Kenilworth keen to make the most of its distinctive vibe

"If the success of a place can be measured by how well it embraces progress, Kenilworth is doing very well."

Kenilworth has always attracted people from far and wide. From Queen Elizabeth I to Laurel & Hardy and from Charles Dickens to Chris Woakes, visitors have long been lured by the town’s heritage and charm.

And a resounding testament to that appeal is that so many people visit Kenilworth, like the look of it and choose to stay and invest their livelihoods in the town.

That affection is shared by the native population. Kenilworth’s attractive array of independent small businesses contains plenty run by people who grew up there, but new investment is coming in all the time. Hospitality giants Loungers and Wetherspoons are set to open in the heart of town this year.

They have been attracted by the economic potential of joining a business community which is welcoming and forward-thinking.

“The town has a unique vibe,” said Kenilworth Town Clerk, Maggie Field. “It sits between Leamington and Coventry but is so different from them. Kenilworth residents are very loyal and proud, but also outward-looking and that makes the town really distinctive.

“We have a lot of longstanding businesses run by local people, but alongside them are newer businesses taking the town forward and giving it fresh energy. If the success of a place can be measured by how well it embraces progress, Kenilworth is doing very well.

“There is an amazing community spirit. Community events are incredibly well-supported and I think that is because residents and businesses, whether long-established or more recently arrived, really feel part of the town.”

Which, in a way, they absolutely are. Kenilworth Castle, which rises above the town on its north-western edge, is owned by the Town Council and, thereby, its residents. The castle, run by English Heritage, is a significant driver of the local economy, its evocative ruins and stream of events attracting a 15 per cent increase in visitors in 2022. And every resident of Kenilworth has a stake in it.

That spirit is evident from the business community which, as with all across the UK, has been challenged in recent years by Covid, Brexit and rising costs. More than ever, mutual support matters, an ethos which underpins current initiatives from the town’s Chamber of Trade and Town Council.

Kenilworth’s offer of small businesses is spread. Many are in the town centre while others occupy the elegant ‘old’ part of town off High Street, sit in clusters off Leyes Lane and Caesar Road, or are run from home. The challenge is to pull them all together and Kenilworth Chamber of Trade is on the case with new events designed to foster connections and raise the visibility of businesses.

To their regular informal After-Work Networking Events (every fourth Wednesday, 5.30-7pm) at the Almanack, the Chamber has now added KCT Morning Momentum, a dynamic networking event which will provide a formal avenue for professionals to connect and engage. The monthly sessions will feature speakers from various industries and offer information, interactive discussions and opportunities to create lasting relationships.

Then later this year (November 15) will come the second Kenilworth Chamber of Trade Business EXPO since the pandemic. This event, at the Holiday Inn Kenilworth, will showcase the town's vibrant business landscape and provide another platform for networking and collaboration.

“So much is going on in our business community,” said Nadine Hummert, chair of Kenilworth Chamber of Trade. “It includes many people who were in corporate business but now run their own businesses. There is lots of talent in our town, some of it hidden and needing to be highlighted, and that is why it is vital to create meaningful relationships. Our mission as a Chamber is to facilitate those business connections. Collaboration is key. These events underline our determination to create meaningful connections and drive collective success.”

Similar objectives lay behind the Town Council’s recent Business & Visitor Economy Forum which surveyed Kenilworth's businesses to find out how they feel they can best be supported. The results provided valuable insights, including a need for more guidance and signposting to business support, from the likes of Warwickshire County Council, Warwick District Council, Coventry & Warwickshire Reinvestment Trust, Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub and Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.

In light of the survey, the Council’s objective is to create the right infrastructure for the business community to thrive and create an ecosystem of local businesses to the benefit of all.

That lure for visitors, meanwhile, will always remain. The magnificent castle. The splendid greensward of Abbey Fields where Stan Laurel stretched his legs during his stay at the Abbey Hotel, at the top of Rosemary Hill, in 1947. A thriving sports scene (the town was the starting point for a world record tiddlywink from Kenilworth Castle to Warwick Castle in 1987) brings thousands of visitors all year round.

Tourism is an integral part of Warwickshire’s economy and Kenilworth’s offer spans rich threads of history, intriguing shops and a fabulous food and drink offer. The Visit Kenilworth website, including the town nature and heritage trails, provides a precious window into the town for local people and visitors from further afield - and the town’s businesses play their part, each one an ambassador for their town county. The welcome in Kenilworth is warm…helping to keep the economy strong.

* For information regarding Kenilworth Chamber of Trade events and membership, please contact chair@kenilworthchamber.co.uk. For more information about the EXPO, please contact Sarah Kershaw at expo@kenilworthchamber.co.uk

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