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Minutes of Design & Marketing Meeting

Tuesday 17th May 2011

Present: Sheila Friend-Smith (chairman), John Baker, Will Burton, Caroline Cawley, Nigel Clarke, Ted Coney, Kevin Evans, Simon Pittock, Peter Hillman, Angela Moody, Liz Sayers, John Yates

The chairman had invited Tracey Harding, team leader for tourism and town centre services to the meeting. She gave a detailed and informative outline of her department's work that enhances Ely as a tourist destination and makes the city an increasingly attractive place in which to live and do business. Main points:

Internet: An on-line destination management system was revolutionising tourism bookings. Website hits increased from 60,000 to 100,000, although most accommodation providers still reliant on telephone to confirm bookings.

Ely Day and Apple Festival: Both increasingly successful in bringing visitors to the city. Combining the 2011 Eel Day with the Royal Wedding celebrations had been hugely successful and the intention was that this weekend should in future be 'Ely Festival' starting on the Friday evening and running through till the Bank Holiday Monday. The cathedral, ADeC and Topping's were all very supportive of the idea and Tracey and her team were keen to hear from any other organisations interested in getting involved. Ted Coney expressed the hope that the Ely Festival could be extended to a week (with two weekends) next year. He said Toppings, ADeC and the cathedral were constantly organising events and he felt sure, with communication and co-operation these could all be brought together to make an exciting week.

Cultural Olympiad: A weekend to showcase the 'best of Ely' from 22-24 July. All attractions would be open free of charge on the Friday evening – cathedral, Oliver Cromwell's House, Ely Museum. There would be music from Ely Waites and the Pied Piper and contemporary bands and the evening would end with a barbecue by the river and at 9pm the cathedral would 'turn pink' which is the Cultural Olympiad's colour. Other businesses in the city were entering into the spirit of the event and 'thinking pink'. The Cultural Olympiad would also mark the launch of the Ely Tales: a trail round Ely which would operate in the same way as the established 'Ghost Walks' with 'the stonemason' telling the story of the building of the cathedral and 'the eel catcher' talking about life on the river. She showed proofs of artwork being prepared to publicise the project.

Ely What's On stand at the station: Tracey appreciated that this Perspective initiative was well patronised especially by those visitors who walked straight to the riverside and not up the hill into the city centre. It was important to increase footfall to the centre and the TiC, especially as accommodation bookings were increasingly made on-line and not in person at the TiC.

Markets: Continental markets were now well established. The French market on Whit bank holiday weekend would be followed by an Italian market on August bank holiday. Some city retailers had been vocal in their opposition to the visiting markets while others, e.g. Cutlacks, experienced increased trade as a result. Most now accepted that although the markets attracted visitors to Ely solely for the markets, often these visitors returned to spend in the city's shops.

Train tours: Although the city had made great efforts to 'meet and greet' steam train tours, the vast majority of passengers were reluctant to walk into the city and got no further than Tesco's coffee shop! Caroline Cawley suggested using a park and ride bus to ferry them from the station to the centre. Tracey's view was that the passengers' interest was focussed purely on the trains.

The E-ly App: Sheila Friend-Smith asked Simon Pittock to give an overview and update on The E-ly App project which will aim to provide a way to communicate information in many forms to residents, businesses and tourists in and around Ely, via mobile phones. It is envisaged this application would be free for download to iPhones and Android phones (and potentially others) and could be promoted both manually and automatically, for instance by sending Bluetooth radio messages to tourists' mobile phones on their arrival at the railway station. The content could take the form of images, maps, standard or specifically designed web pages, video and audio.  It would be designed so that it is possible to tailor the app to suit many different needs and activities into the future. Examples could include an interactive tourist map or shopping guide, local news and events, offers or vouchers for shops and restaurants, interactive tourism guides and much more besides. The application would be able to determine a user's geographical position using GPS technology and to offer information tailored to specific locations. For example, when standing outside of the cathedral it could offer information about Ely Cathedral and also directions to Oliver Cromwell's house, or perhaps when standing near the entrance to the Cloisters archway, a list of the shops therein. The application could also feature other forms of interactivity, for example games or puzzles, should this be deemed appropriate. Simon and Daniel Block plan a visit to Thame, Oxfordshire, where an app (featured on the Action for Market Towns website) is in operation. Ely attracts an increasing number of overseas visitors, especially from SE Asia where such apps are commonplace. Tracey thought this was a very exciting project and would like to be kept informed of its progress.

Babylon Gallery sculpture: Ted Coney said a new eel sculpture, financed by the City Council, the Perspective and Archer and Archer, was being adapted by the sculptor to be inter-active to allow it to 'collect' money donated by visitors which would benefit the Babylon Gallery's finances.

