By Nik Butler
This weekend marks the beginning of the Great Horsham Beer Festival Ticket Hunt.
Okay that may not be an official thing or even its title but when you consider how amazing the Beer Festivals have been over the last decade you can appreciate that the tickets are becoming a much valued prize for those eager ale enthusiasts and Morris watchers. At times like this I find my own thoughts echo those of Dan Thompson, Author of Popup Business for dummies and whose twitter account is @artistsmakers, that the High street is not dying or suffering because of the Internet and out of town shopping malls but it is in a state of transition moving on from previously eighties ideals.
The iconoclastic motivations of the market may look like trouble for many towns but if you see it from the perspective that “what people want” and “what people need” has changed substantially in twenty years you begin to realise that what we wrought online we now build in life. Communities are building events and creating content through Festivals of Sound, Speed, Game Play , Beer and Sport and the high street spaces that facilitate those events are gaining footfall and economic benefit derived through customer awareness.
The reality of empty spaces in a mall is not a problem for the town or its community but for the landlords and owners of property which stand empty. They bet on floor space just as we all headed into cyberspace. Watch the twitter streams and facebook pages of Horsham businesses and you spot the early signs of a new type of retail life; the event and the club.
Shops are opening later to accommodate special releases or to display online broadcasts or advertising demonstrations and opportunities to learn new skills. It is as if community colleges are now commercial colleges building loyal customers through teaching and creating students whose hobbies and interests will support those shops on the high street.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that coffee shops and restaurants are thriving. The town centre of 2020 will be shaped by the desire to increase social interaction making it harder for shops to act as mere retail outlets delivering a bland collection of shelved products. When I join that line of eager Beer Festival attendees I am joining a social event that is in many ways an indicator of how Horsham is transitioning its future.