This is Harrogate's newest buzz phrase but what does it mean
Harrogate is getting ready to launch a potential new army of ambassadors to sell the district’s ‘story’ to the world.
After launching the ‘Think Harrogate’ project 12 months ago, the ‘Harrogate Story’ was unveiled at a launch event earlier this week at a packed gathering in Harrogate independent Rooster’s brewery on Hornbeam Park.
Although it was Harrogate Borough Council who fired the starting gun by hiring marketing firm Thinking Place at a cost of £45,000, the year-long process has seen a large number of local groups and businesses contribute ideas in a series of workshops.
The hope is the positive new initiative will not only help attract investors, workers and visitors to the Harrogate district but also serve to heal divisions in a period of public acrimony over the challenges the district faces.
Speaking before the launch, chief executive of Harrogate Borough Council, Wallace Sampson said it was time to push the message that the town and district was an amazing place whose strengths deserved to be shouted about.
Mr Sampson said: “We’re really excited about the work that has been done.
“We strongly believe that the Harrogate district is a very special place with a distinct and unique set of characteristics, but we cannot afford to be complacent.
“Although we don’t envisage this being council-led, we do support it. We need to do things differently and act collectively to ensure our continued prosperity.”
Audience members at Monday’s launch got their first glimpse of ‘The Harrogate Story’ marketing guide produced with the input of independent agency Thinking Place.
The Preston-based marketing firm already runs similar schemes for Doncaster, Lancashire, Coventry and Warwickshire, working with local authorities, local enterprise partnerships, developers, investors and visitor agencies, National Parks, property agents, architects and more.
The next step in the process will be led by Harrogate businessman Mark Roberts, the co-founder of Beer Hawk.
Mr Roberts has been appointed chair of Harrogate Place Leadership Group which will act as guardians of the ‘Harrogate Story’ which seeks to highlight not only the district’s rich heritage but also its vibrant creative and independent sectors.
But it was vital, he said, that everyone now sang from the same hymn sheet.
Mr Roberts said: “When I arrived in Harrogate I experienced a very different Harrogate. It is such a great place to live and do business. But it is a competitive world and it is really important everyone who has an interest in the district tells the same story.”
As well as preparing a new thinkharrogate.co.uk website with a consistent set of marketing messages and images accessible to everyone, Mr Roberts is also appealing foreveryone to help spread the good news.
Mr Roberts said: “I’m asking people who do have a passion for Harrogate and district to become ambassadors for the story.
“We are all in different ways for Harrogate but, until now, we have all been saying slightly different things.”
But what is The Harrogate Story?
“Harrogate District is an enticing collection of communities and countryside, history and heritage, businesses and brands.”
So begins The Harrogate Story book resulting from the year-long Think Harrogate’ project.
But what is the story? What are the distinctive characteristics identified?
The Harrogate Story
1. Beacon of ‘independent’ commercial spirit
“Our towns have always been renowned for independent businesses, especially shops and restaurants.”
2. Lifestyle oasis
“We offer a different pace of life that suits your family as well as your career.”
3. Artisan and brands
“Harrogate district is home to amazing food and drink products.”
4. Location and attractions
“Our district provides a stunning backdrop whether you are shopping or sightseeing, attending an event or working.”
The Harrogate Story book’s final words are: “Harrogate is a sparkling gem in the heart of Yorkshire, a district of distinctiveness alive with opportunity.”
Who is Mark Roberts, chair of Harrogate Place Leadership Group?
The man charged with helping the Harrogate district spread The Harrogate Story’s message is award-winning businessman Mark Roberts (pictured) who will chair the steering group which will now spearhead the project.
A former marketing and innovation expert for leading international blue chip companies, he moved to Harrogate in 2007 having fallen in love with the town while on assignment in the region with Procter & Gamble. In 2012 he co-founded craft beer company Beer Hawk with friend Chris France.
Based originally at Hammerain House in Harrogate, the rapid expansion of the company saw it move to Thorp Arch near Wetherby in 2017.
From packing boxes himself at the beginning, Beer Hawk now employs 100 staff and sells more than 1,000 different beers.
The company has risen to become one of the leading craft beer and speciality beer retailers in the whole of the UK.
Mark is also deputy chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership but still lives with his young family in Harrogate.
In fact, his three children go to local schools.