Before Tracey left the meeting, Sheila Friend-Smith thanked her for taking the time to attend and give such such an informative overview of her work and assured her of the Perspective's wish to support any initiative that promotes the city.

1. Apologies

Apologies were received from Daniel Block, Suzanne Lindsay, Heber Martin, Alan Mittins, Shirley Overall, Terry Overall, Ray Tinker.

2. Minutes of 19 April meeting

These were approved and signed as a correct record. Noted that EARTH's open day had been on 5 May.

3. Matters arising

No matters arising.

4. Steeple Row

Application with ECDC awaiting consideration by the planning committee and outcome expected mid-June. Feedback on the pre-application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant of 310,000 towards the project had been encouraging and SF-S suggested an approach should be made to Cambridgeshire ACRE who might help with the next stage in the application process. This was not only a project which would improve the environment but one which would provide a 'learning experience' by revealing more about the 'missing' NW transept of the cathedral. SP volunteered to render an image of the 'new look' Steeple Row.

5. Commemorative plaques

Sheila Friend-Smith reported Terry Overall had arranged a meeting with ECDC conservation officer to assist with the extensive paperwork involved in the planning process.

6. Maltings Cottage

A discussion document had been sent on behalf of the Perspective's Design & Marketing group to councillors prior to ECDC's planning committee meeting. Councillors had voted by a slim majority to approve ECDC's plan to convert the cottage into a bed and breakfast. However, following the District Council elections, when ECDC leader Fred Brown lost his seat, it was understood that under new leader, Cllr Peter Moakes, the plan would be re-visited. The D&M group believe it is essential that the cottage is used in a manner that would be of long-term benefit to the vitality of the riverside area.

7. Future of Ely Magistrates' Court

Sheila Friend-Smith is a member of the steering group including the chairman of Ely bench, Mayor Cllr John Yates, Jane Wilson of ADeC and convenor Yvonne Thresh, immediate past chairman of Ely Society. The group is considering ways in which income might be generated to support the building’s use as a museum.

8. German Christmas market

Simon Pittock and Daniel Block were continuing research before drawing up detailed costings. Tracey Harding during earlier discussion, had been supportive of the idea which she felt would be a boost to the city's night-time economy and improve evening footfall in the city centre.

9. Retail occupancy

1. Caffe Nero started conversion work on High Street premises opposite Prezzo.

2. Dottie's tea and gift shop opened in St Mary's Street following closure of pie shop (previously Caitlin's).

3. Anglia Wines (next to Burrows' newsagents in High Street) offering wine tasting evenings; one had been held at The King's School.

4. Curry's former store in High Street expected to re-open as The Works, cut-price stationery store.

5. Liz Sayers had suggested to Joules (clothes and lifestyle stores) that the company should investigate opening a store in Ely.

10. Any other business

Perspective website: Before Simon Pittock and Daniel Block are able to do any further work on the Perspective website, they need John Yates to clarify the Perspective's contract with Internet Marketing as soon as possible.

Thistle Corner: Access to the A10 from Thistle Corner roundabout still barred by concrete blocks at entrance to Barratt's development.

Riverside: The Maltings is now open only during the day and appeared to be concentrating on the weddings market. Following the appointment of a new manager it had been hoped this 'day time' only strategy would be reconsidered. In marked contrast, The Cutter - a stone's throw away - was drawing a steady day time and evening trade all week. Peacocks Tea Rooms had won a second national award with customers queuing at weekends and the Boat House was also busy. It was regretted that the building, that had been given for the benefit of the people of Ely, appeared to be closed more often than it was open. The bar was open during the evening when the cinema was operating but no effort was made to sell chocolates, snacks etc...

Babylon Gallery: Caroline Cawley reported grant of a licence for the Babylon Gallery would help the gallery in hosting more events which would add to the vitality of the Riverside area.

The Old Bishop's Palace: Ted Coney expressed the hope that the public might have access to the building. Kevin Evans said he had toured the palace (during an 'open house' held by The King's School following its acquisition of the lease last year). He had noted paintings had been removed. Liz Sayers pointed out that the school's buildings were in use year round, including the summer holidays. The school did conduct tours of its historic buildings and co-operated with Heritage Open Days and the expectation was that the Old Bishop's Palace would be included in these. Nigel Clarke pointed out that access to Prior Crauden's Chapel was available year-round and arrangements could be made to collect the key from the school's main reception.

Note: The paintings to which Kevin Evans referred are the property of the Church Commissioners and were removed by the Church Commissioners before King's acquired the lease. Two remain: a reproduction of a painting of Bishop Alcock and another of showing George V at a Maunday Thursday service.

11. Date of next meeting

Wednesday 22 June to be the annual 'Ely street scene' information-gathering walk, starting from St Peter's Church. Please meet at St Peter's at 5.30pm.