EVEN the worst kind of weather couldn’t stop the first-ever Oldham LIVE event being a big success.
Heavy showers on Saturday morning and afternoon were an untimely frustration but Oldhamers are – as we know – a hardy lot.
Families and young children took to their deck chairs undeterred to brave the elements and enjoy a pirate-themed show led by CBeebies’ Gemma Hunt sprinkled with magic, puppetry and plenty of laughs.
By the time the live music began at 6pm the skies had finally cleared and it was great to see Parliament Square, its restaurants and outdoor spaces, all filling up with brisk and happy trade.
The live music was, as expected, excellent – and there was something for all tastes and ages.
There were great Oldham welcomes home to Kelly Llorenna and Clint Boon, who clearly enjoyed themselves. Stooshe bounced onto stage and put great ‘girl power’ into the line-up while Nathan Moore (pictured below) is such a natural entertainer that he’d have probably have stayed on-stage for hours if we’d let him.
By the time The Farm brought the event to a close around 10pm, Parliament Square was rocking in delight and it was a fantastic sight.
This is exactly what this new public space was designed to be: somewhere people can enjoy something to eat or drink and the kind of high-quality entertainment you might not normally expect in Oldham. And it was all free.
Now that we’ve tested our detailed event safety and management plan for this new venue, the hard work has been done.
We’re confident Parliament Square is an ideal setting for this kind of event and – as I promised the crowds on Saturday night – Oldham LIVE will certainly be back next year.
What was best about it all, for me, was just seeing so many smiling faces with volunteers, spectators and strangers dancing together, and all in a family friendly atmosphere that lasted the whole day.
I spoke afterwards with Paul, the manager at Molino’s, to check the impact on town centre businesses, and he seemed delighted.
Many customers appeared to be first-time visitors to the Old Town Hall and were more than pleasantly surprised by what they found, so there should be some positive repeat business for town centre premises to come.
But this is not the end of the transformation of Oldham – it’s just the start – and you can play a part in making it even better.
This week we’re launching a public consultation exercise on our masterplan proposals for the town centre of the future.
If you get time on Friday or Saturday this week I would urge you to visit the Egyptian Room at the Old Town Hall, next door to Nando’s. This is a glorious setting that the public have been unable to visit for several years and we’re now opening it up, in all its refurbished glory, to let you see it and have your say on our future plans at the same time.
This town centre masterplan is the biggest forward planning exercise we’ve ever had for Oldham and it’s vitally important.
It looks at how we can create a town centre that works better and is aspirational for everyone – for residents of all generations, public sector partners and businesses/traders of all sizes. Its purpose is to provide new homes, 55,000 square metres of new and refurbished office, leisure and retail space – set to bring economic activity worth an additional £50 million each year to the Oldham economy.
We have our budget challenges, as you know, but I’m determined that we will not make the mistake of standing still.
This is a great opportunity for us all to decide the kind of place we want Oldham to be – and then get a clear plan in place to achieve it. The opening times for this event are:
Friday, September 15 – 10am to 5pm
Saturday, September 16 – 10am to 3pm
Anyone can attend, admire the Egyptian Room, view the proposals, submit comments and speak to officers and members.
We’ve all got a stake in Oldham town centre so please do #yourbit and drop in to help us to get these plans right. If you can’t make it, we’ll also be holding a series of consultation ‘drop in’ sessions across every district before the end of 2017, with details to be announced soon.
After all that music this week, I’ll be turning my attention to all things dancing in next week’s blog. No, seriously.
Bet that’s got you intrigued…