Building a Vibrant Community

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We chat with Kev Ellis from the Wingham Chamber of Commerce about exciting progress happening in the township.

Can you tell us a bit about some of the exciting changes taking place in Wingham?

Welcome to Wingham, everyone. Yes, we have had some exciting things happening in our town recently.

Over the past couple of years, as a result of some State Government funding for the Future Towns Project, the Wingham Chamber of Commerce has, in consultation with the broader community and JOC Consulting, activated areas of Wingham to create some vibrant and appealing spaces.

“Place activation” creates a sense of place, encourages social connections, improves safety and brings life to the streets. It can be expressed in diverse ways, through art, food, play, performance and renewal activities. Activation projects bring energy to the streets, create new community connections and build the story of a place.

Midcoast Council has provided some tremendous support for these activities, as they are in harmony with Council’s principles of “vibrant spaces” within the MidCoast area.

Vibrant spaces and street art have been a focus for the town. What projects have Wingham Chamber completed lately?

Take a stroll down Isabella St, and some of the first pieces of “street art” you will notice is a series of planter boxes lining the footpaths. These planter boxes are cared for by the many businesses and residents, who are like-minded in their quest to beautify the township. Look for the plaques on each planter to see who cares for each one.

 On your journey, you will also see a couple of magnificently carved robust timber seats, as well as a double-sided community notice board. These items were carved in a traditional heritage style by local timber-carving artist Nigel Brown, and they display some of the variety of timbers that historically provided the area with employment and business opportunities.

What effect do you think this has had on the township?

The historic town of Wingham is embracing these improvements, where the old and new are in harmony with the town’s heritage and rich history. They are having a positive effect on locals and tourists alike.

The notice board is prominently located outside our local newsagent and fruit and veg shops, and it is now a common sight to see people gathered here for a chat while catching up with upcoming events in the area.

More recently, some beautiful murals have been taking shape on the walls of Wingham. Can you tell us a bit about that?

During the initial community consultation workshops, murals were of particularly high interest to the community. When created in the right places, they generate great public interest and brighten up a space that may have been previously overlooked. So when it was decided that the first of these new murals would be created, there was eager anticipation by everyone involved.

You commissioned Steven Michael King to paint the mural situated on the side wall of the Wingham newsagency; what attracted you to his style of painting?

After initial consultation with our local artist and writer Tess Kerbel, well-known local artist Stephen Michael King was commissioned to paint a mural along the side wall of the Wingham Newsagency. Stephen’s unique style has attracted plenty of attention from the community, who access this side lane that leads to McCullagh carpark at the rear of the CBD.

Stephen is known for his world-acclaimed children’s book illustrations, and his mural provides something for all ages to admire and appreciate.

In what way did the community contribute to the mural?

Stephen encouraged the help of the broader community from ages four to over 64 to create this artwork. This sense of community participation has enabled us all to have some ownership and pride with this work.

Other privately funded murals have been springing up as well, such as on the side wall of the Garden Grub Café (by Mikel Carlier), and at the front of Bent On Life (by Chloe Hargreaves). It’s great to see local businesses supporting our place activation.

Wingham has so much to offer; what’s on the must do list when visiting?

Wingham has a fine array of cafés and unique retail outlets, and it’s easy to find a great coffee or snack, a new outfit, or an antique before you continue on your tour around town.

The Manning Valley Historical Society has provided their valuable time and resources in helping to develop a series of historic markers, which are indicated by way of plaques outside some of the historic buildings around town. Some of these buildings still retain their original form, while others have been replaced with more modern versions. The plaques show the original photographs of these buildings, and give a brief history of their past. Wingham Museum can provide a tour guide leaflet to assist in your historical marker tour.

The ever-reliable Wingham Brush offers a peaceful break from the township’s busy CBD. During your historical marker tour, why not take a detour between the Court House and Post Office and head down the end of Farquhar Street to the Brush for a relaxing picnic or BBQ beside the Manning River, before discovering more of Wingham’s little gems.

Wingham also has some amazing festivals and celebrations throughout the year, such as the three-day Akoostik Music Festival, Beef Week, and the Bonnie Scottish Festival, all of which substantially boost our local tourism trade and enjoy great attendance.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

In an effort to further brighten the Wingham township, we will be collaborating with some of the building owners to clean and paint those building facades that are in need of some attention. We look forward to this and many other future projects that have been identified by the community during our consultation workshops. There are some 200 ideas waiting to be funded and rolled out that will continue to enliven Wingham.

If people would like to get involved or have any suggestions for projects, who do they contact?

We encourage the community to participate in these projects. Wingham Chamber of Commerce is the key co-ordinating group for these activities, and can be contacted via email at: admin@winghamchamber.com.au

Where can we find out more information?

 The Wingham Museum (opposite the famous “Log” in Central Park) is our official tourist information centre, and can direct visitors to the many points of interest around town. Trip Advisor website also promotes things to see and do in Wingham, so it’s easy to spend a day or few in and around Wingham to soak up the friendly atmosphere and vibrant landscape.

Thanks Kev.
Interview: Bronwyn Davis.

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