Conference helps to promote Waveney Valley

Guest speakers Michelle Payne, Ben Potterton, Alastair Baker, James Knight, Sean Clark and Pat Holto

Guest speakers Michelle Payne, Ben Potterton, Alastair Baker, James Knight, Sean Clark and Pat Holtom all spoke at the first Waveney Valley Tourism conference. - Credit: Archant © 2013

Business owners have joined together to discuss how to promote the picturesque Waveney Valley.

Guest-house owners, food and drink producers and tourism groups were among those joined by councillors as they looked at how to increase awareness of the area and all it has to offer on a wider scale.

Destination Waveney Valley: The Waveney Valley Tourism Forum saw 80 people unite at South Elmham Hall, near Harleston, as they heard from speakers about a logo and new website for the area, and how to promote each other in the future.

Ben Potterton, chairman of the Waveney Valley Tourism Forum, said the conference was about getting businesses to work together to dramatically improve the local economy across Beccles, Bungay, Diss, Eye, Halesworth, Harleston and Loddon.

He said: 'It is through the strength of our partnerships that we can give the Waveney Valley its own identity, which it so deserves. But can we also begin the journey in making it a destination of choice?'

The event was part of the Waveney Valley Identity Project, which is a joint initiative between Mid Suffolk, South Norfolk and Waveney district councils, with funding by the Rural Development Programme for England. This has already created a new identity for the region, with the logo appearing on rail and road signs, while a number of businesses have also started using it.

The conference follows on from a successful food and drink festival in October, and was to help continue the momentum of the project as it featured presentations from Mr Potterton; John Sanderson, owner of South Elmham Hall; Michelle Payne, of The Upstairs Gallery, in Beccles; Sean Clark, a search and social media consultant; Pat Holtom, chairman of the Waveney Valley Local Action Group; Alastair Baker, general manager of Bressingham Steam Museum and Gardens; and James Knight, of the Waveney River Centre, Burgh St Peter.

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Mr Potterton said he was very pleased with how the event had gone, with all of the places being filled in just one week.

'We have got a cross-section of people from both sides of the river. I think it is quite clear that local businesses want to promote the Waveney Valley, rather than being seen as a piece of Norfolk and Suffolk,' he said.

At the conference the businesses were encouraged to get to know each other so that they could cross-promote to their customers, use the new logo on their business documents and sign up to a new website promoting the area.

Pat Holtom, chairman of the Waveney Valley Local Action Group, told the delegates about how the identity and conference had been developed, as she encouraged them to use the logo.

'We decided the Waveney Valley is such a wonderful place that it needed its own brand, and the main logo is the most important thing. We want people to get it on their websites and letterheads to help develop the brand,' she said.

Keynote speaker Michelle Payne added it was vital to promote the district in a cost-effective way.

'I think it is incredibly difficult to get it out there. We all love Waveney Valley, what it is and how much we love being here, but it is about letting others know about it,' she said.

Project officer Madeleine Coupe said that another conference was planned for the autumn and that the food and drink festival would return for two weeks later in the year.

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