Showing posts with label portas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label portas. Show all posts

29 August 2012

Report on Portas Launch

With standing room only, a capacity crowd listened eagerly as members of the Core Team told them about the Portas Pilot and what it meant for Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham.

Liz Dart, Head of Community & Neighbourhood Development at Lewisham Council, started the evening off by explaining how the bid process had worked and what not to expect from a Portas Pilot; it was not about investing in infrastructure or the environment, it was about making our high streets lively, dynamic, exciting and social places that give a sense of belonging and trust to the community. One of the fundamental requirements for a Portas Pilot is a “Town Team”: a visionary, strategic and strong operational management team for the high streets. This is one way you can be involved.

£80,000 had been awarded for the pilot and this was backed by matched funding from Phase Two works at Bell Green (£100,000) and the High Street Innovation Fund (£15,000). The money will be used to back three projects which aim to re-instill a sense of place and vitality in our high streets.

Ed Holloway, a local architect, then explained the first of the three principle projects outlined in the bid. Jack & Jill are to be two community hubs in Forest Hill and Sydenham. These will be located in currently empty units and renovated by local tradesmen while training some young people (NEETs) to learn a skill. The hubs will be used as a base for the Town Team to interact with the community, showcase local businesses and run business workshops among other uses.

Due to a technical hitch (we had an old presentation up), Louise Brooks, a marketing professional then introduced The Shop Revolution. This project will refurbish up to 12 units for a series of PopUp events with the aim of stimulating demand for empty units. The Shop Revolution will work with Landlords and potential businesses to ensure that we get the right mix of businesses. The Shop Revolution will also work with landlords to find meanwhile uses for premises while looking for long-lasting tenants, maybe under the terms of a meanwhile lease. The ultimate aim is to designate our high streets as a destination – somewhere worth visiting – to bring in visitors from outside the local community.

Richard Hibbert, Chair of the Forest Hill Society, then presented Market Makers. This project will enable the running of a market in each centre. There are already two fledgling markets – the Forest Hill Food Fair on the first Sunday of the month and the Girton Road Car Boot sale on the second Sunday – but it was upto the communities to say what sort of market they wanted. This would be determined by people coming forwards with ideas for stalls and markets and through engagement via the Jack and Jill community hubs.

Councillor Chris Best then summarised the evening, encouraging people to get involved. It was only through community involvement that the pilot would be a success. It was up to you to be involved in the Town Team and shape the future of your high street.

Thank you to everyone who showed up at the Launch Event last night. It was great to see such enthusiasm and so many new faces. We look forwards to seeing you again in the near future. If you filled in a questionnaire, then we will be in touch once we have processed them. If you haven’t filled one in yet, then sign up for our newsletter and we will be in touch shortly.

As promised, a copy of the presentation can be downloaded here. Apologies to those at the back of the Pavilion who could not see the slides.

Reproduced from

27 July 2012

Portas Pilot First Steps

Yesterday saw the first meeting of the Town Team (or more correctly, the bid team) since we heard news of our success.

The main item discussed was how to officially constitute the Town Team so that it can take over from Lewisham as the responsible body in the longer term.

We also discussed at length the importance of being transparent and spreading the news about what the Portas Pilot is intended to achieve and what it is not. We want as many people as possible to be involved, but we also have to manage expectations, so please be patient while the nitty gritty of name, website and communications is sorted out. We hope to get this sorted out in the next week or so.

In the meantime, please contact one of the following with any queries you may have:

Rebecca page
Chris page

25 July 2012

Forest Hill wins Portas Funding

Thanks to the determined efforts of a dedicated band of volunteers, Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham's joint bid for upto £100,000 of government funding to revitalise the High Street has won one of 13 Portas Pilot grants in the second round of bidding.

With £100,000 of matched funding towards town centre improvements for Forest Hill and Sydenham from the Phase Two development of Bell Green and a further £15,000 from Lewisham, the pilot will concentrate on three projects.

Jack & Jill

Two high street shops will be renovated for creative community engagement, exhibitions, showcasing local products, business workshops, ‘pop-up’ events and as a Town Team base

Shop Revolution

A high impact project with lasting sustainable benefits will renovate upto 12 vacant units, letting them to an eclectic mix of businesses and organisations, including successful Market Makers traders on a Pop Up or trial basis.

