Preserving and improving the places of Warwickshire is Aoife's mission
"What is clear from every town I’ve visited is that people really care about their places and that applies across the county. People just want their places to be the best they can be."
Aoife O’Gorman admits that she looks at places in a different way since taking on her role in the Regeneration and Place Shaping team at Warwickshire County Council.
Aoife has always appreciated lovely places, as might be expected from someone who hails from one of the loveliest of all – Ireland.
Warwickshire is not short of lovely locations, of course and part of Aoife’s role as Regeneration and Place Programme Officer is to help those locations turn their tourist appeal into maximum economic benefit. But while the county is relatively small, it is extremely diverse with rural towns, market towns and former mining towns all facing challenges, some universal, some unique, of recent years.
Supporting those places and the communities that power them is a mission which Aoife is relishing.
“I love the fact that I'm making a practical difference to where and how people live,” she said. “Helping to create and preserve places that people want to be in and can enjoy a good life in.
“This role has really changed the way I look at places. I find myself walking down streets thinking about what really works in an area, and what could make it better - usually annoying whoever I'm walking with!”
After studying European Studies at Trinity College Dublin, Aoife came to the UK to do a Ph.D. in History at the University of Oxford. Having qualified as a teacher, she spent five years teaching history and politics to 11-18 year olds in Buckinghamshire, Cambridge and Solihull. A key component of her role was to support students to apply to Oxford and Cambridge, trying to expand access to help them fulfil their full potential.
After joining Warwickshire County Council on the National Graduate Development Programme, Aoife worked with the Youth Support Team and then the Corporate Policy Unit before going on maternity leave.
“It was while I was on leave that the regeneration role caught my eye,” she said. “So I applied for it and am really enjoying it.
“It's quite an exciting challenge, trying to find ways to preserve the unique feel of a place, while promoting regeneration of high streets and shifting to new ways of living with evolving consumer habits.
“I'm mainly working with Stratford and Bedworth and am also starting to provide support for Nuneaton projects. They are different towns with different projects and needs but there is still a common denominator because it’s all about making places that work for the people who live there. What is clear from every town I’ve visited is that people really care about their places and that applies across the county. People just want their places to be the best they can be.
“It is rewarding, though a lot of what we do in the regeneration team is often very long-term. Some of the projects are 15 years in the making. It’s about that long-term thinking and not getting disheartened when something doesn’t happen straight away but knowing that every little bit we do is helping towards the bigger whole.
“We have to be practical too, of course. If we had an unlimited budget there are loads of things we would love to do but it’s about prioritising what will happen next and have the most impact with the resources we have. It is just great that in Warwickshire we have such great raw material, fantastic places, to work with.”