Banbury #OX16 – it is Your Town

Earlier in the year we noticed some posts on twitter about a proposed National Town Day to be held on Sunday 23rd September.

The tweets were by @YourTown which is a CIC (or Community Interest Company, a type of social business).

You may know that Visit Banbury is going through the process of becoming a formalised social business so we were keen to understand more about what they were looking to do.

Following some social media conversations with the founder Mark White it was agreed that as part of Your Town’s tour of 50 towns in 60 days, they would come to Banbury to meet up with me.

So during one of the coldest days of the year at the end of February (it was -6 !) we had a meeting in Pinto Lounge then went to set up by The Fine Lady Statue in front of Banbury Cross to record a short video about Banbury #OX16.

Then, as Your Town’s main concepts are built around running and wellbeing as well as celebrating our towns, they went off to the other partner in Banbury énergie fitness to do a 5km run around the town (very brave of them!).

Then over the last couple of months, working together with Mark, Ben Trickett manager of énergie fitness and Tim from Visit Banbury have agreed to try to make something special happen in Banbury on Sunday 23rd September, the date of the first National Town Day.

In short there are two elements of the proposed idea:

  1. A celebration of the Town Centre – hopefully shops & cafés who don’t normally open deciding to open and showcase their unique, independent offerings plus a range of exciting sport, art and retail focused activities – still all to be worked out, resourced and funded (where necessary) – but with the express intention of encouraging people to come into Banbury Town Centre who maybe have not ventured in before or not for a good while;
  2. A “Get Together” to start the day – this is a well established social 5km run, walk or cycle for people to take part in, which we hope if all comes together as we would like, it will start and finish outside The Wild Lime / HMV in Banbury. A unique element of this is that the event acts as a crowd funding activity for a local good cause or project. We hope, subject to the decision at the end of July, that the first one will be in aid of Banbury & District Community Bus Project but this may change.

In order to try to get the message out to a wider group of people associated with Banbury, Visit Banbury agreed to sponsor the Summer drinks for the latest Business Buzz town centre based networking event on Wednesday 25th July and the weather was very different to that freezing February day!

In glorious Summer sunshine we networked and chatted and the mocktails provided by The Wild Lime were deeeelicious and went down a treat on such a steaming hot day:

Importantly, we made the announcement about the partnership between Your Town, énergie fitness and Visit Banbury with an introduction video from Mark White:

It was effectively a soft launch as we still have much to do to make it happen but we have some positive feedback from Banbury BID, Your Letterbox plus others and so we really hope we can make it happen.

What we need to know from you:

  1. do you want to celebrate our lovely town?
  2. what could we all do to make that happen?
  3. what would you like to see happen on that day?
  4. could you help us make it a reality by getting involved to offer an activity, a special offer in your shop, to provide some sponsorship / funding, or to help recruit others to take part in the Get Together or simply to #VisitBanbury on the 23rd September?

This project is a work in progress – but we are putting lots in place, as you can see from the landing page Your Town is building for Banbury, so help us fill the gaps and celebrate everything positive about Banbury on Sunday 23rd September.


Thanks to Katrina, Lisa and James for a fab launch meeting and to everyone who supported the event on Wednesday and has expressed interest so far.

Want to know more or to get in touch?

Mark White

Ben Trickett

Tim Tarby-Donald







The time is right

As part of the preparation for the Visit Banbury kick off meeting, I decided to try to map all of the main influencers on Visit Banbury as a project and I came up with a first draft.

I subsequently realised I had omitted the growing creative and arts quarter in Banbury Old Town, the numerous free family events run by Banbury Town Council and the interesting new developments at St Mary’s Church as it is reinvented as an additional location for arts and culture as well as spiritual wellbeing, so these will be added to the final version for the 1st March.

However, in the meantime I thought I’d share this version just as an example of the range and scope of the really exciting things happening in and around Banbury.

VB The Time Is Right


The time is now


For anyone who is interested in being part of the Visit Banbury project in 2018 please note that there is going to be a kick off meeting on Thursday 1st March at 7.15pm in the Community Room in the new Waitrose on the Southam Road.

