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'Fresh eyes' could revive Minehead
FRESH eyes are what Minehead’s first vision manager believes are needed to help revive the town.
Stephen Hooper must come up with a formal action plan by March but says he is already brimming with ideas and will be raring to go by then.
Minehead Development Trust has employed Mr Hooper in the newly-created 18-month role following his success working with regeneration charities in the valleys of South Wales.
Key players including West Somerset Council, Minehead Town Council, Minehead Development Trust, The Regal Theatre, ARTlife and Engage West Somerset formed a working group to come up with a strategy for improving the town.
Mr Hooper said: “Lots of things on the list were already looked after by certain groups, but there were some for which there was no statutory provider, so a post was created to address those.
“A better description of my job would be an ‘animateur’, because that is what I am doing – animating things. It’s about bringing already identified aims and objectives to life.
“One of our main aims is to enrich the experience of the cultural tourist, because this also has pay-offs for the community and for commerce in the town.
"The big jewel in the crown is the potential acquisition of the Old Hospital. That could be very exciting, because it could transform everything in one fell swoop.
“It has the capacity to do so many things, culturally and business-wise. What a phenomenal asset – there is no other space like that in town.”
Mr Hooper believes his experience in both the arts and environment will help him to achieve the working group’s aims.
He added: “I think the reason I was chosen is because I have fresh eyes coming into the town. I have no preconceptions, which gives me the ability to see things as they are without the emotive background.
“My most recent work in the Welsh valleys, which are still dealing with post-coal industry regeneration, was all about creating a tourist destination which the local community was also able to get involved with.
“If people don’t have any ownership over plans to improve their area, it doesn’t last, so it’s about finding stakeholders in the community.”
To get in touch with Mr Hooper, email firstname.lastname@example.org