An artistic buzz helps Cotswold Open Studios scoop pr award

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Business award winner Tessa Webb wgrp1167v12 To order this picture call 01285 642642 or visit wiltsglosstandard.co.uk Business award winner Tessa Webb wgrp1167v12 To order this picture call 01285 642642 or visit wiltsglosstandard.co.uk

In our series of interviews with the winners of the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, Charlotte Shepherd spoke to Tessa Webb, the driving force behind the winner of the Pr and Marketing Campaign of the Year, Cotswold Open Studios.

LAST year's Cotswold Open Studios generated a huge buzz for artists and craftspeople around Cirencester and thanks to a well-managed pr and marketing campaign attracted more than 2,000 visitors.

This campaign was recognised at the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce Business Awards, to the delight of Cotswold Open Studios director Tessa Webb. "I was bowled over when they called out our name," she said. "It gave everyone involved in the event a huge morale boost."

Last year was the second of the Cotswold Open Studios, although the previous 2010 event was on a much smaller-scale. Tessa, who has a background in marketing and pr and lectures artists about business at the University of West of England, first had the idea for Cotswold Open Studios four years ago.

A small team including Tessa, her artist husband Richard Kenton Webb, Chris Smith, Vanessa Arbuthnott and Janet Parkinson, managed to turn the 2011 Cotswold Open Studio event into a must-see event for art-lovers across the country.

Hidden Treasures, as it was known, showcased the talents of 15 local artists, sculptors, designers and craftspeople, who threw open the doors to their studios for one weekend last June.

"It was a huge success. There was an incredible buzz about it. There are a lot of really talented people out there but sometimes they are not known about. We wanted to showcase this extraordinary talent," explained Tessa.

Each venue received an average of 100 visitors and a total of £25,000 worth of business was generated over the weekend. For artists in a rural area often struggling to make a living, the event was a massive boost.

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A masterstroke was the addition of the sell-out Alex Cars vintage bus one-day tour, which helped to generate positive publicity in the press and guaranteed that each venue would receive a certain number of visitors.

"People on the vintage bus had such a lovely day. We received letters saying how much they enjoyed it," said Tessa.

Indeed the tour was so successful, that the plan for next year's Hidden Treasures is to offer it one both days to enable more art lovers to arrive at each venue in style.

Judges at the Cirencester Chamber of Commerce were particularly impressed with the ability of the Cotswold Open Studios to use a small budget to maximum effect, using a variety of local media outlets to create an excitement about the brand.

As well as local, the team even managed to secure national press coverage, including Good Homes, BBC Homes and Antiques magazine.

Tessa's team used traditional methods of pr, making sure that all tourist information centres around the Cotswolds carried their leaflets, as well as more modern methods to spread the word such as Facebook and Twitter.

Additionally, each participant was encouraged to spread the word and get leaflets into their own village.

"There was a huge amount of work behind the scenes to attract people from all over the country," said Tessa.

Thanks to this marketing, visitors came from a host of regions including Cheshire, Warwickshire, Lancashire, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex, Wales and London.

In another piece of marketing prowess, visitors who filled in a form at each venue were entered into a prize draw to win a limited edition print of Cirencester Parish Church by Richard Kenton Webb. "This encouraged people to come through the door but also enabled us to get their details for next time," explained Tessa.

Next time will be in 2013 and plans are already underway to make it bigger than ever. Some new names have already signed up, including Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. "I am keen to really raise the profile with a few big names but still want to support the younger emerging artists and would love to hear from anyone who wants to be involved. We are trying to stimulate creative industries around Cirencester and I would like next year's to have great variety," said Tessa.

New for next year will be an exhibition at the Corinium Museum, Cirencester, running alongside the Open Studios and show-casing one piece of work from each contributor. Tessa is keen to hear from a business sponsor for this event.

One of the aims of Hidden Treasures is to reclaim the title of arts and crafts centre for Cirencester and through clever marketing and pr next year's event should move the town closer to that dream.

For more details go to www.creativesintobusiness.com or call Tessa Webb on 01285 651 790.

* The dates for next year's Cotswold Open Studios are Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 2013. Alex Cars tour will run on both days this year, visiting every venue.

* The accompanying exhibition at The Corinium Museum in Cirencester will run from Friday, June 21 to Saturday, July 20 2013.

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