If you know me well, you’ll know that whilst I’m a rather outgoing and verbose individual I’m not all that good at giving myself much praise. There’s always something I could have done better, some experience I could have learned from and improved upon – I’m sure a lot of people will have similar feelings. We’re always first to criticise ourselves and the last to commend. I can tell you I’m really good at finding something positive out of every situation, I just figure there’s always someone else who deserves a pat on the back more than me.
So imagine my surprise when I found out I’d been selected as a finalist for a Lancashire Business View Young Un’s Award for Tourism and Hospitality! Firstly, I’ve not been feeling much like a Young Un for a while now. I know I don’t need my zimmer quite yet but when you work in an office where half of the workforce is 10 years younger than you, you start to feel a bit more aware that you aren’t the most youthful in the office – always the silliest, but no longer the most youthful.
Secondly, Tourism and Hospitality… my initial thought was ‘do I fulfil the criteria?’ I mean, the work we do might not immediately come to mind as being directly related to tourism, we aren’t a stately home or a hotel or even a lovely pub. But the more I thought about it, the more I see the significance in what Spot On does for tourism and hospitality in rural Lancashire. Our brochure distribution spans the whole county and dips into Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cheshire.
I meet people at every event who saw the show advertised and decided it was worth travelling across the north west for a visit to one of our remote villages. But they don’t just come for the show. They stop at the local pub for a bite to eat before the show begins. They decide they’ll make a day of it and have an afternoon stroll at the nearest heritage site or by the river or down the main street. They see a little bit of Lancashire they never thought of visiting before and they make a mental note to come again ‘because it was such a nice day out’.
Then think about the artists who visit these locations – they immerse themselves for one night only in village life, they are invited to eat at a volunteers house and they stay in the local B&B. As they share their story they also take a little piece of their experience in that remote village in Lancashire with them on their journey. We have returning artists who ask to stay in the same village because it feels like home and they are welcomed back like old friends who never left.
The work I do for villages and the residents within them means that they can have a culturally nourishing night out without the need to travel for miles, no worrying about where to park and how late they’ll be home. For elderly residents of some of these villages the opportunity to see the arts is limited to what is quite literally on their doorstep, so the need for provision in these locations is vital.
The work I do for promoters (the wonderful team of volunteers who host the artists in their village) is mainly producing a menu of professional artists who are available to perform. I filter through hundreds of emails each day, selecting a wide variety of work both UK-based and internationally. I support the artists by giving them feedback on what they are offering out – even small things like the right image on a poster can make the difference between a sell out show or a disappointing turn out. I negotiate fees, arrange dates, times, ticket prices and even suggest themes for the evenings to make it a more immersive experience at the venue. I spend a lot of time negotiating with venues too, encouraging them to take something a little bit different, suggesting who to market to, when to host the show, how to get the message out.
All this means I have a really thorough understanding of the issues faced in each of our villages and the lives of the incredible volunteer promoters. I know when key committee members are going on holiday and I know who looks after their grandchildren during the day, who is working on a major project to bring high speed internet to the village and who can’t take a show because the church hall roof needs mending. These details might seem insignificant, but until you acknowledge just how much effort it takes for a volunteer to host a show in their area you can’t really value what they manage to achieve each season. The sell out shows and fantastic feedback from our audiences are real testament to the hard work of the people in these villages who feel passionate about bringing the arts to their community.
Being selected for a Young Un’s Award is really a recognition of the hard work and dedication of my entire team of volunteers and of the audiences who value the work we do. I’m fully aware that I couldn’t do any of it without them… see I still think there’s someone more deserving than me!