Creating a vibrant business economy in the Lakes

Car parks full, park and ride schemes mooted. Local housing too expensive for young people to stay in the area. We have too many visitors? We need more visitors?

Have you noticed how certain themes keep recurring on a cyclical basis in the Lake District? And not very much happens.

The Lakes: visitor destination, but a high tech business hub, too?

We are excited to be part of the Great Place: Lakes and Dales project which aims to create a “sustainable, resilient, creative community and economy, which will retain and attract younger people and business to the area to influence, support and create our future economy.”

It’s led by SLDC and Craven District Council, in partnership with the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District National Park Authorities. And it’s backed by big money: Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund have awarded £1.34million for this innovative project which, it’s hoped, will boost the local economy through celebrating local culture, arts and heritage.

But we were warned at the time: “With an ageing population we need to take action to attract and retain more young people. Only young people and families will ensure the survival of our village schools, provide a skilled workforce for local businesses, and keep our districts vibrant and attractive for visitors.”

So what’s been happening since? Where are the ideas that will take us forward and ensure that our creative young people, who might need to move away to study and launch their careers, will be able to return to the area and play their part?

Now a business leader is recommending that the Lakes should be a magnet for high tech firms who would benefit from a move out of London. Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, argued that the national park should become the ‘destination of choice’ for tech and service businesses looking to relocate from the capital. Sensible idea, indeed.

I’ve been down that route: a degree in Brighton, jobs with leading design agencies in London, exciting projects to work on world-wide. But I knew what – and where – inspired me as an artist and designer, and it had to be back “home” in Windermere when I set up my own agency. I was lucky because my family were still here, and I’d been earning enough to come back and settle in the national park.

Yet though I love being here, and can’t imagine a better place to raise my family, I’m struck by the lack of creative imagination and vision on the part of our planners. Do tourism resources have to be concentrated on the A591 corridor, for example? What about the neglected communities on the fringes of the national park where local housing is not prohibitively expensive, where there’s a willing workforce… and where there’s former semi-industrial land which could be developed for tourism attractions. Such as …zip wires, perhaps?

We need some doing as well as talking. Rather than endless discussions about our ageing community and our fossilised views, can we summon the creative energy to DO something? For a start, how about building communities of affordable eco houses for families?

We have to encourage young people, if not to stay here, at least to return with knowledge and experience. To draw in younger people we need the types of businesses that will attract them, and pay good wages. How about HQ for a large IT business like FaceBook?

Doing something is vital to strengthen the economy of our rural communities and help make them sustainable for the future, to prevent Bowness becoming one big car park, to bring visitors here on clean, modern, regular train services which arrive at a gateway worthy of a world heritage site.

We need to look elsewhere, beyond our comfort zone, to see the impact that great design is having on other parts of the world. We need the courage to recognise that “contemporary” and “conservation” are words that belong comfortably in the same sentence. And we need to engage the enthusiasm of a younger generation, rather than pretending we know it all.

 

 

 

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How to experience The Lakes

As a major new documentary series is about to launch on TV, it’s time to think about the Lake District experience.

Let’s get down to some biological basics. ‘Experience’ is driven by the five senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch.  And when we have happy experiences, we release those endorphins and feel good.

Back in the early 1990s I was involved in a number of projects that Cumbria Tourism supported through a scheme called ‘Better than the Best’ using EU match funding. The hospitality offering back in those days was often on a par with Fawlty Towers and the Lakes Hospitality Association even had a Basil Fawlty look-a-like at one of their annual shows.

The new approach was to highlight the importance of investment in design, image and brand. The Lakes took off, more money was invested, and the scheme was a huge success. The understanding of investing in good design and the return on investment is now deeply engrained.

At the same time there was a growing awareness that  the Lakes has a landscape – in some areas – ideal for growing and harvesting local produce. This became a natural area of growth and the idea of foraging from the land became eco-fashionable.

Foraging a natural harvest

Foraging a natural harvest

The ‘Taste District’ was born and has flourished, with visitors senses tantalised by wonderfully creative chefs using local produce and winning national acclaim with supremely artistic presentations on a plate, slate slab, or chunk of wood.

But then there’s the Lakes’ experience that’s completely free…and easily accessible. Walking, swimming, watching birds and badgers, just breathing the finest quality air: all appeal to our senses. And that’s where the new TV series scores.

sailing

Derwentwater, differently. From The Lakes with Paul Rose

The Lakes (BBC1, starting Friday July 20) is presented by Paul Rose, our neighbour in Windermere, but a man who has explored the whole world – and comes back to the very best, on home territory. It was a pleasure to be invited to the preview in Kendal at the Brewery Arts Centre.

