Christmas is very much upon us now here in Wimbledon. We were delighted to kick off the festive season with our ‘Reunite this Christmas’ campaign and Winterfest event, and it was thrilling to see people in their thousands reuniting with friends and family despite the rain to enjoy our celebration. With panto season in full swing, Christmas trees at the station and The Piazza, our reindeer back on display across town, and with our brilliant Christmas Markets in full swing, I wanted to take this moment to reflect on an extraordinary year.
I joined love Wimbledon in January 2022, so I’m approaching the end of my first full year in this role. It’s been a remarkable year for everyone, with Omicron, Ukraine, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and Funeral, ongoing political instability in the UK and now the emerging cost-of-living crisis all occurring. Through these turbulent times we’ve had to adapt our own work to support the evolving needs of our levy payers, and, despite the challenges ahead, I remain excited about our work and the opportunities for Wimbledon’s businesses in 2023.
I’ve had so many personal highlights of my first year here. I’ve been overwhelmed by how welcoming businesses, residents and politicians have all been to me, and I’ve loved starting to get to know some of the incredible organisations that call Wimbledon Town Centre their home. It’s been hugely rewarding to see so many people come to our events and markets in town too, and a real highlight was seeing multiple generations of families playing our giant games together while enjoying the live music and street food at our Friday Food & Play summer events. These will definitely return next year!
In 2023 we have some big new ideas and events to bring our business community back together face-to-face more regularly and meaningfully, and we’ll also keep delivering and enhancing those essential services that are vital to so many of our levy payers, such as our Ranger work. In 2022, our Ranger Tom identified and resolved over 2,500 incidents in Wimbledon Town Centre, including graffiti removal, waste collection, fly tipping, fly posting and litter removal. We see this work as the crucial foundation in Civic Pride from which all our other work is built.
Turning now to the new, I’m delighted to announce the first in our major new programme of Business Masterclasses. These are events designed for businesses across Merton, addressing the topics you told us are causing ongoing concern in this current challenging economic environment, from recruitment to cyber security. We’ll be bringing together acknowledged experts and local leaders in these fields to collectively talk about some of these challenges and potential solutions. Beginning on 25 January, these events promise so much for the year ahead.
We’ll also be working closely with our approved partners in the Mayor’s Business Climate Challenge programme, as we all collectively strive to become more knowledgeable on ways to become more sustainable and to reduce our energy costs as businesses. Businesses joining the Challenge will be working closely with leading sustainability consultants, from which we hope to build an evolving body of knowledge that we can use to help the entire business community.
Next year will of course also see the first phase of the redevelopment of Centre Court Shopping Centre, with exciting experiential businesses and new public spaces opening just a few months from now. This is a hugely exciting transformation of a shopping centre that could not have survived as it was, into a multi-use destination combining co-working space, experiential businesses, health and wellbeing, restaurants and traditional retail. It promises to be instrumental in safeguarding the success of Wimbledon Town Centre for the foreseeable future.
I know the months ahead could prove to be challenging, and I will strive to do everything we can to help our businesses through identifying potential solutions and resources we can access to assist our businesses through any challenges they are facing.
On behalf of the Love Wimbledon team I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – we can’t wait to work with you in 2023!