There’s nothing like seeing great ideas put into practice.
This is exactly what ECN Chairman Shaun Fagan demonstrated in his unique Chipping Norton study tour on 2 July – transforming Chipping Norton into a walking workshop.
With the 2016 Great British High Street Awards launching this month, it’s the ideal time to introduce other place makers to the exciting digital initiatives which helped Chippy reach the finals of last year’s competition.
In 2015, Chipping Norton scored 10 out of 10 for Innovation from GB judges, also achieving the highest public vote in the Market Town category.
A mobile walking app wins the day
Shaun Fagan is now managing director of Real Towns, a company dedicated to turning UK towns into genuine digital hubs.
He carried out the 2 July tour using a dedicated mobile app, which guided the 16 visitors from pin to pin on a digital map which contained a wealth of information about Chippy’s digital achievements.
Chipping Norton already boasts two intriguing self-guided mobile app tours – one of Chipping Norton town centre and surrounds, the other a recently added return walk to the lovely village of Over Norton.
The study tour is now the third addition, introducing its ‘tourists’ to digital concepts and showing how they’ve been so usefully employed in Chipping Norton.
Starting and ending with Cotswolds refreshments in St Mary’s Parish Rooms – courtesy of the ever-popular Chipping Norton Tea Set – the tour was a genuinely paper-free trail.
Not only was it an enjoyable experience, but we received great feedback from our participants about their own digital aspirations. We want to help other towns and places embark on their own journey towards becoming a digital hub.” – Shaun Fagan
Chippy on road to digital hub status
According to new Government guidelines detailed in the 2016 High Street Digital Hub Report, there are three central elements of every digital town – technology, training and storytelling.
These pillars were incorporated in the structure of the study tour, showing the foundations on which digital communities like Chipping Norton can be built.
- Technology: The tour is conducted via mobile walking app including text, images, video and virtual tours.
- Training: Educator Shaun Fagan explains how to use the app and embark on a range of other digital initiatives based on trade, tourism and community.
- Storytelling: The content demonstrates how to showcase a town’s character and tell its unique stories.
How did the tour unfold?
A new experience for several of the participants, some problems were encountered with downloads and use of the new technology. Precisely why the trainer was there!
The stop at St Mary’s ancient church explored community focal points. The church was traditionally seen as central to town or village life, while websites serve an expanded purpose today – uniting and connecting residents, welcoming visitors, developing business, building brand and defining identity.
This is a highly effective way of building a sympathetic audience, with the beautiful almshouses pictured in a recent ECN newsletter. ECN sends monthly newsletters via Mailchimp, building great rapport with Chippy folk along with high engagement rates.
Stopping off at The Chequers, social media was discussed as the ‘virtual pub’ – the digital way of fraternising, spreading hot news and forming new connections. Social media is the glue holding town life together, with people getting to know and understand you over a long period of time.
Middle Row is the scene of important Chippy town events such as Superdoodle, Fibre Festival and ChipLitFest. Events are vital in raising town profile, cementing community and reaching out via images, video and compelling stories.
Outside popular town bookshop and cafe Jaffe & Neale, participants downloaded the shop’s virtual tour and were captivated by its detail. They took a virtual walk through the store and browsed the shelves while standing outside – a surreal experience and massive marketing opportunity.
Luke from Elephant spent 20 valuable minutes explaining town-wide Wi-Fi, touch screen digital kiosk (a national first planned for Chipping Norton town centre) and footfall tracking data – the next big thing for digital UK towns.
Snake Pit and OX7 Incubator
Chippy is developing its own version of the popular TV show Dragon’s Den (Snake Pit) where local youngsters take a punt on innovative ventures. The incubator is a dedicated, connected town space where start-ups can kick off their business ideas.
A great success
The tour certainly got participants buzzing.
In the words of Sonja Francis of Thame town team: “A brilliant workshop with Shaun on Friday, in Chipping Norton. We, from Thame were very impressed with what ‘Chippy’ has done, and we were left buzzing with ideas for Thame! Just need to get our various partners – town council etc – on board and start exploring funding.”
Six members of Gloucestershire Market Town Forum attended a study tour of Chippy on Friday 1st July and were inspired by what they heard and saw. The tour demonstrated what towns can achieve by maximising use of new technology and we aspire to mirror what the Chippy community has done. We thank Shaun and colleagues for an excellent event and for sharing knowledge and expertise to enable us to start the journey.” – Bob Watters, Gloucestershire Market Towns Forum
It’s eyes down now for Chippy’s entry in the 2016 Great British High Street of the Year Awards, which will be keeping ECN members busy this summer!