is wasted. I argue the people in charge of the budget do not know what is best for Stratford. They fail to make their events successful due to poor marketing and bad decisions. If I was on Dragons den, as a serious businessman, I would say – “I’m out” 

You have an appalling track record. You have failed to bring more people into Stratford; you fail to enhance the experience sufficiently to cause them to want to stay longer. You have failed to support a multitude of different businesses in Stratford, indeed many have closed since the initiation of the Stratforward scheme. Any credit you claim for new businesses opening or visitor footfall is more likely to be a result of the new theatre and the rent deals available as more and more shops stand idle. You put up posters in empty shop windows when you have failed to fill the shops. 

This project provides public services, like town hosts, with private money. 
Surely it should be the people who decide what kind of street entertainment they want on their streets. 

We do not want the control of our public spaces and events to fall into the hands of private companies. 

Town Hosts in a Ghost Town. 

Trial closures of High Street.
If you are trying to encourage people to come into the town then why close off a street and create more difficulty driving or parking?
'Careful planning' means lots of talking, time wasted and money spent to get simple things achieved. This will be a waste of time and money.
We already have a pedestrian space in the centre of town. Bell Court. Now devoid of businesses with the exception of the Town Hosts base.

Footfall statistics.
These are useless. Is it the weather? Is it the theatre? How can two years of data be anything to look into? Perhaps in twenty years we will see trends in hindsight but is this a relevant way to move forward today? Again a costly and useless exercise.
The festivals. Where to start?
Terrible promotion and a lack of actual attractions. The River festival is always busy as the town is always busy at this time of year. If the sun shines people will come out. Half will not even know the festival is on. Is it too much money to actually book a real band or singer that people know? Could you maybe advertise it months and months in advance since you know when and where it will be every year? Was the food festival in existence before the ‘b.i.d.’?

Securing Stratford day or night is a job for the Police. Leave it alone. Our M.P. - Nadhim Zahawi made this clear at an open meeting I attended in Greenhill Street, where it became apparent the town hosts were not in any position to tackle law and order.

Town Hosts.
They are not tourist information guides. They are not community support officers. They are not qualified medical professionals. What are they? The public are not aware and I do not think private companies should police our streets. This is a massive waste of money and provides little in improving visitor experience. Stratford residents are quite used to directing people to the birthplace. 

At £95,000 a year 

(nearly a hundred thousand pounds!) 

are Town Hosts worth the money?

are Town Hosts good value for money?

In the five years we will spend 
nearly £500,000 

on the town hosts. 

This is an insane waste of money. 

Imagine how long you could park for half a million pounds. 

You could have bought 20,000 theatre tickets. One for everyone in Stratford! 

I didn't even start on your idea to recycle bunting by adorning the river festival with used and random sections of tempory shop decoration rather than spending any more money.

You work closely with the council. Why not just give them the £1.75million. You could stand for election and see if the people want your ideas. Did any of the Stratforward board consider running for council?

I will be campaigning against the extension of the ‘b.i.d.’ as I think it is a con and it is designed to pay out to certain people and does not have the best interests of the town at heart. I question the money spent over the last 3 years and if it has made any positive difference to the town at all. 

I don't have your £1.75 million of local business money, or a company desgingned to create marketing, but I am right. So I am sure the truth of this murky issue will out. 

I wonder if other business owners agree and if it is right that smaller independent shops should have less of a say over what happens on the streets than bigger companies?
I am not sure costs should be added to already struggling businesses at this difficult time.
I am sure many would just like their share of the money back. 

I think businesses should not be made to pay a levy or tax in the way you have taken money from local business. You are not the elected government. 

I will be urging local businesses to stop this con trick now and to wake up
I don’t want to end up Town Hosts in a Ghost Town.