As some context to the project I was asked to write a piece for the Banbury Guardian’s new Voices section.

Banbury Voices

Many organisations (including those locally) use a tried and tested methodology of identifying gaps and problems and trying to solve or fill them.

This was initially my thinking when I set up Visit Banbury but following the first inspirational talk at the Eden Project Big Lunch Extras Bootcamp from Sue Hill I decided to rip up the plan and to change the approach!

I decided to lead with the positive things that existed in order to motivate and energise our community, so that maybe somewhere along the way we will be resilient enough to fix those problems, but we don’t want to start there – we want to celebrate everything that is good about Banbury and our community, not everything that isn’t good.

In brief, we want Visit Banbury to be based on positive psychology, explained very well here by Shaun Achor:

Please email me on if you would like to come along.


Banbury International

When we set up Visit Banbury we were absolutely determined to promote everything that was positive and community focused about Banbury.IMG_5154

We think we’ve done a reasonable job so far with lots of events, lots of social media supporting local businesses, organisations, events and people and a fair amount of community cohesion to help bring people together around the town.

However, eighteen months ago we never dreamt that we would be needing to promote community cohesion in the way we feel we need to now.

Recent events have meant that both anecdotally and via official reports, the UK is seeing an increase in the amount of hate, racism and xenophobia shown to people who just days ago were treated exactly like the rest of us.

We know for many people this is not a new phenomenon as they have frequently experienced racism but for a whole group of people who have made the UK their home, all of a sudden the UK rather than being a tolerant, welcoming and open society has become at best unfriendly and at worst hostile and nasty.


So having attended BBC Breakfast’s Live TV broadcast from Banbury market place on Saturday morning Steve Gold and I sat and had a cup of tea at the Whistling Kettle and decided that irrespective of the political pros and cons, Visit Banbury needed to make some sort of stand in solidarity with all of the nationalities living and working in Banbury.

We decided to be the catalyst for a wider group of people to be able to show that they too were standing in solidarity with their neighbours regardless of race nationality or ethnicity.

And so was born “Banbury International”.

Banbury-Internation-Facebook-Group-Cover-Image (1)On Sunday morning, after quickly making contact with a number of different groups including Jake and the Banbury Community Action Group, the community focused folks at Naomi’s café, a network of positive individuals linked to a Visit Banbury initiative and also a dedicated Visit Banbury French speakers group in and around Banbury, we suggested to hold an event on Saturday 16th July in the BCAG Community Garden behind Naomi’s café and in order to quickly organise it, set up a closed Facebook Group for anyone who wanted to be involved.

After about 6 hours, 31 people were in the group and the event had been pretty much set up except for a few more specific details.

Following lots of frenetic messaging and emailing on Sunday afternoon and Monday, a group of us got together on Tuesday evening to finalise some of the details and the result of that is a free community event starting at 12pm which will be bringing together all of the communities in Banbury in a show of friendship solidarity and peace.

There is going to be live music, arts and crafts, activities for the children, a big table for everyone to bring food and share it amongst themselves and a pay bar at Naomi’s café.

There will also be a symbolic tree planting as a lasting sign of our community growing together.

Other details as yet are a little bit fluid as we want this to be an organically developing event, not too structured but more about being together sharing a common bond as human beings who just happen to live and work in Banbury.

Please keep an eye out for a Facebook event and posters and flyers around town in the coming days and please share them with all of your contacts so that as many members of the diverse communities attend and continue to build strong bonds across the town.

As some of you may know, the Visit Banbury initiative is based on ideas and an ethos developed by the Eden Project called The Big Lunch and Big Lunch Extras and we think this is a fitting way to continue to develop and sustain an amazing community network in Banbury.

Big love to you all and let’s make friendship and community a stronger force than fear and hatred.


Another Positive Perspective 

One of the great things about being involved in promoting Banbury is that you get to know lots of other people who share our perspective.