Market Makers

More than a market, this will build on the success of the Forest Hill Food Fair, to pilot markets on a rotational basis across the area, with the aim of finding long term tenants for our vacant units.

Richard Hibbert, Chairman of the Forest Hill Society said "These are exciting times for Forest Hill. The Town Centre has been the top priority of the Society and the Forest Hill local assembly for the past two years and we are beginning to see the results of our efforts. We are already seeing signs of revitalisation in Dartmouth Road ahead of the pools opening in the next couple of weeks.

"We have managed to get graffiti removed from various shops and buildings in the town centre, won an Outstanding award from the Royal Horticultural Society for the planting outside the station, revitalised the Trader's Association and hosted three successful Food Fairs. The Portas funding will focus our efforts for the next stage and enable us to deliver the town centre that local residents want.

"We firmly believe that this investment in our high streets is another important step in our founding aim of making Forest Hill an even better place to live and look forwards to working with the other members of the Town Team.

"Particular thanks are due to Ed Holloway, a Forest Hill Society member, who put a lot of time and effort into enhancing the first bid and turning it into a winning bid in the second round."

02 June 2012

Newsletter: Ambitious Plans for Our High Streets

Film cameras came to Forest Hill at the end of March, when Sydenham cameraman Sean Cameron and Forest Hill architect Ed Holloway took up our call for someone to make a video to support our bid for £97k Portas Pilot funding.

The fund offers 12 areas across the UK a share of £1.2 million to regenerate their High Streets. The video was a precondition of entering. At the 11th hour, Sean and Ed took up the challenge and spent a mad three days zipping through Forest Hill, Kirkdale and Sydenham interviewing some key folks with big plans for the area.

As Ed says on the film, “We could show you all the negatives, but you know that already – they are common everywhere. What we’d like to show is the unique stuff…the people, the places that make these spaces activated. There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm around here and we want to show you just how good it is.”

The pair took a special interest in local businesses that ‘blend’ such as Canvas & Cream, Stag & Bow and Alhambra. All of these mix community and cultural activities into their core retail trade. Our bid aimed to unite all three High Streets. trendy Forest Hill, quirky Kirkdale (still in Forest Hill Ward and the original Sydenham High Street) and leafy Sydenham, home of the annual arts and music festivals. It was great to meet Sean and Ed, and amazing to find out how many people we knew in common or could put each other in touch with. In the weeks after filming many fantastic working relationships were consolidated and formed.

Sean’s allotment buddy, Ky Lewis, put on an exhibition of pinhole photography at Alhambra. Kirkdale local Aaron came along to the private view and interviewed her as part of a film he is making about Kirkdale for his portfolio. Vicar Ed Olsworth at Holy Trinity on Sydenham Park lent us his beautiful church hall for a photo-shoot.

Kirkdale Village Traders and Community Group needed a room for a public meeting. The Grove Centre on Jews Walk loaned us its small hall. (Lucky, as more than 50 people turned up!)

Alhambra has always had culture and community at its core with a programme of exhibitions, classes and events. Over the past few weeks I have been overwhelmed by the goodwill coming our way as Kirkdale Village, which I chair, makes its final push to get our Street Beautification project complete in time for the Sydenham Festival Arts Trail in July.

Kirkdale Village was awarded £1000 by the Forest Hill Assembly last year, which the Kirkdale Traders have match-funded. With aspirations bigger than our pockets, we planned planters, signage, street art, trees… At the May Local Assembly meeting we reported on progress. By the end of the night we were talking to Kerry Hagger from the Arts Befriending Service about an inter-generational mosaic project, and to pop-up cinema queen Erica about another arts project. Someone else put us in touch with St Barts School.

Sydenham artist Joyce Treasure offered to do some fabulous street art (plywood paid for and supplied by Wooster & Stock). Joyce kindly allowed us to reproduce one of her artworks. Forest Hill printmaker Sam Topping quite out of the blue, offered to run our Schools’ Flag-making Project and to print the flags, and a staff member from Kelvingrove School came into the shop and expressed a firm desire to get involved, too!

Following up on Stag & Bow’s Local Traders’ Loyalty Card last Christmas, Janis Hendrikson at JH Skincare on Kirkdale has volunteered to develop a local currency or loyalty card scheme.

