I PAID an interesting visit to the Trinity Mirror Printing plant in Hollinwood last week.
This site is home to the northern hub of the print services arm of Trinity Mirror – the UK’s largest newspaper publisher.
The growth of the business at that site has been phenomenal in recent years and is a real Oldham success story.
The facility is now the base for an impressive array of national and regional titles that includes the Daily and Sunday Mirror, The People, the Manchester Evening News and its associated titles, and the Oldham Chronicle to name just a few.
I was invited – alongside Dave Hibbert, our Cabinet Member for Housing, Transport and Regeneration – to see the operation for ourselves and it proved an extremely useful trip.
The overriding impression we got was of a hugely-professional and focussed organisation at work, but I must confess it was also completely different to what I expected.
I imagined beforehand that we’d be visiting an extremely noisy and dirty environment full of frantic people running hither and hither, but that certainly wasn’t the case.
What we actually experienced was a huge warehouse full of automated vehicles that drove themselves around. Steel rods in the floor directed them with information on where to go, what to move – and to where – and what to do next: all driven by mind-blowing technology.
It was a hugely impressive sight to see in action but, I must admit, it also felt somewhat spooky.
Cutting-edge technology is, of course, essential to keep Trinity Mirror competitive in the national marketplace. You have to keep apace with that just to ensure that you remain in business.
But there are also around 500 staff working from this site in various capacities, ranging from their huge distribution networks of drivers and vans to those overseeing the manual addition of advertisement insertions into newspapers before they begin to be sent out.
Whilst at Trinity Mirror we also spoke with key personnel who were keen to learn more about our Co-operative vision for the Borough.
Our challenge as a Council now is to get out and about more to sites like this – and communities – to outline that.
We need to explain what it means to them and their areas because I have always believed that many of the best Co-operative schemes will be organic – i.e. ones that residents and businesses innovate and come up with themselves to tackle what they identify as a local priority.
Although it’s early days, Trinity Mirror did indicate that they were interested in finding out more about what they can do – potentially with staff joining in some of the volunteering schemes that we have planned – and we certainly welcome the opportunity to discuss that further.
We also talked about how they and other businesses in the area can help each other through mutually beneficially schemes – like staff discounts – that can help the local economy.
A key driver to that Co-operative vision is about leadership. It’s about ‘doing our bit’ to help local organisations prosper – and a good example of that is our partnership with the Oldham Coliseum.
This week the theatre is closing the doors at Fairbottom Street for the first time in 125 years to undertake extensive – and crucial – repair works.
As a Council we’ve committed to assisting the Coliseum with a grant to fund these works – and with the greater part of that sum being kept aside to help realise their vision of a new permanent home in the town centre.
It’s vital that these repair works costs are kept as low as possible because every extra pound spent on this will impact on what they have left to fund a new development.
Both ourselves and the Coliseum are in total agreement that we cannot simply sit on our hands and wait for an economic recovery to deliver funding opportunities for a new venue.
Our joint aspiration is for this to be in the town centre where it will be absolutely central to our plans to shift the ‘cultural offer’ there towards more family-friendly and leisure-oriented activities.
The Coliseum Theatre will now be temporarily housed at Grange Arts Centre, Rochdale Road, until it can reopen back at Fairbottom Street in September.
I’d urge residents to keep supporting the theatre in its temporary venue as the entertainment line-up on offer will continue to be just as varied – and excellent – as ever.
I’m again meeting Coliseum officials later this week to discuss that long-term vision and ensure they finally get the kind of bespoke modern facility that it has long-deserved.
Thanks for listening,