You can’t please all the people….


Town centre management is a tricky one. I meet a lot of people up and down the UK all doing a similar task.

Town centre managers everywhere given the job to run and manage a place. Places full of businesses, large or small, established or new, thriving or not, bustling or quiet, busy or dead. Either way, we don’t really  ‘manage’ a town.

That would be a HUGE undertaking for anyone surely? I have a very prescribed schedule of work, decided by the Board who hold my contract. A schedule that includes the coordination of town centre events, developing a digital high street (from public wifi to online portals), supporting local businesses and trade and encouraging footfall. Inviting local residents and visitors to the town to spend time and hopefully, their well-earned cash at the local shops, bars and cafes. Liaising with landlords, tenants, customers, investors, grant funders, stakeholders, people.

Town centre management, or place management (as it’s now known) is a very public, outward facing role. One not for the faint hearted or those who lack the tough skin of a rhino! I used to think I had tough skin – NO! But I am developing it now.

It’s a role I thoroughly enjoy. I carry out this role to my best ability, I know what I am doing. I am the best person for the job. My creativity and skills mean that the events, initiatives, schemes and ideas I create are fit for purpose, within budget and for the best of the town I am working with.

But I also find it equally as frustrating. Just when I think I have nailed it, come up with the best idea to revolutionise the town centre, someone, somewhere will cast their valued opinion. Opinions that are entitled, but not always the most helpful. Opinion matters. Even those opinions which come in from all directions and are not always filled with the most useful or positive comments. When working with people, it comes with the territory. When working within a place full of people, where the people are loyal, caring and passionate about that place, creates only more opinion.

I will never please everyone, nor do I want to. Town Centre Managers everywhere, I salute you. Continue to do good, mean well and strive for excellence in making your place the best it can be.

Does a place dictate the customer or vice versa?

Olio Projects focusses on place management and is one of my specialities and passions.

One of my biggest contracts is that of town centre management in Morley, Leeds. A role that has progressed from delivering community events to leading on key initiatives. Morley is a larger than average, northern town with Victorian heritage and a lot to say for itself, and quite rightly so. It has a busy, vibrant events calendar and is awash with community organisations that really make the place tick.

A lot of my time is spent juggling expectations amongst the local traders on the high street and those occupying stalls in the indoor market.

It’s a challenging time to be in retail especially as an independent trader. I have the upmost respect for anyone with the courage to set up shop on their own and then make a go of it.

There’s not a week goes by when I am not informed by local traders that we have too many charity shops, saturated with take aways, no customers.

In all honesty Morley fairs pretty well in comparison to some neighbouring towns. In place management you must consider the bigger picture. Know your demographic and study the shopping trends of your customers. The charity shops and take aways are busy, surely that says something?

All too often I hear that the high street is dead, the town is a ghost town….. I beg to differ. It’s thriving, busy and the destination for many. The many, however, represent the local community, the growing population of elderly residents, the young families on low – average incomes. Our shops and hospitality offerings need to respond to this to drive footfall into their businesses.

Yes we also have the professionals and families with good disposable incomes, or the retired couples with time to browse. But these customers also have choice, and they often choose to visit the city, or shop online.

A lot of my time is informing people what’s on offer from the cafe selling bacon sarnies with a free cuppa, the market butchers, to the gift shop selling high end homeware.

Whether or not people choose to spend their time and money their is up to them. Surely the customer dictates where they shop or dine and not the other way round?

Going solo


Six years ago today I was was made redundant from a job I loved, a ‘proper’ job with a P45 and what I thought was real security….. ‘a job for life’.

I was manager of a learning centre at the White Rose Shopping Centre employed by the local authority. Over 7 years I had set up the resource from scratch. Delivering out-of-school-hours learning programmes to young people who were totally switched off from school life. It was fantastic! We used performing arts to build confidence, learn about life, develop skills, socialise and gain qualifications. I won awards on the back of this innovative programme and was incredibly proud of all it achieved.

I had previously worked for the NHS as a nursery nurse at the staff nurseries in Leeds Teaching Hospitals, so always had the comfort of a public sector job, working as part of a department allowing someone else from up on high to take the crap when something went wrong (which it inevitably does)…. perfectly happy to turn up for work everyday then go home ….. although I never really switched off (you never really do when you work with people and you know your work has an impact on their lives).

I was on maternity leave when the redundancy letter dropped on the doormat, expecting my second baby, so you can only imagine how it felt to hear the news I was going to lose a very good regular income……

IT WAS THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME! It honestly felt like someone had taken the bottom out of my world and I was spiralling down with no clue where I was going to land…. it was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Time for a career change, transferring my skills into a new world…..I researched like mad about setting up my own business, dabbled a bit with social enterprise, spent my time with other business people and surrounded myself with like minded people, people I aspired to be like…….

Then, OLIO was eventually born….

OLIO DEFINITION: Olio ˈəʊlɪəʊ noun

  1. 1.
    a highly spiced stew of various meats and vegetables originating from Spain and Portugal.
  2. 2.
    a miscellaneous collection of things.

Proud President

Maybe as a result of turning 40 last year but I felt an over riding need to up-skill! At the same time I watched from afar, the growing interest of the Women’s Institute celebrating its centenary year. It was everywhere, documentaries on the tv, talks on the radio, articles in magazines ….. everywhere except in Morley.

As Morley Town Centre Manager (a longstanding part-time contract through my company Olio Projects) I was amazed to realise a local WI didn’t exist.

So I set one up. Starting with a meeting inviting local ladies to express an interest and when over 120 women turned up there was an instant buzz and a clear need for a Morley WI.

Last September saw our inaugural meeting with over 170 ladies at Morley Town Hall, 170 expectant and eager faces all looking my way…. gulp!

In just 12 very quick months Rhubarb and Custard Morley WI, lead by a committee of 9 amazing ladies has grown to an exciting, inspirational group meeting twice a month with speakers, crafts, activities, events and outings.

Who knows what the next year will bring? But one thing I can say for sure, it makes me extremely proud to see new friendships forming and a certain calmness about the meetings, despite the large attendance.

My focus now is the launch of our charity calendar! In true WI tradition, 34 members have agreed to strip for charity, and the result is to be stunning and beautiful….available from September…… another gulp.

Have a fabulous day!



Oh my blog!

RK SMALLLeedsBID_Staff_April2016 58

Well, here goes my first blog…. quite exciting really!

I’m me….. 41 year old mum of 2, partner to 1….. business owner, home owner and passionate about life. Love to travel, drink tea, spend hours talking, making plans and more importantly getting out there and making those plans happen.

I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a while now so we are…. not sure where it will lead but watch this space.