A local lady, Diana Hawk, has enlisted Urban Design students from UCL to help us position our new bike stands and planters. We’re on the hunt for a forklift truck - hopefully a local company will lend us one.

Sadly our Portas Pilot bid was unsuccessful. There is a second round of applications, so we will put in again. (More on this in our next edition.) Who knows if we will succeed? But, in a way, I feel as if we have already won. Working together on the application has brought us so much closer with some excellent new alliances.

If you’d like to meet local businesses and get involved, there’s a new networking group run by our very own marketing rock star Louise Brooks of Bake ( She’s also chairing a new Empty Shops Group. Check out the Kirkdale Village Facebook page, and you can pop into Alhambra to talk to me, When Sean offered to start a Kirkdale Village television channel back in March, I wondered what on earth he was going to put on it. Now it seems there is no shortage of filmworthy material!

Becca Leathlean runs Alhambra Home & Garden at 148 Kirkdale (free event Fri 29 June), and chairs the Kirkdale Village Traders and Community Group.

26 May 2012


We found out yesterday that the rumour mill was right and Mary Portas will not be coming to Forest Hill just yet, but we are not disheartened.  We always knew that the competition would be tough and that, with only 12 Portas Pilots for the whole country, it was unlikely that there would be two winning bids in London. We just hoped that our bid and supporting video were strong enough to win the day. 

However, we've not sat back and waited for Mary to come and get us out of our difficulties.  We've been working very hard to help ourselves.  The Portas Pilot bid process acted as the catalyst to bring many ideas to fruition, encouraging people who had been talking about possibly doing something to decide that this was the time to act.
  • We have started building the database of traders, landlords and local organisations which Mary recommended in her review.  This was something we had been developing, but the bid focised our attention and we have managed to contact most of the retailers in Forest Hill and several of the landlords.  There have been some who are not interested in participating and others who are wary of our motives, but generally the reaction has been positive once the purpose was explained and the more we do, the more are willing to join in.
  • We have organised and run a Food Fair, which far exceeded our expectations and lead to several retailers having their best Sunday ever.  The Food Fair was so much more than just a market.  With just ten stalls, we managed to prove that there is the demand for quality produce in Forest Hill.  Several stalls sold out in the first 90 minutes of trading while Franklins, who brought ridiculous amounts of stuff (their words), also sold it all.  The addition of the Tapas Taster Trail was a great success as it pushed the food lovers out to the restaurants and has seen many of the customers who tried the £2 specials returning for more.  Traders who initially feared that they would lose custom as the stalls were selling similar products, benefitted from the increased footfall and want to see the event run again.  Some of the stall holders would like us to run the Food Fair on a weekly basis, but that is probably a step too far.  However, we will be running another Food Fair on Sunday, 3 June from 10am to 4pm with a few more stalls.
  • We have increased our planting at Forest Hill station, in the Town Centre and at Honor Oak Park station. We are entering the RHS "It's Your Neighbourhood" scheme again as well as "Lewisham In Bloom"
  • St Augustine's have held the first of what they hope will become an Annual One Tree Hill festival, with nine concerts and several other events, this has celebrated the creative heart of Forest Hill, bringing together local artists, musicians and organisations with a fantastic line up of events from community singalongs to classical arias via folk music and clowning.  We worked really hard to get the recently rediscovered "Indian Lady and Tiger" clock by Kit Williams (of Masquerade fame) displayed in the church, but were ultimately unsuccessful.
  • Havelock Walk artists have run two Open House weekends as part of the Dulwich festival and many other local artists also showed off their amazing talents and creativity.
  • Two new businesses have opened up on Dartmouth Road.  We would like to welcome Chantel of Best of Both Boutique and Clare of Marie's Boutique to the street and wish them every success.  They have been overwhelmed by the support and reception they have received.  Agata will be opening a third business, Doopodopo, also on Dartmouth Road.  Doopodopo will be selling contemporary and designer furniture and accessories.  We just need to work with landlords to get the right tenants into the remaining vacant units and help those quality businessses which are struggling to survive.
  • The Council has finally reached agreement with Network Rail on the design, terms and responsibilities for refurbishing the underpass which links the Perry Vale and London Road sides of the Town Centre.  This is the result of more than six years of campaigning and pressure by the Sydenham Society and Forest Hill Society.  Although Network Rail are currently refusing to refurbish the steps and provide handrails, we will keep the pressure on them to undertake this important work.  We have had initial meetings with several people regarding the replacement of the mural in the underpass and have met one of the young lads who did the work 15 years ago. We hope to bring the Horniman Museum together with Havelock Walk and other local artists to develop an idea which will celebrate the richness within our community.
  • The Trader's Association had faltered following the death of Michael Davey last year.  We have organised two meetings, which have been well attended by traders from the Town Centre as well as councillors and Council officers, and a new committee has been elected.  It is wonderful to see the energy and enthusiasm from this group and we have high hopes that they will be able to help drive our agenda forwards, working together to improve the Town Centre.
  • We have met with local magazine publishers to discuss how we can work together to market Forest Hill better and improve their circulation.
  • Boutique marketing consultancy, Bake London has run two networking events in local bars.  These events provide a venue for professional people to meet and form business relationships or simply to discuss local problems and provide solutions.
  • The Local Assembly has met and is developing an action plan for the ward which will address the priorities of the Assembly, including the Town Centre.
  • The new leisure centre is about to open, several months ahead of schedule.  Businesses along Dartmouth Road really suffered when the pools closed in 2006 and suffered further when Thames Water had the road closed to through traffic for two years during which they replaced the water main.  We are already starting to see the effect that reopening the pools will have on their prospects.
So what does the future hold? 

