Paul Spencer is Projects and Operations Officer for Winchester Business Improvement District (BID) which is operated by Winchester City Centre Partnership. Prior to this he worked for 10 years in an economic development role with a particular focus on cultural and creative industries. He is in the final stages of his PhD in creative cities at the University of Winchester and he has given talks and guest lectures at universities and a range of different events, including conferences in the UK and overseas. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management.
Paul Spencer, you recently started working as Projects and Operations Officer for the Winchester Business Improvement District. What are your responsibilities? What skills do you need to work for a BID?
Paul Spencer: I am responsible for projects, services and events delivered by Winchester Business Improvement District (BID). The passionate and professional team work on behalf of over 700 businesses in the BID area towards strategic objectives to create a cleaner, greener, more attractive, safer, better-promoted and prosperous city. BID professionals need to have good knowledge and understanding of the issues facing town and city centres as well as the needs of a business community to grow and prosper. They should also demonstrate a commitment to developing, managing and making places better. Key skills and experience include strategic planning, project and event management, economic development, operations delivery, business liaison activity, administration, budget management and communication skills.
“BID professionals need to have good knowledge and understanding of the issues facing town and city centres as well as the needs of a business community to grow and prosper.”
BID professionals work with a wide variety of different organisations across private, public and voluntary sectors and therefore networking and relationship-building are important.
What can you tell us about the Winchester BID? When was it set up and what are its main challenges and goals?
Paul Spencer: Winchester BID has been in operation since 2008 and has delivered services to the city through Winchester City Centre Partnership, a not-for-profit organisation that has been in operation since 1997. BIDs operate within defined geographical areas, in which non-domestic ratepayers have voted to invest collectively in local improvements that are in addition to projects and services already delivered by local statutory bodies. BIDs represent businesses working together towards shared goals. The vision for Winchester BID is to ensure that the city remains a vibrant, exciting and successful business community; an attractive, clean and safe environment for customers and clients, shoppers and staff, residents and visitors; a profitable place in which to do business. The first BID in England was set up in 2005 and there are now over 260 established across the UK. Every five years businesses are able to vote to continue the work of a BID for a subsequent term, based on a set of proposals.
“The vision for Winchester BID is to ensure that the city remains a vibrant, exciting and successful business community; an attractive, clean and safe environment for customers and clients, shoppers and staff, residents and visitors”.
Winchester BID is now approaching the end of its second five-year term and is working with the local business community and key stakeholders towards shaping proposals for a third term to build upon the work of this business-led and business-funded body over the past ten years.
You worked as Creative Industries Officer for Eastleigh Borough Council. How did the council support the creative industries? Will you have an opportunity to use that knowledge in your new job?
Paul Spencer: Before I joined the team at Winchester BID I worked with senior managers at Eastleigh Borough Council for ten years, planning and delivering new initiatives to develop the creative industries sector and grow the creative economy. Winchester is a historic cathedral city whereas nearby Eastleigh is a Victorian town which expanded around locomotive works during the 19th century. Over time the railway industry declined but the area continued to grow, benefitting from good transport links and close proximity to Southampton and the south coast. Eastleigh became a fairly typical suburban town, but it is in the field of arts where striking progress was made.
“Culture and the creative industries have become central to the identity and future vision of Eastleigh which serves as a good case study of small town culture-led regeneration”.
The local authority opened a contemporary arts centre 20 years ago and this was an important development which transformed the image and reputation of the town. The council has since opened a new theatre, designer-maker studios and a collaboration space for digital, film, games and technology businesses. Culture and the creative industries have become central to the identity and future vision of Eastleigh which serves as a good case study of small town culture-led regeneration. In Winchester the creative industries are recognised as one of five key sectors, also including public administration and business services; land based industries; tourism and recreation; and retail.
In 2015 you founded Creative Industries Research Network South. Can you tell us more about this and in what context and with what goals you founded the group?
Paul Spencer: The creative industries are an important part of the Hampshire economy employing 60,000 people and generating £2.7 billion. The network is supported by Creative Network South and brings together academics from five universities (Kings College London, Portsmouth, Solent, Southampton and Winchester) with practitioners and policy-makers to promote knowledge exchange and new research collaborations. I organised four workshops and a conference with key themes including placemaking, talent progression and development, entrepreneurship and the contribution of the sector to the Hampshire economy.
“One topic we explored was the economic impact of cultural events and I look forward to discussing the potential to develop this work in particular.”
These events have also informed Creative Network South’s forthcoming Creative Industries Manifesto. The network will soon recruit a new coordinator from the University of Winchester to allow me to focus my time on my work with Winchester BID. However, one topic we explored was the economic impact of cultural events and I look forward to discussing the potential to develop this work in particular. Winchester BID chairs the Festivals in Winchester Group and the city has an extensive festivals programme throughout the year including the famous Hat Fair, the UK’s longest running festival of outdoor arts.
What do you expect from the IPM and what can you contribute? What do you think we have to offer to people like you?
Paul Spencer: As a new IPM Fellow I am excited to have become a member of this international community of peers and to have access to a network of experts in place management and related subjects. Joining the Institute gives its members recognised professional standing and enables us to collaborate and learn from one another. I expect the IPM to support me and its members through research, education and networking, to help us to raise the profile of our work and to influence policy-makers to enable us to make places better! I am particularly looking forward to engaging with future conferences and to accessing the Journal of Place Management and Development. I hope that I can contribute a dual perspective both as a practitioner as well as a researcher.
The interview was conducted by Ares Kalandides