Publicity a key tool in fight for parks cash

Green space should be made so high-profile that it cannot be ignored, Mote Park audience development officer advises.

Mote Park: winning photograph - image: Marilyn Simpson
Mote Park: winning photograph - image: Marilyn Simpson

The audience development officer behind a successful publicity blitz for a Kent park has advised parks services elsewhere fighting for cash to take similar steps to ensure their green spaces are "so high-profile" that they cannot be ignored.

Mote Park has launched a Facebook photograph competition for the second year, after the 2013 contest drew massive interest with entries from across the world.

Audience development officer Alan Frith said: "Last year it was such a huge success. We had 450 entries. We had hundreds and thousands of views on Facebook and one picture achieved 68,000 views by itself."

Frith added that the competition encouraged people to visit the park to take photos and explained that attracting more visitors to the park's Facebook page helps to advertise events.

An empty shop in The Mall Chequers shopping centre in Maidstone has filled its 10 windows with poster-sized versions of photographs entered for the competition. Last year's contest also took up a whole page in the Kent Messenger newspaper, partly because Frith invited its lead reporter to judge the contest.

"All publicity is good publicity," he said. "I aim to be in the Kent Messenger every two weeks. We want to be as high-profile as possible."

Frith advised: "It's so important that if you're in a situation where you're fighting for cash against other priorities to make sure that you're so high-profile that they can't forget you."

The publicity may also have helped to propel Mote Park into third place in last year's Green Flag People's Choice vote, after only just securing its first Green Flag. It has also attracted interest from business.

"Certain organisations have started to come on our page and share the competition on theirs," said Firth. "We haven't asked them for sponsorship but it's something that we will look at."

Volunteer success - Mote Park fills all posts

Mote Park community engagement officer Alan Frith, whose job was created in 2009 as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, has calculated that the park has attracted £86,000 in volunteer hours over the three years to January 2014.

In August last year, Maidstone Council started topping up the funding so that he could work on full-time basis.

He and the park's friends group, the Mote Park Fellowship, are so successful at securing volunteers that they have not needed any new recruits for the past 18 months. Frith explained that he "would struggle to find them work".

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