Firstly, congratulations to Bedford, Croydon, Dartford, Bedminster, Liskeard, Margate, Market Rasen, Nelson, Newbiggin by the Sea, Stockport, Stockton on Tees and Wolverhampton.  We will be bidding for funding in Round 2 of the Portas Pilots.  Before we do that, we will be talking to DCLG to try and find out what they thought of our bid, its strengths and weaknesses.  We will also be looking at the winning bids to see what lessons can be learned and how we should modify our bid.  Whatever happens, we will need to update our video so that Mary is aware of the progress we have made since the beginning of April.  If she or Grant Shapps would like to see the opportunities for themselves, here are just some of the events happening in the next few weeks.

31 March 2012

Vote for Forest Hill

Show your support by 'liking' our Portas Pilot video on YouTube.

The Forest Hill Society has been working with our bid partners to secure £100,000 funding for the Sydenham, Forest Hill and Kirkdale Town Team. This will help pull together the various traders' groups, civic societies, landlords and organisations in the area to drive improvement in our Town Centres.

The aim of the Portas Pilot is not to pay for all the improvements that we would like to see - it is much more about effecting change which will lead to those improvements through dynamic leadership.

We would love to get the street clutter removed, install better signage, let people know where the car parks are, link the Horniman Museum with Forest Hill, and fill our empty shops with quality independant offerings, but this is not going to happen unless we make it happen. We cannot just sit back and wait for TfL, the council or whoever to do it for us.

The Town Centre Team will work together to promote Forest Hill, Sydenham and Kirkdale, address the issues and effect change. It will benefit by sharing the many talents and enthusiasm that we have in the area and, by sharing the workload, will result in more changes for the better.

We look forwards to being active participants.

(The Forest Hill Society's bid partners include Lewisham Council, Sydenham Society, Kirkdale Village Traders, Sydenham Town Centre Steering Group and many other individuals.)

22 March 2012

Be a star!

We want you to make a 20-30 second video for our Portas Pilot bid.

Each bid needs to include a video which shows how much the local community cares about their Town Centre and how they would improve it. We would like to include locals' views about the area in a way that will make our bid unique and personal. Your video should therefore include a high and low about either Sydenham, Forest Hill or Kirkdale shopping areas. It can be as simple or complicated as you like, with or without commentary - use your imagination! But it needs to be done quickly. We must have your video by 6pm on Sunday (March 25).

We need the actual file for editing purposes, so please use to email your video to If you post your video to YouTube as well, please add the tags se23, se26, forest hill, sydenham and portas.

The legal bit.
You will keep the copyright to your video in its raw format. By sending the video to us using, you will grant Forest Hill Society full rights to include the video in our Portas Pilot bid. Forest Hill Society and its bid partners will have full copyright of the bid video.