John Martin Estates celebrated its 20th birthday on Pitshanger Lane on 25th October. However, the last few months of 2015 also saw John Martin engrossed in a campaign to promote all of the traders on the Lane he loves.
In his role as Chairman of the Pitshanger Village Traders Association, John had the idea to enter Pitshanger Lane into the Great British High Street Awards 2015, run by Department for Communities and Local Government. The entry had to be submitted by 1st September and a number of early morning meetings of the PVTA committee produced the finished result, endorsed by local MP for Ealing North, Steve Pound.
Then began the social media activity, as required by the competition, to promote the traders’ entry and to engage with the local community. John and his wife, Rhian, had never used Twitter but sent the first #Pitshanger #GBHighSt tweet from their new account – @JME_Ealing – showing a poster made to order for the social media campaign which asked the community to get involved in publicising the traders’ entry and to use the two hashtags in their online conversations. The traders were, in John’s words, “overwhelmed at the community response and that people loved the Lane as much as the traders”.
John was delighted to receive a phone call from the competition organisers advising that Pitshanger Lane had been selected as one of three finalists in the London category. When this was officially announced on 1st October, the campaign went into overdrive as six weeks of public voting, counting for 50% of the overall mark, began. All of the traders now displayed new posters and John prepared thousands of flyers to be distributed by his fellow traders encouraging the community to visit www.thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk and vote daily – using every email address they had – for the whole of the voting period. John even visited the local tea club and arranged email addresses for the older members of the community so they could get involved! The local school, North Ealing Primary, also took on board John’s suggestion and arranged an art competition for pupils to draw the shops on the Lane and John helped to judge it. The Council also threw their weight behind the traders and Julian Bell, Leader of the Council, visited to meet them.
The other 50% of the mark, decided by the judges, involved a visit which took place on Friday 30th October, when John escorted the judges (along with the Mayor of Ealing and Julian Bell) along the Lane, meeting the traders and members of the community. John believed they were impressed with the unique character of the Lane and the community feel and hoped this, together with the application itself, would convince the judges.
Well, we now all know that all the hard work in engaging the community from the outset worked as, at a ceremony at Admiralty House on 30th November, Pitshanger Lane was named best High Street in London. A very proud John said: “The traders of Pitshanger Lane are delighted to be named best High Street in London. It is an accolade long overdue after the battles of recent years when our unique and independent character has been threatened. Once again, though, we must thank everyone who has played their part in tweeting, posting and voting daily – we couldn’t have done it without them. I am particularly pleased, however, that the judges recognised our campaigning to galvanise the community and further afield as well as our social media efforts – it is testament to the hard work that has gone into this competition.