Traditionally, Christmas is a time to wind down, take stock and enjoy the company of friends and family without the pressures of daily life… it’s not like that in Events & Marketing! It’s high energy, frenetic and at times, quite anti-social. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. As I see it, if we’re working hard so that people who live, work and holiday in Bournemouth can have a great time, then it’s worth it.
We start working on Christmas at least a year in advance – we’re already preparing for 2018 because we’ve got plans for something really big (watch this space)!
By the summer, when everyone else is in holiday mode and soaking up the sun, we’re well into meetings with our contractors. For the size of the events that we put on, we’re a relatively small team, organising and administrating over 500 outdoor events across Bournemouth’s Parks, Gardens and Seafront. We have good relationships with companies who’ve worked with us for years so we know we can trust them to bring our visions to life. But we also must listen to our residents and businesses.
In recent years, there were calls to revitalise the Christmas market. When the contract came up for renewal, we cast the net wider and offered competitors the chance to pitch. As a result, this year we welcome a brand-new market and lodge to the town centre. We’ve seen the plans, so naturally we’re excited about it and we think you’ll like the fresh look, new stalls and addition of a Santa’s Grotto.
Of course, people who visit Bournemouth at Christmas want to let their hair down. So, someone needs to look out for them and check that boring but critical stuff, like health and safety, is under control. That’s where we come in. We spend months working with council colleagues in planning, transport and licensing, as well as the emergency services, to make sure that all boxes are ticked. We also go out on site visits to make sure that our dreams will work in reality and not just on paper.
When the build phase starts in November, you’ll often see members of the Events team out in their now famous pink t-shirts armed with trundle wheels, tape measures and tool boxes, ready to muck in and help ‘decorate’ the town ready for the big day. And just like any other family, one of our favourite jobs is choosing the tree! We’re responsible for the real one in the Square but this year, we’re also adding 5m cone tree in Beale Place in addition to other Christmas tree themed features in Lansdowne and the Triangle.
We’re all familiar with ongoing funding challenges and it’s only right that we continue to question and review how public money is spent. It means that our base budget is limited and so we start with a bare minimum. We’re able to improve the Christmas illuminations in the gardens and the town thanks to Bournemouth’s Town Centre BID and Coastal BID (Business Improvement Districts). These collectives of local businesses spend months in talks, agreeing on the activity that’s likely to be of greatest benefit to the town. If they decide to invest in Christmas attractions, then we’re on hand to help deliver the most for their money.
It’d all be for nothing though, if we didn’t tell people what’s happening in Bournemouth at Christmas and encourage them to spend a day, long weekend or seasonal holiday here. Our Marketing and PR team starts working with printers, advertising agencies and national media about six months in advance to make sure that leaflets are delivered, festive editions are targeted and that the resort is included in the ‘best winter break’ features or ‘top ten ice rinks’.
Ultimately, the team has to pitch the destination against its UK competitors and to do so, need to sell in Bournemouth’s USP (unique selling point). A lot of towns offer a market and ice rink these days but not many places can boast an unspoilt coastline within walking distance of the shops, as well as illuminated grade II listed Victorian gardens, glistening with fairy lights.
We hope to see you for our Christmas Celebration this Friday 17 November. There’ll be family entertainment in the Triangle and the chance to see everything up and running around the town. As I mentioned, we’ve got big plans for 2018 so this year is just a taste of what’s to come…
Find out more at christmasinbournemouth.co.uk
Head of Resort Marketing & Events