This is a series with immense integrity, as well as appeals to all of our senses, and will motivate every viewer to get out there and experience our wonderful landscape. Paul Rose doesn’t trivialise the Lake District, as some recent shows have done, but he still manages to be both highly entertaining as well as knowledgeable.

paul rose

Presenter Paul Rose

He’ll take you up into the high fells, and out onto the water, and he’ll introduce you to some of the characters whose lives, history, tradition and artistry enhance the Lakes’ experience.

More than that, we’re not saying. You’ll have to watch and see for yourselves. Then get out there and let the Lakes hit all your senses.

 

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A design icon back on our rails

There’s been rejoicing this week as trains left the main line station at Oxenholme bound for end of the branch line Windermere.

It’s not just that we have trains again after the Northern Rail fiasco left us without any service at all for several weeks.

It’s because we’ve seen the return of a design icon, a 40 year old diesel engine which links us to the glorious days of rail travel.

Our heritage train leaving Windermere: photo by Dayve Ward

Our heritage train leaving Windermere: photo by Dayve Ward

West Coast Railways, which specialises in steam-hauled charter excursions, stepped in to restore services after Northern, the regular passenger operator, replaced services with buses.

Passengers are now travelling free on the 10-mile route from Oxenholme to Windermere six times a day. The Department for Transport is reported to be meeting the £5,500 daily running costs.

The engines have no nameplates. One is a Class 37, dating from the 1960s, the other is a Class 57 (re-engineered in early-2000s from a 1960s-built loco). They are, ironically, only slightly older than many of the 1980s Pacers which normally operate on the line. But they look like “proper” trains, ones that reminds us of the romance and glamour of the days when the railways projected the mystique and allure of train travel in ways that weren’t simply about speed.

The Flying Scotsman, the Silver Jubilee, the Coronation Scot and the Cheltenham Flyer: in their heyday these classic British expresses were not only the fastest trains of their kind in the world, but a synonym for character and luxury, too.

Many of the things that made rail travel pleasurable have disappeared. Certainly  in Britain we seem to have lost the knack, deployed by the old railway companies, of harnessing the innate love of trains that seems to run through our DNA. Gone are railway stations built like cathedrals rather than concrete boxes, haute cuisine in the dining car, cosy compartments, seats that line up with the windows, cheerful porters on platforms.

By contrast think of modern railway stations designed elsewhere by Santiago Calatrava which epitomise style and artistry in architecture.

Calatrava train station

Calatrava train station

So a huge thank you to West Coast Railways , the independent heritage train operating company which usually specialises in operating charter trains along some of the UKs most famous and scenic routes and to many beautiful destinations.

It’s not quite the Flying Scotsman or the Orient Express, or the Night Mail of Auden’s poem, or our favourite fantasy railway, the Hogwarts Express, but it’s brought a reminder that design needs to play a part in the most functional areas of our daily lives.

And here’s the timetable:

train timetable

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Fidget wins world’s ‘Best Hotel Interior’

Wow! What a fantastic time we had at the International Hotel Awards night at The Savoy.

We were delighted to win the UK ‘Best Hotel Interior’.

But completely amazed and speechless, when they announced we had won the International ‘Best Hotel Interior’ award! Needless to say large amounts of champagne were consumed.

We love living in the Lake District and we are so proud that we have been able to bring this recognition for our work at Cedar Manor Hotel to the world stage. It’s a great big feather in the cap for northern creatives.

Thanks to Caroline and Jonathan at Cedar Manor for giving us the opportunity to work on the projects and to my team for all their attention to detail!

Ally

For more photos of winning project click here:

The Coach House Suite at The Cedar Manor Hotel, Windermere

The Cedar Manor Hotel

OR sit back, relax, turn the volume up and watch the video.

 

 

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This is our first Blog ever!

We have always been so busy creating fabulous interiors for commercial and domestic clients, but in view of our recent exciting news felt that perhaps it was time to start.

“A blog needs to have a “reason why” and be interesting so people will want to read it, otherwise there is no point.”

So here goes…

We’ve won an award or two…but this week we’re off to The Savoy to collect an award for ‘Best Hotel Interior’ from the International Hotel Awards sponsored by Bloomberg Television for our Cedar Manor projects.

But will it be the “Highly Commended Award” or the “Top 5 Star Award”?

We’ll let you know after Wednesdays big glitzy award night. Allyx

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