Almost exactly a year after our first event of 2015 (see summary here), we were delighted that 250 people returned to the Halston for the first Carlisle Ambassadors meeting of the new year! It was fantastic to see so many people in this beautiful venue, and to review what has been achieved over 12 months.
Following the devastating floods in December, this meeting had a slightly more community focused slant, and we were also delighted to hear from Carlisle United FC about their recovery, and future plans. We also heard about economic developments within the city, and you can find a brief summary of the whole event.
The leader of Carlisle City Council welcomed everyone to the meeting, and expressed his delight at the continued support for Carlisle Ambassadors. He reflected on positive achievements throughout the year, how the highlight of Give a Day to the City Pilot had inspired so many to get involved in 2015, and how developments such as bringing the World Health Innovation Summit to Carlisle would showcase the area to a wider audience. He reflected on the awful aftermath of the floods, and the damage this had caused across Cumbria. Giving profound thanks to all who had stepped in to assist recovery so quickly, he also acknowledged the positive effect of the CA network and membership in bringing immediate hands on help, skills and resources to where they were most needed in those first critical weeks. Looking forward, Colin acknowledged everyone’s desire to reduce the threat of further flooding, and confirmed that this is high on the agenda, and also encouraged the audience with a positive view of how continued public and private sector collaboration will make a difference to the future of the area.
Kate gave a whistlestop tour of some of the key moments in the last 12 months of Carlisle Ambassador collaboration. She thanked the Halston for hosting the event again, and providing excellent hospitality. She also said that, not only have Simon, Dominique and team welcomed us back for a second time, but also that they embody the fabulous collaborative nature of this business and community based group. In December, they hosted #SpiritofCarlisle event, giving a party for 300 people so seriously affected by the floods. This was done hand in hand with many other members of CA, and put a smile on the faces of many who were (and are still) going through very tough times.
Carlisle Ambassadors now has 120+ members, and when talking to people about why they have joined, the reasons were varied but with common threads. There is a lack of hierarchy – everyone gets to meet on an equal basis from both large and smaller business. Also, many have developed business between members, benefiting not only their company, but also keeping business local to Cumbria. There is a desire for smaller businesses to become better known, and as Matt Bond of CITO cleaning said “Ambassadors raises your profile”.
Looking forward, there are many projects on the cards, and to make these a success we all need to be dreamers and schemers!
Paul Rheinbach, managing director of More Handles, is a passionate member of Carlisle Ambassadors. He addressed the room about the importance of clear goals, both in business and for the city. He talked about the benefits of a proactive partnership between companies in the area, and the City / County Council. “Nothing great has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm”, and perhaps this is where this group thrives. There is a wealth of both experience, skill and will to make a difference.
Andy Fearon, pastor of Carlisle Vineyard and founder of #GiveaDayCarlisle, rounded off Paul’s talk by addressing the idea of goals “for the city” and how all could be actively involved in the future success of the area – just collaborate, communicate then find your passion, find your project, find your partner! He reminded us that when Fred Story and others asked people at the meeting a year ago to “bring your ideas”, he brought Give a Day!
He thought if this is a group of people making a positive difference to the city, then this is for us! He also spoke of the incredible generosity and support that individuals, churches, communities and companies gave during the floods. CA was instrumental in facilitating this, and Thomas Graham, CITO, Story Construction and many more could not do enough to assist essential emergency work for those in dire need.
Looking forward, Give a Day 2016 between June 6th – 12th will be an opportunity to get involved with putting Carlisle firmly back on its feet after the floods. Help homeowners, centres, and other areas with flood related makeovers and give suggestions for other projects that benefit the city. Let’s all get involved. The #GiveaDayCarlisle website will be the hub over coming months!
Jane Meek, who is instrumental in the direction of Carlisle Ambassadors, gave an overview of economic development and direction for 2016 and beyond. Despite the challenges that the area faces with flood recovery, there is much in progress. There is a focus on fundamental transport links with major investment in Carlisle Station roof, and further development of Carlisle airport plans. Botchergate will be improved by the opening of County Council offices, and this will encourage further regeneration of the area. Investment in University of Cumbria STEM labs demonstrates commitment to these vital areas. Last but not least, the many benefits of recent confirmation of Enterprise Zone status at Kingmoor Park brings benefits to business, and is forecast to create thousands of jobs in coming years.
