Sheffield - The Outdoor City - A Plan Of Action
For what feels like about 18 months now Sheffield City Council have been working towards re-branding Sheffield as The Outdoor City. It's been a really exciting time, and I've been very pleased to have been involved on a consultation level along with a whole host of other representatives from the outdoor industry living and working in the area. A couple of weeks ago the most tangible thing to have come from the process so far happened, as a brand new website was publically launched to showcase the offer of this remarkable city. It's a nice site - useful for both locals and visitors. There are improvements to make, but I'd much prefer to see a serviceable site put out there in the public domain than for it to sit on a development server for years until it's perfect. There's also a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Over the last couple of weeks these have both seen plenty of people following them, which is a promising sign. The site was launched at a grand event in the Sheffield City Hall as part of the European Outdoor Summit, a prestigious event being hosted by the city in part recognition of the forward thinking council. The event was 2 hours long and featured a panel of distinguished speakers each enthusing about the opportunity that the city has. These speakers even included Councillor Leigh Bramall deputy leader of the city council, a sure sign that the authority is actually taking this seriously and sees the political gains in attracting and retaining outdoor users and businesses at the same time as spreading the word, getting inactive people active, and leading the way out of the impending obesity crisis.
There is a draft strategy out there as part of a public consultation.
The consultation will last for six weeks, from the 19th October to midnight on the 29th November. As well as using Citizen Space, you can email your consultation response to CreativeSheffield@sheffield.gov.uk or post it to: The Outdoor City Consultation, Creative Sheffield Floor, 11 Broad Street West, Sheffield, S1 2BQ
Please send the link around to interested groups, organisations and individuals.
Anyway, here are ten suggestions that I've made. I think that it is vital that some concrete gains are made in the very short term to emphasize the fact that the city is taking it seriously.
- Sign Posting. The more I think about it, and the more I speak to others (and peruse the new website) the more I realise that Sheffield already has a staggering wealth of natural outdoor resources. Something as simple as signposting them in some branded / coloured signs would instantly transform the city into something unique. Denmark signposts its cycle routes amazingly well, the Alpine regions of Europe signpost their network of walking trails really well. So let's signpost all our resources. Signs cost money of course, but in the grand scheme of things not a lot.
- Business Rates. Call it coincidence or providence if you like, but last week I heard it announced on the news that the devolution of power to local government is to include allowing councils to set their own business rates. If Sheffield is serious about wanting to be seen as the Outdoor City then it surely must look at offering reduced business rates to the outdoor industry locating in the city. This could be spearheaded by inviting bids for a backpackers hostel or two in the city, perhaps even a campsite.
- Twinning. Portland, Oregon was mentioned at the event on Friday as being a leading example of another city that's marketed itself in a similar manner. Let's twin Sheffield with Portland, Chamonix, Christchurch, Vancouver. Let's create a network of such cities, invite a delegation from each one, and visit them in return to establish the best practice learned from each one and help each other be better.
- Tarmac key roads. I've read that Mallorca has resurfaced man of its roads in order to target cyclists who now visit in large numbers for all year training. There are key roads in Sheffield - for example the main road out to the Peak District past Whirlow, that are dangerous to cyclists as they are so badly pitted with holes. Presumably these will have to be resurfaced soon anyway so kill two birds with one stone and make song and dance of the fact that they are being resurfaced as part of the Outdoor City strategy to encourage people to cycle out of the city.
- Crowd Funding. Lady Cannings now has its own mountain bike trail thanks to a joined up campaign and crowd funding project between users, cycle groups, the council, and sponsors. It's an amazing success story and has has set a precedent that the outdoor users of the city are willing to help fund projects that are well managed. The economic impact study carried out by Sheffield Hallam as part of the strategy showed that Sheffield's population spends three times as much on outdoor kit than the national average. Let's use this fact to crowd fund more projects (sign posting for example).
- Outdoor City Weekends. March 11-13 net year is already playing host to two major outdoor events on the calender in the city: The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival and the Climbing Works International Festival (The Climbing Works is the biggest indoor bouldering wall in the world and plays host to a world renowned competition once a year).
- Ambassadors. We all know that the city is full of high profile runners, climbers, bikers and other athletes. There's a directory of some of them here. http://www.shaff.co.uk/about-shaff/shaff-ambassadors/. Most, if not all, of these people would surely be happy to throw their weight behind the campaign and help raise the number of followers on the website, Facebook and Twitter channels, as well as champion the place to their sponsors etc.
- Outdoor Officer. I've no reliable way of checking this, but I suspect that there aren't many, if any, cities in the world who employ a dedicated Outdoor Officer to service the needs of the outdoor industry in their city. Such a person could act as the perfect link between Councillors who like the idea of the Outdoor City, but don't have much experience in the area, and the industry itself. He or she could liaise with the increasing number of outdoor events in the city, looking to attract new ones, as well as enhance existing ones. They could also do the same for business and sponsors, as well as keep the new Outdoor City website up to date with current stuff.
- Signpost The Website. I'm thinking that the URL www.theoutdoorcity.co.uk could be put on a large sign post on each of the main roads into the city, in particular those heading in from the Peak District. It'd help no end to raise the profile of the website, and also the campaign in general.
- Magazine. A great magazine was published to coincide with the launch of the website last week, highlighting the outdoor offer of the city. I think there's an opportunity to produce an annual coffee table style glossy magazine / book along the lines of Sidetracked or Alpinist full of images and stories of the outdoor offer in the city and the Peak District.
- I was going to leave it at 10, but there's one more. More and more people are using Facebook to advertise their events. Co-Hosts (Facebook term) of events automatically show their events on their own Pages. If the new Outdoor City Facebook Page could be a Co-Host with those organising outdoorsy events in the city then we'd have a single place listing all the outdoorsy events going on locally. I'm pretty sure it's that simple.
Be sure to comment.