Emily Cotterill from Winchester’s Business Improvement District gets ready for the festive season
In the heat of summer Emily Cotterill, business development and projects officer at Winchester BID, starts making plans for Christmas. Emily, who is responsible for promoting business across the city, works months ahead of each season, ensuring that the big events of the year are organised in plenty of time.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Christmas Market, which draws tens of thousands of additional visitors to Winchester each year. The ice rink, cathedral events and the city’s reputation as a Mecca for foodies adds to its Yuletide appeal, with Winchester claiming the crown as the south’s ‘Christmas capital’.
“At Christmas time in particular, Winchester’s traditional feel really adds to its appeal,” Emily says. “You couldn’t ask for a better setting for a Christmas market than in the shadow of a great cathedral. Similarly, the wealth of specialists in intimate areas like Kingsgate Village makes shopping here much more appealing than jostling with the crowds in huge indoor retail centres.
“This year BID has produced a shopping guide which is being distributed by Winchester Tourist Office to highlight the wealth of independent businesses we have here.”
BID also works on a practical level. “With the help of Stagecoach we’re extending park-and-ride services to include Sundays over the Christmas season,” Emily says. “Ensuring free traffic flow and access to parking is an important part of Christmas planning.
“We’re also involved in schemes such as Pubwatch, which helps keep Christmas drinking in check, and Shopwatch, which links the city centre’s shops to each other to prevent crime. Our work on the Spare Change for Real Change campaign aims to reduce street begging and ensure donations are used in the most positive way.”
By the time the Christmas lights are switched on in November, most of the hard work behind the scenes is done. “Preparing for the great switch-on is a huge task – from complying with health and safety right through to checking every one of the bulbs is working,” Emily says. “Over £250,000 has been invested in Christmas lights and this year our sponsor for the switch-on event is Cala Homes.
“As well putting up the lights we’re also responsible for 100 Christmas trees above the shop fronts, as well as a giant tree in High Street. A highlight of my year has been the annual visit to Burcot Farm in West Stratton, where we select our Christmas tree, still growing, in September, before it is installed in November.”
It’s not just the nuts and bolts of making Christmas in Winchester happen each year that makes Emily’s work so rewarding. “Winchester has a great community spirit, which means that locals and businesses really get behind the events that happen here,” she says. “I love that sense of togetherness.”
01962 841000. www.viewwinchester.com