Independent spirit key to town’s future

Berwick’s independent spirit has shone through in a survey designed to help establish how the town is marketed in the future.

By Ian Smith
Friday, 29 March, 2019, 07:56
Wayne Hemingway. Picture by Jane Coltman

There were 1,460 responses to the Hemingway Design survey seeking people’s opinions about Berwick.

“The response has been phenomenal,” said designer Wayne Hemingway, as he presented the survey findings to local residents on Tuesday.

“To get that number of responses from a population of just 12,000 is incredible. We’ve never had anything like that before which goes to show how passionate people feel about the town.

“There’s an amazing amout of positivity too. People genuinely like it here but they are realtistic as well and not afraid to tell us what they feel could be better, which is good for us.”

Its independent spirit is evidenced with 27 per cent of respondents feeling that Berwick was its own place, not belonging to the wider region.

“We are really excited about the possibilities from that,” said Mr Hemingway. “It means you have a sense of independent spirit.

“The direction of travel for places doing well in the world now is not relying on multiples to survive but by doing things a little bit differently.

“For the size of the town, we feel that you hit hard on independent spirit and that is really positive. You have a real chance here to be known for that.”

He felt the town’s cultural offer was a major positive, with several festivals and a lively theatre and a history and heritage which provided ‘a narrative you can’t buy’.

He also praised its wonderful natural environment, wildlife and connectivity as one of the few seaside towns in the UK with a mainline railway station.

He added: “We know Berwick is brilliant as it is with its history, beaches, river, countryside and architecture. You have still got to push this as much as before.

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“What sets it apart is its independent mindset, borderland quirks and unexpected surprises. It’s all of the little things that add up to make a big impact.”

However, he said there was potential to do much more.

“We think much more could be made of the word ‘Tweed’,” he said. “Berwick is at the mouth of the one of the best salmon rivers in the world.

“That is why we believe that wherever possible we should call it Berwick-upon-Tweed. As part of the brand, Tweed is great and we should try to keep it at the forefront.

“We hear lots that people don’t get off the train here on their way to Edinburgh or London but take pictures of it as they pass. If people were able to find out a bit more about Berwick it could be a place where they decide to spend some time and go on to explore the likes of Holy Island and Bamburgh. At the moment you’re not doing that very well but hopefully the place branding can help that.”

The survey results showed that older people are generally happier with the town than younger people.

“Negativity among under 24s is a real issue,” said Mr Hemingway. “What every town wants is people between 26 and 29 who put down roots and start up a business.

“Young people should leave because they will learn so much from spreading their wings but they should be left with such a positive taste of where they belong that they want to come back. Berwick is not achieving that at the moment.”

Survey respondents liked the idea of more events, particularly themed around food and drink and cultural attractions.

Mr Hemingway said: “It’s really important going forward to create a place brand board of people from the arts, business, retail and community who will make sure that what we want to achieve doesn’t get dissipated. That sometimes happens unless a place owns and cherishes the brand.”

The work forms part of the Welcome Visitor Project, funded by a £304,000 grant from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund.