Carlisle Ambassadors – Summary of January 2015 Meeting

Date: Thursday 29th January.  Venue: The Halston Aparthotel Function Suite.

Despite the heavy snow and severe weather conditions, we were absolutely delighted that over 150 people still made it to the first Carlisle Ambassadors’ meeting of 2015. To view the final list of attendees, please click this link: Carlisle Ambassadors Final attendee list – January 2015 Meeting

If you were unable to attend but would like to see the programme, please click here: Carlisle Ambassador Final Agenda January Meeting
Simon Harrison of Halston Aparthotel speaking at Carlisle Ambassadors meetingAfter Michelle and Kate opened the meeting, we heard from an excellent range of speakers, who all share a common passion to influence the future of the city. Simon Harrison, co-owner of The Halston talked about developing the hotel within the much loved old post office and Lonsdale buildings, and his passion for making Carlisle the best it can be. It was a risky venture during difficult economic times, but “things that are truly worthwhile are rarely without effort” and as we listened to Simon in the stunning function suite, there was an overwhelming feeling that the Halston has really made a positive difference to the city.

He went on to say that “Carlisle, like all cities, is in business”. It is “in competition to develop and grow, attract new population, hold on to its young, develop and retain skills and jobs, and look after its ageing population”. Simon believes that the Carlisle Ambassadors is the vehicle for proactive partnerships between the public and private sector, combined with the people who live and own the city. “By joining us early you can have a real influence in shaping Carlisle and Cumbria. It is not just another networking group. It is a group of like minded people who are passionate about our county and capital city, and who want to influence it socially, economically and physically” His take away message was “positive things happen to positive people!” A rallying call that was echoed by all who followed on the day.

Carlisle Ambassadors Jason Gooding Halston meetingJason Gooding, the Chief Executive at Carlisle City Council spoke to us next. He gave us the background to the birth of the Carlisle Ambassadors. A concept which started taking shape in his mind when he was in Coventry and saw how well they had constructed a narrative for the city, that was consistent, credible and compelling.  When Burnley did something similar around five years ago, he began to think “so why not Carlisle?” The City Council started the programme eighteen months ago, but Jason and the team at the city council have always taken a back seat, whilst being there to support the initiative. They want others to shape its future in a collaborative way, in the way that Simon reflected in his speech. He left us with the compelling message that we need to make the place the hero, and to make it natural to be optimistic and proud of Carlisle. “We can’t choose Carlisle if it is not even on the menu!” so we all need to make sure it is there to select, whether it is to live, work invest or visit the City of the Lakes.

Fred Story speaking at Carlisle Ambassadors Meeting Jan 2015

Fred Story, Chairman of Story Homes and CEO of Story Contracting, addressed the room about his involvement in the Carlisle Ambassadors from the earliest days, and his desire for it to make a tangible difference to the city and the wider area. He said “at the heart of the project was the idea of collaboration to deliver projects of real value”. This includes sharing best practice and creating a stronger business network , using local suppliers to benefit the area, and having fun while we do it! Collectively we can make a difference by delivering on the big ideas from more sporting and cultural events to creating an iconic symbol for the city as the North East has done with The Angel of the North. “Anything is possible if we pull together.” Fred reminded that the council is supporting all of us in this and can help to facilitate projects. We also have a supportive local MP who was present at the meeting. He also entertained the audience with his passion for keeping Carlisle looking at its best, admitting that he has been known to stop the car and clean the signs at the entrance to the city! His summary was “worthwhile projects, worthwhile meetings” and working collaboratively for “team Carlisle, team Cumbria”. The area (and all of us) will be much richer from the experience of getting to know each other, through working on a variety of projects that individually would not be so effective.

Andy King of GLL speaking at Carlisle Ambassadors Meeting

Next to speak was Andy King, formerly Chief Executive of Carlisle Leisure (CLL), and now Regional Director of Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), who gave us background to the merger between the companies, and the benefits this brings to Carlisle and Cumbria. Andy explained that, with an overwhelming vote of support from his staff at CLL for the merger, he goes forward with confidence and strong backing to make improvements to facilities locally. He also gave his support to the Carlisle Ambassadors, and the aims of the group. He then introduced Mark Sesnan, the MD of GLL, who gave more insight into this not-for-profit social enterprise, the amazing projects they have worked on nationally, and their hope that they will have our support in refurbishing The Sands Centre and other venues to put the area “on the map”.

Jane Meek talking at Carlisle Ambassadors Meeting Jan 2015

One of the benefits of being part of the Carlisle Ambassadors, is hearing first-hand about emerging developments in the area. Jane Meek, Director of Economic Development at Carlisle City Council, gave us a great overview of forthcoming plans. She outlined the Carlisle Local Planning Framework to guide location and planning development up to 2030, which includes the introduction of 8,500 new homes. The benefits include increased employment and contracts during construction, and subsequent increased expenditure (much of which will be local) when residents make their house a home after completion. She also outlined “Solway 45”, a major development and opportunity for the area with £3m LEP funding. You can find out more here. Regular updates will be given at our meetings, and there is also the opportunity to chat to Jane and others from the council during lunch afterwards.

After closing comments from Jason Gooding, Kate Wilson reminded everyone that we are working on your behalf and accountable to you. There is a passion to make a real difference through the Carlisle Ambassadors, and we are putting solid foundations in place to support individuals, organisations and businesses who want to be part of the group. This includes the website with a membership directory, news updates and a project forum where ideas can be openly shared, the Carlisle Toolkit (which has already been put to use by local companies since the meeting), and membership support through email, social media and media updates. Michelle Masters wrapped up the meeting by asking everyone to use the feedback forms to help us shape the future of the Carlisle Ambassadors, and announced that there will be the opportunity for two companies to have a showcase at each meeting and for one company to give a short introduction to their business.

We are very grateful to The Halston Aparthotel in Carlisle who sponsored this event, and provided an amazing lunch in such a stunning function room. I think we were all delighted to enjoy such an excellent setting for this first meeting of 2015. The feeling of optimism in the room was tangible, and we are looking forward to developing the programme with you. We have already received lots of project suggestions, and delighted that so many have already submitted their membership forms. It is nothing without your active support!

The next meetings is on March 26th at Carlisle Racecourse. You can book your free place here. It is already getting very full, so it would be worth doing so sooner rather than later….

And if you haven’t done so already, please do sign up for future email alerts here. Thank you!