Dunbar Trades Association (DTA) is widely recognised within East Lothian as being one of the most forward thinking and progressive business associations. The oldest association in Dunbar formed post WWII has continued to grow the profile of the town both locally and nationally. An underlying reliability on the promotion of the town and the support given to popular local events and charities has given the DTA bedrock with which to grow the reputation of Dunbar. With an exciting new edge to their creative ideas this has given the perfect blend to a model which could and should be adopted across the many small towns which are struggling to compete with out of town centres and supermarkets.
Events the Association has been instrumental in organising have appealed to masses of different individuals. With a Kite display last year by internationally renowned kite flyer Andrew Beattie, receiving national attention and attracting visitors from all around the UK, as he flew kites the size of houses overlooking the bass rock in Winterfield Park.
2015 will see the first Street Art Trail in East Lothian featuring a blend of renowned artists alongside local grown talent. With workshops for kids, including a workshop run by Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s’ national poet, this will be a great family friendly day with some of the most cutting edge graffiti and mural artists in the UK. Chris Young one of the founding fathers of street art movement in Scotland will be doing a live art demonstration alongside ELPH an internationally renowned mural creator.
This latest idea to attract people to Dunbar and create a legacy of reputation and good standing within the UK and internationally has not been a task without intent.
Steven Hill, Chair says: ‘Whilst, many people have successfully eroded our sense of community by arguing for price is king approach to shopping, they fail to realise that this short term model of economics will leave many towns like Dunbar bereft of services. What we are trying to do is provide a platform of local level services and destination shopping to give the local economy enough resilience to exist alongside a countryside proliferated with large supermarkets. Of course local government have been completely intransigent with their ideas as to counteract the mass flow of consumers to other mediums and instead of redesign they just sort of sat back and moaned about the fall in high street occupancy and the local employment market variety of many towns becoming so sparse. This lack of imagination has been evident in a variety of towns which enjoy little more than a number of charity shops and betting shops.
For me it is about a blend of thinking about not only what do people want to buy or have at their fingertips but also, what do people want to do with their time? People need human interaction, in a world that relies on the instant fix of the smart phone there is something missing. Community for me is where we can achieve our best competitive advantage as small business owners. I provide a service, I do this to the best of my ability not only because the customer is paying me, but more often than not the customer is a friend, we build rapport and friendship. That alone is enough to attract SOME people to a high street. But to attract more we must have something to make a shopping trip an experience, a day out if you like. By adding a series of events to our town, free events that you can nip to for an hour or spend a whole day meandering around. Buskers, Kites, Street artists, historical tours, fishing trips, taster sessions, demonstrations, auctions, performance artists, political campaigners and many more ideas are all ways which you create a real social hub feel to a town centre. It’s not only the place I get my meat pack from the best butchers in East Lothian it’s also the place I go to have conversation with others about life, the type of conversations that spark ideas and grow enthusiasm for making our town a better place. The type of community buy in that takes an idea like a street art trail and turns it into an inclusive movement of like minded people who all want to express themselves and show off what a wonderful place it is.
The first thing I always remind myself of when thinking of a high street, is that those business people are there every day not because they want to make a million quid and live in a desert island avoiding tax, but to spend more time with their family. These people are not just shopkeepers; they are my friends, parents to my children’s’ friends, my neighbours and people who add something that so many towns have lost for good, a Community.’
The Street Art project is being organised by Steven Hill from Dunbar T-shirt Shop and Lisa Bryson of Dunbar Pop Up Shop, Funding support is mainly provided by Dunbar Trades Association with some tourism grant award from East Lothian Council. For more information please visit our website www.dunbar.org.uk/dunbar-art-trail or visit our facebook event page for up to the minute details of artists and workshops https://www.facebook.com/events/360948197434454/