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The profile of Cardiff city centre has been in sharp focus recently with a range of concerts that have drawn national attention and audiences. The problems conveyed in the media about travelling in and out of the city for the Ed Sheeran concerts were in my mind exaggerated and people nibbled at the clickbait presented to them in some media channels – a move which went down badly with businesses and stakeholders alike at a time when recovery requires sensible journalism. Thankfully the Stereophonics claim that ‘Maybe tomorrow I’ll find my way home’ didn’t materialise for those heading back immediately after a truly Welsh occasion and where there were genuine travel issues a few weeks previously, these weren’t in evidence last weekend. Bring on the Metro which will alleviate event day pressure!
FOR Cardiff were successful, albeit 3 years ago in securing the national Association of Town & City Management’s (ATCM) annual conference. 180 delegates from as far afield as Sligo, Sweden, Aberdeen and Great Yarmouth all headed our way to discuss the contemporary issues facing our town and city centres and the way that technology is embroiled in so many facets of how urban centres and their businesses operate. It was also an opportunity to showcase our city through Study Tours – it made me immensely proud that the first sight inside the Principality Stadium drew gasps from delegates and that the city is able to enjoy the profile and economic benefits that this provides on our doorstep; their thoughts when shown around the Morgan Quarter and uses above the shops in the Arcades; the, dare I say envy, at the level of regeneration having taken place and set to happen when visiting the Cardiff 3D model housed in Cardiff Castle to show investors, and the acknowledgement of the huge offer provided at St. David Dewi Sant when their team outlined the number of businesses fitting out empty units and the sales figures during recovery being reported by their tenants.
The presentation of our reaccreditation of Purple Flag status at the ATCM Annual Awards dinner was put to the test when delegates sampled numerous eateries and bars during the conference and feedback was brilliant, as was the cavalcade of black ties and fancy dresses parading down St. Mary Street. They felt safe too, and our latest award (we think its 16 in 5 ½ years now) for Best Marketing & Branding for our Safe Places campaign that we also picked up at the Awards night was testament to the work we and our participating businesses have bought into.
Seemingly the work never stops, and we never stop learning and there is a positive vibe in the city centre at the moment, but for how long we don’t know. The conference helped to aid our learning, share best practice and provide reassurance that as place practitioners there are other towns and cities facing the same challenges as we do. And some challenges are new – now how best do we animate the city’s streets ahead of a winter World Cup with Christmas Lights up?– that never happened in 1958.