2020 has been of unprecedented lows and some highs – it definitely feels like we have been riding on a roller coaster since January.

We have certainly been challenged and I believe all businesses, agencies and groups have risen to the challenges, making Lincoln a stronger place in the future.

Partnership has been a key theme for Lincoln BIG’s work this year and we have tried to support our businesses as much as we could during the pandemic. We certainly have been involved in some unique activities that we could never have imagined we would have implemented. For example, we designed, produced and provided 5,000 pieces of COVID secure collateral including posters, floor stickers, ‘No Entry without Face Covering’ window stickers, beer mats, and ‘Queue Ends Here’ A-boards for our levy payers.

Working with Lincoln Gin, we even produced bottles of Lincoln BIG hand sanitiser! We also assisted businesses with marking up their queue areas and carrying out courtesy checks of premises whilst businesses have been closed due to Government guidance.

In fact, we never thought that there would be a time when we could not promote Lincoln widely, shout and encourage people out on to the High Street. 2020 has had to be a year of moderation, yet we still managed to hold seven events to encourage people to exercise in their city and High Street. The Cornhill Cove in August was a great success and many people enjoyed the crazy golf.

We have seen many achievements this year. We have communicated more strongly with our levy payers and new initiatives have been undertaken. In fact, we have sent out 132 newsletters to keep our levy payers informed of help and advice. We have used technology differently, ‘you are on mute’ will be the most remembered phrase.

We have stopped doing things, that perhaps we should have stopped doing a long time ago. But, most importantly, 2020 has been a year of collective action and I would like to pay tribute to businesses, employees, volunteers and the Lincoln BIG team who have relentlessly tried to do the best for the city and ensure its recovery from the pandemic.

We were determined that Lincoln would be open for Christmas and dressed the city with a fantastic lighting trail, as well as introducing 16 cheeky Christmas imps to the city – our version of ‘Elf on the Shelf’ but ‘Glimpse on Imp’ to hopefully make people smile at the end of what has been a punishing year.

Lincoln BIG will continue to support businesses in the city and our aim is to ensure a speedy recovery in 2021. We have an exciting year ahead and look forward with enthusiasm to deliver some fantastic events in 2021. We can’t wait to start with our Valentine treat followed by Fashionista, the IMP trail, 1940s Weekend and Steampunk. Lincoln is and will always be open for business and the best city in the UK.

Sarah Loftus is the Chief Executive of Lincoln Business Improvement Group

We’re waving goodbye to what has been an intensely busy year for the Lincoln BIG team– but we’re also preparing for an even busier 2020!

During 2019 we are proud to have fully-supported our levy payers and staged some cracking crowd-pulling events, that have brought thousands of extra people into the city.

Acutely conscious of the challenges facing the High Street, we have also introduced new initiatives. One of the most popular is the LoyalFreeApp, which shoppers and leisure seekers have eagerly downloaded to their smartphones and used extensively to snap-up special deals and great discounts.

Whilst we have recognised and responded to the need to stand firmly behind our “member” businesses and organisations at a time when the country has “felt at sea” with a looming General Election and continuing confusion over Brexit, this Autumn we had our own five-yearly re-ballot to think about.

With 800 levy payers eligible to cast enough YES! votes to return Lincoln BIG to power for the next five years, we knew it was crucial to do our homework if we were to get the necessary mandate when the votes were counted on November 6.

During the year we’ve provided a range of services, including street cleaning, chewing gum removal, bus and car parking schemes, security group services and administered the booking of public spaces and attended our area retail groups.

But what would persuade our levy payers to give us a strong YES! vote? We knew it was vital to canvas their views – before we even attempted to canvas their vote – and we assured them we were committed to helping to make a difference to their fortunes.

Their answers informed our robust 2020-2025 Business Plan, which is based on three clear priorities. They are easy to remember: WELCOME, EXPERIENCE, and VALUE.

Thankfully, they helped us to secure the BIG YES!

Together our priorities underline our determination to help create a more welcoming, brighter city for all who live, work, study in or visit Lincoln; to mastermind more of our trademark crowd pulling events (think 1940s Weekend and our Summertime family attraction The Beach) and to give all our levy payers the best value return for their money.

We will be spending about £1 million every year over the next five years (2020-2025) and kickstarting the New Year implementing our 15-point action plan for the delivery of our three priorities for success.

One of the key events we are planning for Summer 2020 is the Lincoln IMP Trail, which we hope everyone will love. We’re aiming to make it an even bigger success than our earlier Barons and Knights Trails. Watch this space!

Sarah Loftus is the Chief Executive of Lincoln Business Improvement Group

Businesses’ and the country’s economic fortunes are currently under the glare of the spotlight – both across the UK and in Lincoln.

In common with destinations countrywide, Lincoln businesses continue to voice uncertainty over what the eventual Brexit deal will mean for them. We appreciate it is hard to plan for.

But 2019 is also a milestone year for Lincoln BIG. In the Autumn, we will re-ballot our 800 levy payers and be urging them to vote YES. We want a clear mandate to support them for another five years and – we will have a clear plan for success!

It will build on our best achievements to date and be based on what today’s top city centres are all about. It’s much more than shopping.

City centres have a new challenge – locals and visitors want a “all-round experience!”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a single visitor, a group of friends, or a family of five or six – they will want a mix of shopping, sight-seeing, the chance to enjoy a fun event, perhaps visit the theatre or cinema, tuck into a tasty meal or snack of stay in town and party the night away.

Lincoln, with its fabulous historic attractions, wonderful mix of High Street and niche shopping, amazing programme of events, safe and friendly environment and plethora of places to eat and drink, is a brilliant destination.

We tick all those boxes and Lincoln BIG, with its partners, is at the forefront of making the city even more attractive for locals and visitors by supporting its levy payers. We just need that YES! later this year.

During 2018, we helped to deliver 350 events, many attracted thousands of people out for a great time. We supported levy payers with security services, offered Park & Ride, gave city workers great travel deals, launched fun trails and helped businesses with grants through programme like Collaboration 4 Growth.

We’ve been asked our levy payers what they want from us in the future. 49% said they like what we do – but we want to push-up that percentage! Events-wise respondents want to see more themed trails, speciality markets and street food festivals over the next five years.

We’ve already got some great events planned for 2019. People should diary highlights such as Lincoln By the Sea (July 22 to August 31); Lincoln BIG’s 1940s Weekend (August 10 and 11); The Asylum Steampunk Festival (August 23 to 26) and the Frequency Digital Festival (October 24 to 27).

We really appreciated receiving our levy payers’ feedback ahead of drawing-up our future business plan later this year. It is helpful to know what everyone thinks. In addition, I have also drawn-up three overarching priorities for Lincoln BIG:

They are:

  • To make the city safer, cleaner, brighter and greener
  • To animate the city centre – making it the “go to destination” of choice
  • To communicate more with Lincoln BIG’s levy payers and be clear on the
    impact we are having

Sarah Loftus is the Chief Executive of Lincoln Business Improvement Group