Updated: Mar 17
A 'Tier' 3 idea
Back in November last year, when the UK was in Tier 3 of Lockdown, I saw a Facebook video that the Battle Chamber of Commerce had released to encourage everyone to shop local and I thought we ought to be doing that in Rye too! And whilst I really admired their 'get up and go' in Battle, I also thought that Rye might be able to make it a bit more of a production. The message would be the same though, that Rye was 'Open for Business!' (As it turned out, things moved so quickly, that we had to change the title of the film 3 times, as I will go on to explain).
I approached both our fantastic Mayor, Councillor Rebekah Gilbert (who also heads up the Rye Business Forum) and the Co-Chairs of the Rye & District Chamber of Commerce David Nixon & Jonathan Dellar who all thought it was a great idea. We went ahead with it as a Chamber initiative.
Rye's Chamber is run by volunteers and had a small core membership of local traders (my business included) but it hadn't been very active for a number of years. It was operating invisibly in the background, without a website or a social media presence. The lack of a digital platform with which to host and launch a promotional film for the town was going to be an issue.
A 'Brand Facelift' came first
Luckily I had some time on my hands as, although our ecommerce software business On Tap was growing during lockdown, The Brewery Yard Club was temporarily closed and Space Coworking was operating a limited service, so I offered my services to the Chamber for a 'Brand Facelift". This involved registering some domain names, whipping-up a new logo, website and Facebook Page. What made my job a lot easier was that the Chamber is fortunate enough to have Professional Photographer Clive Sawyer as a member and he kindly allowed us to feature some of his most iconic images of Rye on the website and so the result is not too shabby!
Collaboration & Government Funding
Things moved FAST! I contacted local film maker James Bloomfield of In Bloom Video Production to see if he would be able to assist and our amazing Town Clerk Richard Farhall quickly secured his services with funds in the form of a 'Reopening High Streets Safely Fund' from the Ministry of Local Government and the European Regional Development Fund. This was confirmed within a couple of days - hurrah! However, to qualify for the funding we had to make sure that we addressed Government guidlines on social distancing, and promoted safe travel (which was responsible for a certain post-war public information vibe in the film) - but all that was good and we embraced it! With the assistance of Rye News we announced the film with a press release and so it began!
We had limited options with the weather - the rain had been relentless for weeks and we took a chance and chose to film on Sat 12th December, the same weekend of the A Rye Good Window Wanderland event organised by the incredible local Ryer and Force For Good, Arabella Ansar. We produced a simple flyer which was kindly printed by Chamber Member Adams of Rye which was distributed inviting businesses to contact us if they wanted to be included in the filming. The response was overwhelming and we put together a schedule of trying to get around to everyone who responded during a very busy all-day shoot with the fading daylight against us. That day, the town was busy with people Christmas shopping and families out viewing the wonderful window displays. You might have seen Elise, myself and James wandering around and pestering the local shops and businesses - with the shops very busy, not everyone had time for us and whilst in turn, we didn't have time to get to everyone, we certainly tried our hardest!
Straight after the filming day, James went to work on editing the hours and hours of footage we had to get it to fit the 'Rye is Open for Business' storyline.
Tier 4 came next
Exactly one week later, on 19th December Tier 4 was announced which meant all non-essential shops were to close. It wasn't a huge surprise but, the original script and storyline had to be re-jigged. We weren't 'Open for Business" anymore. So we decided to rewrite it over Christmas and release the film the first week of January. As each day passed that goal was looking more and more unlikely as the number of deaths from COVID-19 kept soaring.
3rd National Lockdown
As widely predicted, on January 4th, Prime Minister Boris Johnson annouced the 3rd National Lockdown that was to last at least until the end of March, and with that we were back to the drawing board, wondering what might come next and if we'd ever be able to use the footage. We all fannied about a bit and then James did a brilliant job of changing the narrative of the film into a story of how the businesses of Rye will be keeping the lights on and ready to re-open Rye's trade safely. Then we just sat and waited.
Finally some good news - roll on 12th April With the lockdown having the desired effect on 22nd February the Prime Minister announced a 'Road map to cautiously ease lockdown restrictions in England' and the Chamber equally cautiously decided it's time to release the film in the run up to 'STEP 2: the opening of non-essential shops, hairdressers and outside hospitality' ... and so forth.
With our fingers crossed for all the businesses in Rye we pray that this happens and so here it is. Finally. Let's share the video far and wide and encourage people to give the online shopping a rest and visit our lovely town to BUY LOCAL and safeguard the livelyhoods of the good independant traders of Rye!
Huge thanks to everyone who helped us put this together. The good news is that this whole initiative has helped propel the Chamber from strength to strength and we now see the membership growing steadily. A second film using some of the remaining footage has been commissioned by the Chamber to be released in April that will be promoting Rye as a great place to visit, to give and to do business. I'm putting this one down as a win!
If you are a local trader, now's a great time to join the Chamber :)