As mentioned, this meeting inevitably had more focus on flood recovery and how to move forward. It was excellent to hear from Phil King about the challenges they faced when Brunton Park was seriously flooded, and how they pulled together with local contractors and about 100 volunteers to open the gates in time for the home game on 23rd January – a Herculean feat! How inspiring to hear that the first and junior team also went out to help residents in Warwick Road at the same time.
Phase Two of recovery continues, and is scheduled to finish in June. To have the boost & national spotlight of hosting the game against Everton in FA Cup third round was great timing, and also brought in welcome revenue from highest attendance in 30 years, advertising and TV. CUFC actively engages with the community through their Community Sports Trust which is developing all the time, and also through the CUFC Business Club.
Lynsey Buckle, development manager at Carlisle Youth Zone, brought home the impact of flooding as she described how the whole ground floor had been destroyed, along with most of the equipment. However, she was not pleading for funds, just support from fellow Ambassadors to ensure the 1000 young who use CYZ can continue to develop a bright future. This is in line with so much that Carlisle Ambassadors is about – bringing on the next generation, retaining talent and developing life and business skills. Two Youth Zone staff are climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds to ensure “no child gets left behind” as a result of the flood impact. A generous sponsor is covering all costs, so that every penny raised goes directly back into supporting the young people in challenging times. Lynsey said “We are committed to climbing a mountain to save CYZ – both figuratively and literally”. It is fair to say the applause was deafening! Lynsey’s house was also flooded, and she reminded us that there is a special spirit in Carlisle, and “a special bond which allows us to fear not”!
We were delighted to welcome Chris Bray of Eden Valley Hospice, to talk about their world record breaking challenge! As part of the 25th anniversary celebrations, and with a hashtag of #pombombed4EVH, all are invited to help beat the current pom pom record of 7200! Will well over 4000 already made, and many Carlisle Ambassadors, local schools and the community on the case, we’re sure they will smash the record and bring victory to Cumbria! It was also great to hear about the work that EVH does on a daily basis to support those in need. Learning more about the caring charities based in the area gives us all a good understanding of what helps to keep them going. Apart from funds, raising awareness is just as vital in ensuring these services continue.
Our last fearless challenger was Edwina Sorkin of Cheskin House. An orignal member of Beijing Biddies team, who drove to China in less than 30 days and raised £3oK for cancer charities having been closely touched by the disease. Five Biddies and Babes are off to drive to the northern point of Arctic Circle non-stop. They have been sponsored by Lloyds Volvo, who have ensured their two vehicles are specially kitted out for the severe conditions. Edwina explained why she had joined CA in her professional capacity as owner of Cheskin House, having seen that it is so much more than a “talking shop”. People actually collaborate to “make things happen”. She went on to explain her passion for supporting research into cancer, and that the team would be departing with a send off by the mayor of Carlisle on 24th February from the city centre.
As you probably know by now, we showcase a couple of businesses at every event, and also select one hotspot – all picked randomly out of our bowl! Adrian Mason, Sales and Marketing Director of Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery , gave a great overview of how much goes on at this vibrant hub of art and culture. He asked for a show of hands for who had heard of Tullie House, and then who had actually visited. He encouraged us all to support what they do, and stressed that they are proud of both the city and of what they provide at Tullie House. In order to stress their locality, they have recently changed their logo to include Carlisle. Many events take place through the year, and coming up shortly is an exhibition of Cumbrian Art.
Just before Simon Harrison of the Halston rounded off the presentations, Jonny Foster of Hardwicke Circus got the audience buzzing with the news that they were looking for people to be in their next video! He thanked those Carlisle Ambassadors who are already supporting the future development of the band (find out more via this link), and explained why the group had joined CA following Dave Robinson’s talk at the last meeting. We’re delighted to have them on board!
Simon reminded us all that coming to these events is the easy part, and that what will really drive the city and county forward is active participation, collaboration and drive. As we watched everyone chatting about potential for the Ambassadors in future years, we feel excited about all those who are committed to working together to make Carlisle and wider Cumbria a better place to live, work, invest and visit! As Gareth Presch says of WHIS, #togetherweinspire
To find out more, join us at the next meeting at Carlisle Racecourse on 14th April. This will focus on addressing the skills shortage, retaining talent, and boosting the local economy.
To join Carlisle Ambassadors, please click here for information and rates.