I’m attending a Local Government Association training event for Councillors who have the ‘Culture’ brief on their councils. One of the areas we are covering is how culture can play a driving role in the regeneration of towns, so I wanted to reflect on how Redditch is placing culture at the heart of our own plans for the town centre and our partnerships.
In late 2018 I attended a meeting with Royal Enfield to essentially pitch to them the town of Redditch as a worthwhile place to consider for partnership working in the cultural space. The idea was brought to me by an officer in the council who was inspired by the ‘Unlock Redditch’ vision and had managed to secure the face-to-face opportunity.
At the meeting I set about to outline why Redditch and Royal Enfield could work together, tapping into the town’s rich heritage and history of manufacturing the iconic cycles until the 1960s when the brand left the town. I talked about the pride and passion of the people who have made Redditch their home, and about the place Redditch has in the Midlands as a great leisure destination with top transport links.
We even pulled together a little video where we took an existing Royal Enfield advert and overlaid it with a track called ‘Want You Back’. The video isn’t official, and hasn’t been sanctioned. It was just a bit of teaser to convey the opportunity that lay before us. Here it is in the spirit of openness (and because I’m quite proud of it – I produced it myself – i.e. I did the musical overlay not the visuals):
The pitch worked. A number of meetings followed, and the big area of discussion was around how could we (as partners) deliver something that would have maximum impact for the town of Redditch both in terms of something that Royal Enfield could be proud to put their iconic name to, and something that would resonate with the people.
We pulled in Prof. Petro Nicolaides who is assisting WM Mayor Andy Street on the return of the Birmingham Superprix. Petro is a friend, and so he kindly agreed to help Redditch in his limited free time. I cannot emphasise enough the energy and the connections Petro brought to the new Royal Enfield Task Force, and how grateful I am for his help and mentorship.
Initially, we looked at the possibility of running a road race through Redditch. We had the idea that Royal Enfield bikes would race around the Redditch Cloverleaf, one of the few full cloverleaf junctions in the UK. However, it soon became apparent that closing two major A-Roads would be a financial and logistical step too far.
The end result of these initial discussions was the ‘Royal Enfield Pop-up Museum’ that ran for 6 weeks in the Kingfisher Centre, the main tourist destination in Redditch. This museum was intended to be the first outcome of the partnership, not the last. It’s the start of the journey.
Here’s what the pop-up museum looked like:
Local, regional and international media reported on the museum, with headlines like:
The legendary Royal Enfield – the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production – has revved its way back to its birthplace after 56 years away.Make It West Midlands
Here’s another video, this time from Royal Enfield themselves that showcases how the former factory workers were put at the heart of the opening events, which took place over two days:
Working with the Kingfisher Centre, the museum was able to take a previously empty shop unit for 6 weeks, and was immensely successful. The shop was never empty and people came from all over the region to visit – former factory workers, enthusiasts and those just curious to see what all the fuss was about.
Naturally, whilst they were there they also enjoyed a drink and something to eat, and browsed the shops, delivering an economic boost to the area.
What’s more, the Royal Enfield Owners’ Club have been inspired by the event and feel confident to start talking about opening a permanent museum in the town. This would be a transformation – actually doubling the number of museums in Redditch (currently, we have just one).
As the Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure & Culture I am making it my mission to keep bringing exciting things like this to Redditch, and also to build on the Royal Enfield partnership, which I hope will be something that endures, grows and flourishes long after I’ve left office.