Chichester Champions – It’s not just coworking moving Chichester into the future
Lucy and I are both Chichester born and bred. We grew up here. We love the city, it’s engrained in who we are.
Throughout our lives when we have told people we are from Chichester we are usually met with the same reaction. “Oh yes Chichester, such a beautiful place to live, bit sleepy and full of old people though.” Well for many many years you would be right, growing up there wasn’t a huge amount for us to do (we found our own fun!!). Chichester certainly wasn’t a place we planned on sticking around in.
Come university age us and most of our peers shot out of Chichester as fast as we could and vowed not to come back. BUT of course, most of us did. Usually around the time we had established our careers, were thinking about children OR had just realised that Chichester has so much more to offer our generation than we had thought.
Clean & safe environment
A wide array of culture (all be it still a certain “class” of culture)
Variety of shops
Plenty of restaurants & bars
Near the sea
Easy access to larger cities
The list goes on……………
Now these are things that Chichester has always had. It’s probably that as youngsters we just didn’t appreciate how important they were.
However, there was key area of Chichester’s rich tapestry that we experienced on our arrival back to the fold, and that is the noticeable sea change in fresh & future focused thinking. That Chichester was starting to make moves to clamber on board this century’s train and join other urban locations along the south coast such as Brighton in offering a diverse and rich culture on both personal & business levels.
Don’t get me wrong, Chichester is not morphing into Brighton, it never will and it never should as Chichester is unique BUT Chichester is feeling fresher and younger than it ever did and the kind of place that younger generations might consider hanging around in and making a life in. This is absolutely essential for the survival of Chichester as one of the best places in the UK to live and work. If we don’t keep the younger generations present Chichester will die off with its older population.
We at Rume2 are part of the crowd of disrupters and change makers determined not to let that happen.
These are the types of Chichester Champions we see on a daily basis breathing new life into Chichester.
Independent Shops & Brands
It’s a tricky retail market out there, but despite all that the number of independent shops in Chichester is far higher than most places in the UK. Micro retailers are being championed by brilliant initiatives such as Draper’s Yard and we are seeing independent brands like the Real Eating Company become so popular they are opening second sites within the city walls.
Let’s absolutely not forget in addition to this the successful growing retail brands in the area that don’t exist on the high street but in the online world. Brands like Secret Linen Store who have been solidly growing into a multi-million turnover company in this area for the last 5 years. Like upcoming brands such as The Little Botanical who are taking on the interior accessories market with aplomb.
We even have a group of people here who’s sole purpose is to support businesses like these within the city walls. The Chichester BID does an amazing job of encouraging people to visit and spend money within the city walls. Only this weekend we had a Super Saturday celebration of Chichester with live radio broadcasts from the town centre, events & offers from a number of local retailers and a big raffle.
There is a real shop local, support local movement in Chichester that we are absolutely advocates of.
Talking of business let’s talk about the plethora of thriving entrepreneurship in the area. Over the last 6 months we have seen a non-stop stream of business leaders & owners come through our doors and play a role in the wider business community. We have met entrepreneurs in tech, wealth management, publishing, retail, marketing, creative, recruitment and many other sectors join us. Let’s not forget coworking too!!! We are a brand-new type of business to Chichester here solely to encourage entrepreneurship, nurture business growth & support collaboration between local & global businesses. We have a number of members who deal with multiple international locations on a daily basis from our office.
Many people used to assume that Chichester was just full of those type of businesses who cater for the affluent; solicitors, estate agents, tourism, landlords. But this is no longer the case. Chichester is thriving with new champions of industry, ensuring that we encourage and retain business talent into our economic pool. This is no longer the place to retire, it’s the place to come and grow a business.
There of course is still a long way to go for Chichester to meet the levels of business support & collaboration from other entities that other larger urban developments enjoy, but with the range of talks and workshops we are seeing at Rume2 we know the opportunity for businesses to thrive is growing daily.
Alongside us there are some really strong Chichester Champions in the form of those who lead networking groups. There are groups for all types of businesses, from start-ups to freelancers to more established businesses. Here are just a few of them:
Debbie Ford & Emily Perry - Last Friday Club
Helen Hoile & Abby Smith – The Collective
Alys Bryan & Julia Grant – Design Collective Chichester
Vanessa Junginger & Jackie Sharpe – First Friday Network
These aren’t all of them either. Whatever type of industry you are in or stage of business there is a thriving group to offer support & collaboration.
A huge champion for Chichester is the wonderful University that has been hugely developed since Lucy & I were young. It used to be a polytechnic that focused on sport but over the years has become one of the best respected Universities in the country winning awards for the happiness of it’s students & the rate of employment post studies.
There is a strong innovation centre run from the Bognor Campus to support the move from student to industry and an amazing new technology centre only opened last year by the Duke & Sussex of Chichester.
This University is bringing a large amount of economic benefit to the city in the form of students who live, consumer & work here during studies but also those who are starting to stay on in the area post studies. There is still a large amount to be done to encourage more of this happening as Chichester does still fall short in the number of working 20 somethings in the area. Those returning to Chichester because of it’s changing face and benefits to the younger generations are still towards the end of their 20’s or into their early thirties.
This leads me to the last type of Chichester Champions, the people who are fighting the good fight probably more than any others against older tradition which has in the past impacted the movement forwards of the city and its appeal to younger generations.
These champions are those who run the cities nightlife. We are lucky to have a number of great pubs in the area and in recent years have also seen the great introduction of cocktail, gin & craft ale bars.
These bars are giving those who don’t just want to sit in a pub a wider choice of venues with different vibes to meet with friends and sample artisan drinks you don’t find normally in a pub.
The challenges that Chichester faces are that there aren’t quite enough things to do other than have a drink. Apart from a late license in a couple of the pubs in town there isn’t a great deal else and no night clubs or late-night music venues.
We have a truly stunning theatre, a brilliant local independent cinema, a stonking museum, some lovely local galleries, bowling & 2 trampoline parks, but nowhere (bar a couple of late night pubs & newly re-opened favourite Woodies) to dance to a range of dj’s or enjoy live music past 11pm. If Chichester really wants to move into the future, we need more choice of culture and entertainment. Not a city that is in the main forced to shut down come midnight.
This however, is the only real area lacking still in Chichester’s march into the future. I have every faith that it WILL come in time. There are too many of us “Chichester Champions” focused on making sure our beautiful city retains its wonderful rich history & culture but at the same time can move forward and become a destination for all ages, showing others how it is done.
So join with us in our movement. Use these new ventures popping up, shop local, support planning applications, talk Chichester up, never down.
LOVE WHERE YOU LIVE
LOVE WHERE YOU WORK.