We all know how one-off events like Christmas lights or farmers markets attract people into town centres. The trick is to build out from these to create a programme of events – to attract people into town throughout the year.
Remember that VisitScotland’s EventScotland team can provide advice on funding opportunities, access to resources and information related to visitor events. VisitScotland also offers a guide on accessible and inclusive event organisation as part of their Inclusive Tourism Toolkit.
Fraserburgh Super Saturdays
With Saturdays becoming one of the quietest trading days for most Fraserburgh retailers as shoppers turned to leisure and recreational activities at the weekend, a small group of town centre traders decided a decade ago to take matters into their own hands – and started organising a monthly series of themed events. Their aim: to draw local people back into the town centre on Saturdays.
With support from Fraserburgh Development Trust, the retailors began to organise monthly 'Super Saturdays' to celebrate and promote the town centre with product stalls, cooking demonstrations, free entertainment and live music. It was a lot of work to organise at first, but the footfall on Saturdays has increased substantially as a result of these high profile popular events, and the town centre's shops, cafes and restaurants that take stalls have benefited from increased custom in their bricks-and-mortar premises.
From small beginnings in 2013, Super Saturdays quickly developed to around 50 stalls, with a waiting list. Before Super Saturdays there were 34 empty units in the town centre: after a couple of years, that dropped to 8, with the increase in footfall due to Super Saturdays undoubtedly being a factor. Employment opportunities have risen. And Super Saturdays have proved a good communications channel for local groups, leading to greater participation in arts classes, sports clubs and other community activities.
Although Fraserburgh’s Super Saturdays came to an end in 2019 due to lack of funding, they made a lasting difference – and have been an inspiration for other initiatives around the country.
Oban Winter Festival
Oban Winter Festival started back in 2011, when a small group of locals decided that the start of winter was a great excuse to have a Festival. They organized a Victorian Market to run alongside the Reindeer Parade, ice rink, comedy nights, music workshops for children, cocktails for the grown-ups, a ceilidh or two – all of which made the Festival a great success. News spread quickly and the next year people came from further afield to join the festivities.
Now the festival has become a 10-day event with light shows, markets, parades, ceilidhs, live music, art exhibitions and more. Events vary from day to day. Festival action takes place mainly in the town.
The festival gives Oban a busy period at a time of year which is traditionally quiet, even for a tourist town like Oban. And The local organising group works closely with businesses, charities and schools to put together a programme of events showcasing local crafts and skills to visitors and locals alike, so the community benefits in lots of ways.
Durham Lumiere Festival
Astounding, exciting, inspiring… the biennial Durham Lumiere Festival is the UK’s largest light festival. Local and international artists come together to create light installations and projections that reimagine familiar buildings and public spaces, changing the way that places are experienced.
Led by the County Council but involving over eighty partners and funders, and delivered by specialist arts event organiser Artichoke, the popularity of Lumiere has grown dramatically since the first festival in 2009. More than 240,000 people attended the four night festival in 2017, with around 30 installations and projections. 91% of the audience came specifically for Lumiere, and 12% were from the rest of the UK outwith North-East England. Direct visitor spend was £3m, with a total net economic impact of £7.5m: a return of 1,260% on the County Council’s investment of £0.6m.
The festival brings world class cultural experiences to Durham, and showcases what the city has to offer. The community outreach programme reached 1,720 people in 2017, many through school activities. A conference and open call-out scheme for local artists runs alongside the main programme. There are now plans to establish a permanent presence for light art through community engagement, professional practice, exhibitions and studio spaces.