They also have the view that Banbury has lots to offer and a latent potential ready to be realised, if only people were to accentuate the positives rather than to dwell on the areas to improve (which town doesn’t have those).
One of those people is US expat Deborah Menikoff Simmons who blogs about all sorts of wonderful things Banbury-based. 
Here is Deb’s great blog page – give it a good read because it is a good read!

Blogging about Banbury 
Blog & biog photo credits: Deborah Menikoff Simmons / Neil Simmons

Positively Brilliant!

As you may know, one of the underlying concepts for the Visit Banbury initiative is positivity and I just read this great article on LinkedIn by Keeran Gunnoo which really shows what important forces optimism and positivity truly are.

I for one will be heeding much of the advice to boost my positivity levels. Tim 

Amazing art in Banbury and villages – Artweeks is here 21st – 30th May!

Guest Blog by Ella Hendy, artist & local Artweeks co-ordinator


If you’ve been in and around Banbury over the past couple of weeks, hopefully you’ve noticed the familiar blue and black logo, and lots of art, popping up.  This can mean only one thing – Oxfordshire Artweeks is on its way to our part of the county!

Artweeks Logo

We’re lucky here in Oxfordshire that we have the biggest and the longest running open studio event in the UK.  It’s already kicked off in Oxford city and on 21 May, Artweeks comes to Banbury and surrounding villages.

More than sixty painters and designers, potters and sculptors, photographers, jewellers and textile artists will be opening their homes, studios and other venues to showcase their talent through exhibitions and demonstrations.  And if you have spotted the displays already up in the former Moss Bros shop on the High Street or Banbury Museum shop, you will see that we are indeed a talented lot here in Banbury and villages.

This is just a taster – there will be so much more to see during the week!  There are a number of new Artweeks artists this year (including myself), and lots of familiar Artweeks faces, with some amazing new creations to show.  We’ve all been working very hard to make it a week to remember.

In Banbury itself there are seven different venues plus The Artery and a wealth of different creations to uncover – from photography to digital art, oil paintings to mixed-media canvases, glass work and jewellery.

Banbury Artweeks

There is a varied exhibition at The Mill on the theme ‘In a Land Faraway’.  And if you like what you see of Caroline Chappell’s work in the town centre in Hamptons, why not head to Middleton Cheney to see her at work in her home studio.

Venture further afield and discover a wealth of art in Sibford Ferris where the Temple Mill opens its doors to invite you in, or in the National Herb Centre at Warmington where four artists host a large exhibition of varied styles.  Enjoy rural watercolours amongst the agricultural machinery in the magnificent Swalcliffe barn; pots for pleasure and purpose in an Old Pig Pen Pottery in Bloxham and hand-carved spoons by master wood-worker Martin Damen in Great Bourton.  In Culworth see stone lithography prints inspired by the circus, or take a trip to Warden Hill where the Cool Contours arts and crafts centre where the tutors showcase their talent.

Artweeks 5

And that’s just for starters – there’s plenty more amazing art to uncover in Adderbury, Twyford, Deddington, Kings Sutton, North Newington, Milcombe and Sibford Gower too.  So best to pick up a copy of the Artweeks guide, one of our local trail maps, and plan your route!

Artweeks 1

I for one am very excited about Artweeks.  I’ll be at Naomi’s Café Bar with a new series of paintings, and my paints.  I’ll be offering you the opportunity to make your mark on Artweeks too, with a large interactive piece I have created for the week.  I hope to see you there!

Artweeks 2Anne Donnelly

Artweeks 3

Steve Gold

You can download a digital copy of our trail map here and for further information on artists, venues, and exhibitions visit  You can also keep up to date with all our news via our Facebook page

Our thanks to Hamptons, Senecio, Banbury Museum shop, Banbury Library, and Banbury Town Team for your support with our trail maps, taster exhibitions, or information displays.

Catch Ella @EllaartUK, Steve Gold @SteveGold123 and Oxfordshire Artweeks @OxonArtweeks on Twitter