Kilmarnock town centre comes together with Vow to Wow

Ayrshire College’s Kilmarnock Campus was buzzing last night as East Ayrshire Council’s Kilmarnock Town Centre Regeneration Team launched their “Vow to Wow” initiative – just one aspect of a raft of measures aimed at bringing business, community and individuals together to revitalise life and trade in the town centre.

Vow to Wow calls on everyone involved in the town centre to pledge to make a difference, working together to help improve the appearance, atmosphere and vitality of the town centre. The launch event brought together hundreds of people who have pledged to do their bit for the good of the area in an evening filled with music, provided by the brilliant choir from Gargieston Primary School and inspirational speeches from those who’re leading by example with their pledges. Many of the participants had taken stalls, setting out what their businesses do and presenting their Vows to Wow for all to see and hear.

Launching the event Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council said: “Vow to Wow is a great campaign, bringing together loads of people from different walks of life who’re all wanting to put something back into Kilmarnock Town Centre. From bigger businesses such as John Gall’s Brownings with their Kilmarnock Pies, to school children, third sector organisations such as CentreStage to some of the local pubs like the Brass and Granite with their aim to bring in more defibrillators. They’ve all got great ideas,  showing that resilience which Kilmarnock’s got in spades which will see our town centre being one of the best in Scotland.”

Yvette Brown from Urquharts Opticians said “ We’re an independent opticians, community is massively important to us. We already do a lot within the community, for example organising the Christmas lights in Portland Road where our business is based. And this event is really great to get together all the local independent small businesses working together to make the town better. It gives us a chance to meet other people we wouldn’t usually get to see.It’s brilliant. Our pledge is to continue to improve the Christmas lights on our street and encourage other people and streets to do the same.”

AL Paint and supplies Ltd sells specialist paints, valeting and car accessories to trade and members of the public. Martin has worked there for 43 years,  and Lesley  for 32 years. Lesley said: “This Vow to Wow launch has been a wonderful event, what an opportunity and lovely to see this great venue, a fantastic facility for our young folk to learn in. We’re pledging to paint our properties in Douglas Street on an annual basis and keep our pavement clean and also always to support local community and other businesses. I buy everything in the town – we all source everything we can get in the town.” Martin jokes “I’m probably one of the few people who can honestly say I’ve never been to Silverburn. We love Kilmarnock.”

Frank Beattie, a retired Kilmarnock Standard journalist was representing the newly formed Kilmarnock Picture House Group. “We’re gathering pictures that haven’t been seen widely before, not necessarily in public archives. Possibly in private collections, maybe a shop has a dozen pictures that haven’t been shown to the public. We want to gather these gems together, make them much more available to the public. At the moment anyone can go to the Burns Monument or Dick Institute or to public archives and see photos that are well known, and that’s great, but there are still more thousands out there that are NOT well known and we want to collect these together to make a public archive. We’re a new organisation, a charity and we want to go into schools, nursing homes, any groups that want us to visit and give them a picture show, tailored to their specific interests.

“I think tonight has been marvellous. As I’ve wandered around the stalls I’ve seen so many people and businesses that I know and are so well known in the town. It’s a great way to get everyone together for a blether and make connections so that we can all do our bit for the town”

Karen from Flowers by Karen.UK Retail Florist of the Year said “I think this is a great idea, getting people together. My Vow to Wow is something we’re already doing and we’ve vowed to do more of it. We have wee business cards saying “spreading smiles one flower at a time” and from time to time we go out and hand out single stem flowers with a card, just to spread a wee bit of happiness in the town, so we’ll keep doing it.

Ashley Wilson, who works in Flowers by Karen has an initiative of her own. She’s pledged to continue  giving out wee notes with encouraging messages to make strangers’ days better in Kilmarnock with “A Wee Note”. She explains. “I firmly believe a wee thing can sometimes have a big impact on someone’s day. I’m spreading kindness through A Wee Note’s “Take What You Need” posters which I’m getting out to local cafes with notice boards. I also leave kind messages on post-it notes on empty shop windows for people to take in the hope it helps their day in some way. I’m pledging to be kind and helpful to people and assist in improving the town however I can.” Follow Ashley’s progress on @weenote on FB  and aweenote on Instagram.

Peter Urquhart representing Urquharts Opticians and Kilmarnock Business Association gave the vote of thanks. He said “We operate across four towns in Ayrshire, each of which presents unique challenges. Business is undoubtedly changing and we’ve got no option but to move with it, to think differently and certainly to work more collaboratively than ever before, if we’re to survive, let alone thrive. The regeneration team has worked on the new Town Centre Strategy for a number of months and my role as a representative of the Kilmarnock Business Association is not to sell the merits of the strategy, albeit it contains some really good ideas and a genuine attempt to cater for as many areas of the town as possible. Instead I want to encourage everyone to get behind it.

“Perhaps some people doubt it goes far enough or they feel excluded but everyone has a role to play as we celebrate what’s best about Kilmarnock.

“This leads me to ask two things. Firstly the team are very open, so please engage with them. The strategy launches in March, so there’s still plenty of time to contribute.

“Secondly, perhaps there are some who will benefit more than others from the strategy but no one will benefit if action is not taken within our town centre and our communities. We’d all love the Council to work with an endless budget and perhaps to start from scratch, but that’s not what we’ve got so we’ve got to work within the budget set out and some of the existing key challenges that are already in place and what we’ve seen this evening makes the best of what we have.

“Kilmarnock’s a fantastic town full of great people and we owe it to ourselves, and those that will follow, not to be known for not taking any action, but for at least taking some action that allows us to progress in some regard. Look at the fantastic work already started by Celebrate Kilmarnock and Centre Stage.

“The great turnout tonight shows how much we care. So I’d urge everyone, get behind Vow to Wow, speak positively about the town, our community and those that we work beside. Get behind the strategy, put our own interests to one side, contribute your thoughts and let’s all try to make a small difference which cumulatively will benefit everyone hugely.”

Watch our video of the launch. To get involved with Vow to Wow or to contribute to the new Town Centre Strategy, visit eastayrshi.re/vowtowow.