Eastbrookend Rekindled: how the Rethinking Parks project is going
Miles Duckworth is the Programme Manager for Eastbrookend Rekindled, part of the Rethinking Parks project. His team wants to find new sources of income through revitalising the Millennium Centre building in Eastbrookend Country Park. The project has taken an exciting and unexpected turn from the team’s initial vision.
On a beautiful sunny day I visited Eastbrookend Park with ranger Andy. At over 80 hectares, this took some time.
The park contained many interesting aspects and surprises such as: a population of (rare) Black Poplars, the remnants of an old canal (I have lived in London for 24 years and never knew the canal network had once extended this far east) and proximity to a former home of Mary Wolstonecraft. This heritage can contribute to park branding in the near future.
I met with the Friends of Group for Eastbrookend Park at their well-attended AGM. It was a positive meeting with good ideas generated and commitments to develop a constitution and seek charitable status. This will address some of the governance aspect of the Eastbrookend Rekindled Project.
Other aspects of the project relate to:
- Achieving diverse methods of delivery and income generation
- Identifying and applying innovativion
- Practically, this means ambitions for an enterprise/small-business ‘hub’ at the Millennium Centre, containing a rejuvenated café and social enterprise.
Already, some of our assumptions have been challenged as a result of research.
For example, we had assumed that the prescence of the Tenant Participation team would attract new people into the park. But research we commissioned from Social Life found this is not the case. This provides useful information about the way forward in terms of occupancy of the Centre and an ecological business hub concept.
We contacted Andy Jackson at Heeley Park, Sheffield about creative business hubs. They’ve been operating Sum Studios for some time and any useful information about the development process, key actions and best practice would be useful to the redevelopment of our Millennium Centre.
Researching prototypes for public services, it was found that there are more examples of prototyping around for technical, ICT and digital products than for services such as parks. Where examples did exist there were limitations in terms of the level of detail and information available and the time for which these examples had been ‘live’ from which results could be assessed. This explains why this programme is so timely and important, since participants will be developing examples of prototyping and innovation.
We commissioned a report on market research for the park by Social Life. This has shown that our park is in competition with a number of other local parks. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this. The conclusions are that we must assess what other parks have, brand our park, and provide an attractive offer to the public and users.
We have also found that parks generally are in competition with other public assets, also facing declining public sector support, for new revenue options and marketing opportunities.
Gardeners’ Question Time!
…is not my usual listening however I did catch it recently. Interesting episode from Glasgow featuring an interview with Neil Baxter talking about parks, park issues and mentioning that Glasgow has Britain’s first park – 1848 (if memory serves).