Crewe Place Brand

  • Sophie Gwynne

Part of the reason we wanted to work on a place brand for Crewe was the scale of the challenge involved. At HemingwayDesign as regeneration specialists, we spend much of our time working in economically and socially deprived and sadly somewhat ‘forgotten’ areas of the United Kingdom. We are used to locals having nothing good to say about their place, to seeing struggling high streets and worrying numbers in economic reporting, but Crewe felt like a place that had already lost faith in itself. With 26% empty units on the high street, it wasn’t surprising that the results of our initial engagement were not optimistic. The challenge therefore was to work hard and be creative in our engagement and consultation process in order to begin to draw out some positive thinking. This is a place that feels harshly judged by outsiders. It’s also a place with an impressive skills heritage, genuine resilience, a meaningful place in Britain’s past and the wit and grit traditionally associated with northern towns. Last year, stakeholders told us that the best things about Crewe were its former glory days in football and its association to the Bentley brand. Now the town is talked of as a people-powered place full of potential, with a self-starting attitude, engaged communities and the motivation to get things done. Crewe now knows itself as a place that truly nurtures technical talent, that is relied upon by its surrounding Cheshire towns for its amenities and employment, is proud of its mettle and is much, much more than just a railway connection.

A launch event attended by over 120 people was followed by sector-specific workshops attended by key stakeholders from community/civic; culture, heritage, leisure and tourism; health and well-being; business and commerce; manufacturing and infrastructure; inward investment and infrastructure; education and skills; town council. After the online survey (1,400 results) was analysed (click to see a copy of the survey), we added depth to the data and plugged gaps via public events in the library and a series of workshops including with an all churches Faith Forum to engage the Polish and East Timor communities, with Crewe Cultural Partnership to engage disenfranchised young men participating in cultural well-being activities, and with the UTC and college to reach 6th formers and young apprentices.

We are currently in the final stages of this project, with the new place brand having been very much embraced by an excited and energised council. We have been told that our stakeholders really see themselves and their place reflected in our work – both in the narrative and the visual identity that came from it, so our goal has been met. As a direct result of the success of this project, the understanding of the place that we have developed and the quality of output we produced, we have been invited to work on a few other projects in Crewe including a successful bid for the Government’s Towns Fund programme that is resulting in a £17 million funding grant – watch this space…