Interview | Sean Bullick

End Of Year Review

Issue 30

As NE1 prepares for 2018, a BID renewal year, Northern Insight had a timely chat with Chief Executive, Sean Bullick to take a look back at 2017 and all that has been achieved and get an insight into the team's plans for next year and beyond.

NE1 is the force behind much that happens in Newcastle city centre. As the Business Improvement District company for the NE1 postcode area it works tirelessly with business backing to improve the city centre offer and to champion Newcastle and the North East on a national and international stage. From driving major capital investment projects like the transformation of Newcastle Central Station; the introduction of pocket parks across the city including the much loved Quayside Seaside; Alive after Five with extended retail opening hours and free car parking after 5pm; to the Heritage Lottery funded rejuvenation of the Bigg Market and the ongoing work, with Newcastle Council, to revitalise Northumberland Street and its surrounding streets, there’s never a dull moment at NE1.

What are your highlights of 2017?

It’s been a busy year, and this year, we’ve seen a shift in focus.

From the outset we've wanted to give people more opportunities to enjoy what Newcastle does best.

Sean Bullick, NE1 LTD

The starting point for all our efforts as a BID company, a city and a region has been the postBrexit world in which we now live. Whether we like it or not, we cannot change it and collectively we need to go out and make a noise about the region that is unprecedented because if we don’t do the shouting, no one will do it for us.

There’s a growing consensus that we need to create our own destiny with strategic, coordinated efforts to make and seize opportunities for the city and the region.

We are clear about the region’s strengths and what we have to offer and we’ve not been shy about shouting about it.

This year alone we’ve hosted delegations from the Arab nations, US Acting Ambassador to the UK, Sweden and the Indian High Commisssion’s First Secretary – all designed to explore close trading partnerships internationally. Exploring these international links post Brexit has shaped a lot of our work in 2017 and will continue to influence our plans for next year and into the future. It is important that we support the City Council and other parties in promoting the region both nationally and internationally and we will continue to proactively seek out specific business and industrial links.

A lot of NE1’s work focuses on creating the Experience that is Newcastle – are you the Ministry of Fun?

Marketing Newcastle is like the old adage of ‘selling coals to Newcastle’. The city holds its own as a modern, European regional capital city. It has its own distinct personality and offer that is renowned the world over. What we do at NE1 is to accentuate the positive, we play to the city’s strengths when looking to improve the city centre. Focusing on its strong retail, cultural, historic and leisure offer we aim to create the right environment to draw these elements together and allow them to develop and thrive. From the outset we’ve wanted to give people more opportunities to enjoy what Newcastle does best. Alive after Five, which is still unparalleled anywhere else in the UK allows people to enjoy the city centre for longer, extending retail opening until 8pm every night of the week and supporting it with free car parking after 5pm. We want more people to enjoy more of what Newcastle does so well – and that’s everything! City centre events like Restaurant Week, the Motor Show, Screen on the Green and even our efforts, with partners Newcastle City Council and NUFC, to bring large scale sporting events like Magic Weekend back to the city are all designed to exploit what Newcastle does well.

Any challenges facing the city centre?

One of the challenges we face and something we’ll be working on in the future is making sure the city centre appeals to our widest communities and that we have a diverse city centre. In the age of the internet, the future of the city centre is so much more than shopping and we’re working on it. We’ve not even started opening the Advent calendar this year and we’re already working on Christmas 2018! We’re exploring ways to make a huge difference to the Newcastle 2018 Christmas experience.

You’ve even launched a Geordie Jackpot?

Perhaps one of the most exciting additions to our programme this year and one that will pay dividends over years to come is our new local lottery, the Geordie Jackpot. The Jackpot gives the public the chance to give something back and make their own contribution to the continued development of the city centre. We’ve had tremendous support from the public and from the great and the good of the North East.

We’ll soon be making the first donations to the lottery’s chosen charity, Cash for Kids and next year we’ll decide what our first Lottery Funded projects will be.

Looking ahead to 2018 – what’s in store?

As well as the BID renewal, which has its own programme and momentum, starting in the Spring and running until the revote in October, it will be business as usual. We’ll be continuing our efforts to transform the city.

What capital investment projects are planned?

In terms of the physical projects – over the past five years we’ve delivered the quick fix, smaller projects that could be ring fenced and delivered – the likes of the Newcastle City Marina, the Quayside Seaside and other pocket parks. These opportunities have been taken and we’ve demonstrated our track record. The next phase of work where the opportunities are much greater and the projects much larger we will be working with other business partners to drive these significant public realm developments and investments. We’re already working with the Council on plans for Northumberland Street and its surrounding streets, and the Bigg Market rejuvenation will start in the New Year.

NE1 is renowned for innovation what are the latest plans?

Newcastle has a long illustrious history of radical, leading edge thinking and of championing social justice. We want to continue this trend and encourage business to be at the forefront of finding solutions to problems we all face like poverty and low educational attainment in the North East.

We will be working with the RSA, Royal Society of the Arts to discuss and debate key issues that affect modern society and ensure that Newcastle is leading on the debate and encouraging business to play a greater role in effecting social change. We want Newcastle to lead the way not just in the debate but in developing solutions with business at the vanguard.

Here’s to the next 5 years.

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