It was exactly 7pm on Monday 23rd March that the ‘world’ changed, probably forever.
The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, addressed us as to the impending threat of COVID-19 and locked down a nation. BID areas were forcibly brought to halt for all but businesses within the category ‘essential’.
In the subsequent weeks, the state began to pay the wages of 25% of the working population as part of a £300 billion bailout, aimed at limiting (or, perhaps, delaying) the economic damage.
Nine weeks later, over 36,000 have died as a result of the worst public health crisis to have hit since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.
The achievements of our 328 BIDs has been nothing short of extraordinary. From keeping premises safe, to providing relief and provisions to NHS workers; from promoting adaptive and resourceful new retail initiatives, to influencing government to introduce a Resilience Fund; from helping firms to access lifeline grants and loans, to operating essential communications programmes for businesses, their customers and their staff. As places that they manage were forced into hibernation to help save lives, BID teams have been working harder than ever before.
And, so, 9 weeks later, we anticipate some further relaxation of restrictions allowing more businesses to re-open and more of us to be able to return to some sense of ‘normality’. Yet, we know that our places will have been deeply, perhaps permanently, scarred by this crisis. Recovery will be a long-term project.
Bb initiated TWTBbWTW to provide a concise weekly review of the main news events effecting BIDs. During a period of significant uptick in news activity, it aimed to make sure that the BID community did not miss out on the information that would most matter to it. Last week we launched the 3R Toolkit which teaches that valuable lessons must be learned by place managers from the last 9 weeks; no place will return to the way that it was; the lessons will be crucial to the restarting and recovery of our town and city centres, industrial estates and tourist areas. It is time, therefore, to begin to look forward to a time when BIDs will be more essential than ever as they will be called upon to adopt new ways of working in the challenging months that lie ahead.
The work of TWTBbWTW is done; the work of BIDs is very far from it.