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Blog: Become a tourist in your own place

Making Trails has been delivering engaging, interactive art and sculpture trails since 2020. They work with councils, towns, cities, charities, organisations and events to increase footfall, boost the local economy, raise the profile of important causes and cultivate a sense of civic pride. In this month’s blog, hear from their founder Tilley Bancroft about her visions for placemaking.

I believe that one of the most important outcomes for any trail is to encourage people to be tourists in their own town, a phrase coined by writer and friend of Making Trails, Elaine Pritchard. Give them the opportunity to discover hidden gems, explore the different spaces on offer to them, and learn more about the heritage and culture within their area. We’ve had so much positive feedback from trail visitors who said they really enjoyed reconnecting with their home town, and getting outside has been a real boost for their mental health.

A big part of our business is to be as environmentally aware as possible when manufacturing our art pieces. The relief sculptures are created from a combination of reformed, recycled plastics and responsibly sourced marine ply. We also produce 3D sculptures out of fibreglass or a combination of natural fibres and 50/50 natural-resin mix for a more environmentally responsible option. It’s still not recyclable yet, but we’re researching options so that in the future we can move closer to a cyclical system.

There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make a trail happen, and make it successful! The research, app development, project management, manufacturing, finding sponsorship or funding, permissions and licenses etc are just a few integral jobs that often go unnoticed. And the things that are noticed are not always positive. Dealing with vandalism and graffiti has to be built into every trail budget – a difficult pill to swallow!

But for every time the team has been sent to repaint a damaged sculpture, there is a message from a community group who has had an incredible time walking the trail to raise money for charity. For every person who questions the use of funds to pay for a trail, there is a family who spent a weekend together cycling the trail and eating in a new café they found. For every sculpture that is purposely knocked over, there is a group of locals who right it again even before our maintenance team gets there.

The positive stories make the difficult ones worth dealing with.

Sculpture and art trails are also a fabulous way to explore local stories through the eyes of the artists who are involved, but it’s by no means the only form of placemaking available to communities. We recently started a podcast exploring a wide range of placemaking projects, and talked to the individuals behind those amazing initiatives.

Up My Street is the perfect listen for anyone interested in how we can shape the places where we live, work and play. My co-host Tracey Parr and I talk to specialists in heritage projects, the environment, arts and culture, the charity sector and more.

It’s been a joy to talk honestly and openly about the challenges faced when trying to improve an area, and also the mistakes made! We’re only human and trying anything innovative does go hand in hand with taking risks. But having such infectiously enthusiastic guests talk about their triumphs and lessons learned has been enormously valuable.

We’ve learned a lot whilst recording season 1, and have started planning season 2 already!

Up My Street releases new episodes every 2 weeks – have a listen. You can also connect with Making Trails on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Do get in touch with your favourite placemaking ideas, and to chat about trails!

Tilley

Tilley will be speaking at our October Ambassador event. Book your place here.

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