Loss of town events likely as Business Group disbands team of organisers


Wilmslow Business Group has decided to disband their events team as they have been unable to secure the necessary funding from the business community to deliver their plan.

In April 2016 Wilmslow Town Council agreed to provide a grant of £12,000 to the Wilmslow Business Group for the next two years which would go towards the salaries of their events team.

This provided a third of the required funding, with one third supposed to come from the business group subscriptions and the final third from sponsorship of the events held during the year.

Town Clerk Matthew Jackson said "The group has not been able to cover the commercial financial elements during 2016/17 although to their credit have delivered the full programme of events that they promised when taking a grant from Wilmslow Town Council at the start of the financial year.

"Although the Town Council guaranteed a two year funding package the business group will not be taking the great for the second year."

He added "The result of this decision is likely to be the loss of numerous Town Centre events in 2017 including the Christmas Lights Switch On event in November."

As this event was previously directly funded and organised by Wilmslow Town Council it was proposed and unanimiously approved that the Christmas Lights Switch On be taken back in-house and fall under the responsibility of the Town Council's Community and Order Committee.

In order to fund this they agreed to transfer £8000 from their grants and donations budget (where they were paying £12,000 per annum to Wilmslow Business Group from) to their events budget.

Catherine Mackenzie, Chairman of Wilmslow Business Group:"With a heavy-heart the WBG Board has decided to disband the Events Team for the time-being.

"The original funding concept for the WBG Events Team was that over time the Team would become self-financing through growing the sponsorship income from the public events we organise. After three years, we are increasingly finding it difficult to secure this sponsorship. This means that the Team is being funded mostly by WBG membership subscriptions, with match-funding from Wilmslow Town Council. This is not sustainable. It has also prevented WBG from focusing on our member-only events and activities.

"The objective of the public events was to increase interest, vibrancy and footfall within the town centre. This clearly benefits the retailers and leisure operators in the town centre. A number of the high street businesses have fully supported the Events Team. However, there is a significant number of high street businesses that have not got behind the Events Team or the Business Group; but still benefit from the increased footfall. These businesses are in effect benefitting from WBG's work, whilst not contributing themselves, which is unfair on WBG members.

"WBG will deliver the forthcoming planned events Food & Drink Week (24th-29th April) and Wilmslow Rocks (10th – 17th June). In addition we will continue to work closely with Wilmslow Town Council to support events such as the Christmas Lights Switch On."

Speaking about the Motor Show, Catherine said "The Motor Show, which was the brainchild of Steve Kennedy of Mailboxes Etc, is the most successful WBG Event, bringing over 30,000 people into Wilmslow. We are therefore keen to deliver the Motor Show. But it takes an awful lot of work, and without an Events Team would again be left to a small team of volunteers, who have their own businesses to run. The WBG Board is therefore still considering whether it can go ahead, but at this stage it is looking unlikely."

We have also received confirmation that the Wilmslow Art Trail will absolutely be running this year from 13-15 October as per our previously published article. It is being run by Georgie Johnson, as an independent organiser, along with the participating artists.

Wilmslow Business Group, Wilmslow Town Council


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Barry Buxton
Wednesday 19th April 2017 at 5:49 pm
No great loss.
Ruth McNulty
Wednesday 19th April 2017 at 6:54 pm
Oh dear, Mr Buxton, how very ungenerous.

The Wilmslow Business Group, under Catherine's Chairmanship, has sponsored a number of innovative events to drive footfall into Wilmslow with any number of spectacular successes. Local retail businesses have already paid their own tributes to the effectiveness of the Motor Shows in particular that have attracted substantial numbers into the town with concomitant additional spending into our attractive retail businesses, supermarkets and food outlets. The absence of the Events team will be missed by the businesses in the town centre.

Catherine and her colleagues from the business group - all of whom have their own businesses to manage - are particularly modest about the proportion of their time devoted to the promotion of the town in which we live.

A quiet appreciation of the sheer effort - with demonstrable results - of the various volunteer groups active in Wilmslow including the Business Group, the Partnership, the Clean Team, the Neighbourhood Plan group, not to mention the In Bloom team would play rather better than the dismissive quip of an uninvolved bystander. Alternatively may I suggest that you join any one of the above? I would be delighted to point you in the right direction.

Ruth McNulty Chair Wilmslow In Bloom
Julie Niven
Wednesday 19th April 2017 at 9:55 pm
Hear, hear Ruth McNulty.
Thursday 20th April 2017 at 8:40 am
Think this is very sad. At this time, with the making of the Local Plan, the Neighbourhood Plan, and the expansion of Handforth Dean, a Business Group is needed to promote the town. Perhaps a way ahead might be to combine a couple of events on the same day to see whether the budget they were given can be better spread. For example, the highlight of the Art Trail is the weekend. It would be good if this couldn't go hand in hand with painting and craft activities for children so that more of a day of it could be made, or with a Wilmslow in Bloom walk on the same day. There could be worksheets and quizes available for families for both events. There could also be events at the Carrs on the same involving the Cheshire Ranger Service.
Angela McPake
Thursday 20th April 2017 at 9:52 am
Hi Jackie, the Business Group still exists and continues to be very active in terms of supporting and promoting their members to each other and the wider town. Indeed they are very clear on refocusing their efforts in this regard.

What has proved impossible to fund is running a big schedule of events designed to drive footfall into the town.

There are on-going conversations about what they may continue to do and can manage more easily- both the Food and Drink week (next week) and Wilmslow Rocks will still be happening, as organised by the Group before they made this decision.

To your point, getting people into Wilmslow to spend their money is critical to the survival of the town centre in any format. Ironically, as someone who attends the Business Group meetings it is noticeable how few retailers have chosen to be involved.
Angela McPake
Thursday 20th April 2017 at 10:50 am
Thanks Angela,

It must be disheartening how few retailers are involved, but I suspect that so many businesses in the town are simply part of large chains or corporations. It seems to me that the town has so much to offer, both in terms of tourism and shopping, given its proximity to Manchester Airport. Let's face it many people have several hours to kill at the airport and with a train to Wilmslow people can easily get here and see the town and still make it for their flight. To me this is one of the reasons why a permanent venue for a Lindow Man display is needed and why there needs to be a local craft shop to display the talents of local artists. It would be good if there could be advertising at the airport pointing out how close the town is and ideas on what it has to offer. Having travelled extensively in my younger days I discovered that as tourists you were always "channelled" to the nearest large well-known venues, whereas in other places there was so much still to see during a "short break". Basically Wilmslow needs a new "image". St Bart's is a grade 1 listed building and is quite beautiful inside, there is Lindow Man, there is the industrial aspect to early Wilmslow etc. Even when there was a "tourist office" in the town it amounted to sending people to Tatton Park, Lyme Park, Peak District etc. Wilmslow needs to be more than simply a residential suburb of Greater Manchester.