Northamptonshire is Britain’s Best Surprise – it’s official – the tourism campaign declaring it to be so has been launched with some fizz and a bang.
The fizz was Sparkling Blush from New Lodge Vineyard at a Boughton House reception and the bang was a firework display and marketing messages beamed up onto the National Lift Tower in Northampton.
We were expecting the fireworks at 7.30pm, but perhaps it had been overlooked that the clocks had gone forward and it was still daylight. About an hour later they started going off. Surprise! The projections will be repeated every night this week.
The reception at Boughton House was less of a surprise but remember, this campaign is not for us, it is for the people who don’t know us, the people who drive past Northamptonshire on the M1 or streak past on a fast Virgin train to Birmingham.
Front and centre of the effort are the county’s stately homes which are declared to be Britain’s best statelys. There is a surprising number of them when they are lined up in front of you and there is plenty of history to go with them, whether it is the recent history of Althorp or the more distant heritage of Fotheringay, Holdenby or Ashby St Legers.
James Lowther, the former creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi and the Chairman of M&C Saatchi, is the mastermind. He was tasked with coming up with something for Northamptonshire by the Lord Lieutenant David Laing. The county council, Royal & Derngate, Corby Cube, Northampton Borough Council, the University of Northampton, the food and drink sector and the county’s churches and gardens are all on board.
The official press release states:
So why is Northamptonshire Britain’s Best Surprise? Of course, there’s the stunning countryside, with its country parks, world class gardens, the Nene and Welland rivers and Grand Union canal. In this countryside sit the most magnificent historic houses in the country as well as some of the best Anglo Saxon, Norman & Gothic churches anywhere. It contains the birth place of Richard III, was the scene of Mary Queen of Scot’s execution, the cradle of The Gunpowder Plot, the place of Charles I’s imprisonment, as well as the Civil war battle that put him there, Naseby… arguably Britain’s most important battle.
But most surprising is that amongst all this beauty and history sits a very 21st century county. The place where 80% of the world’s F1 cars are built and the Grand Prix is held, where some of the country’s best artisan food and drink is made, and where the award winning Royal & Derngate produces some of the country’s best theatre. The place that makes the most prestigious shoes is also the inspiration for the international hit film and musical, Kinky Boots.
To enjoy all this you can stay in luxurious 16th century hotels or enchanting B&Bs and also enjoy a series of established food and literary festivals at Althorp, The Nene Valley Festival and Oundle Music Festival as well enjoy great sport at Silverstone, The Saints and The Cobblers.
There are campaign posters at Euston and St Pancras and the pink exclamation mark campaign logo will adorn displays at gateway points around the county such as stations and attractions.
An extensive campaign website, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, also contains details of county amenities www.northamptonshiresurprise.com.