A brush-wielding battalion will soon be deployed to Aberdeen city centre as the campaign to restore its battered pride intensifies.
The “army of volunteers” has been amassed by the Our Union Street taskforce, which today unveils its five “action areas” following months of tactical plotting.
These are the key themes that group leaders will focus on in the months ahead.
And scores of civilians, eager to play their part in bringing the Granite Mile back to life, have now signed up to take part in regular “Sunday socials”.
While many across Aberdeen might be relishing a lie in, this determined bunch will march the length of the street brandishing an arsenal of scrubbing brushes and bin bags…
What are Our Union Street’s five ‘action areas’?
But that’s far from the only change that could soon be coming to help revive the once-prestigious shopping area.
A freshly published white paper explains just what Our Union Street’s immediate priorities are.
They want to:
- Brighten the streets
- Fill the units
- Use the space
- Tell the story
- And “engage the city”
While some may seem self-explanatory, our guide illustrates the sort of work that will be going into each objective.
How did this all come together?
The idea of a taskforce dedicated to reversing the decline of the Granite Mile dates back almost a year, to an emergency summit on the street’s fall from grace.
By March, Our Union Street was born – and business mastermind Bob Keiller agreed to donate his time free of charge as its leader.
It’s partly being bankrolled by his AB15 firm.
In June, hundreds of people attended a public talk about the campaign at Aberdeen Music Hall, with scores signing up to do their bit as they shuffled out.
During the event, the stinging words of a German cruise ship passenger were relayed to the crowd.
Since then, leaders have been whittling their 17 “key themes” into the most immediately achievable “action areas”.
They reckon these five ploys, if successful, could yield immediate results.
‘Brighten the streets’
The first aim is to “brighten the city”.
This will start to take shape within weeks, with bib-wearing volunteers descending on Union Street to keep it looking its best.
Perhaps with the words of that German tourist still ringing in their ears, they will soon be seen weeding, cleaning pavements and looking after street furniture.
It will begin with communal Sunday morning litter picks, with the first set for October 28 at St Nicholas kirkyard.
But the group’s ambitions stretch to potentially purchasing their own powerful pressure washing equipment.
The device could be used to blast pavements clean and remove graffiti.
“Having a prominent cleaning team on the street five-days-a-week would get noticed”, the white paper states.
It adds: “Hopefully this will become a social event that people enjoy taking part in.”
How will Union Street volunteer cleaners work?
And there could be plenty opportunities for these community-minded social outings.
Our Union Street hope to have four teams of four people on the street each week, covering morning and afternoon shifts.
That would mean 32 people on the Granite Mile every day.
They would be led by co-ordinators to record what work has taken place (and provide the odd cup of tea).
In total, that could mean as many as 800 volunteers helping out every month.
But the ‘army of volunteers’ won’t stop there…
Beyond that, people with job-specific skills might be called upon to join “special trade forces”.
And “Our Union Street Detectives” will be needed too.
These folk will need “an eye for detail” as they patrol the street “looking for jobs that need to be done” and adding them to a “to-do list system”.
How to ‘fill the units’?
With the Granite Mile’s many vacant shops an ongoing cause of concern, the second “action area” might sound like an impossible task.
But Our Union Street is optimistic that its rent-free offer could yield some radical results.
It could even slash the number of empty stores by 50%, with more than 20 firms expressing an interest in the deal since it was launched in August.
Read more on these plans here.
How could Union Street be better used?
The third action area is to “use the space”. So what does that mean?
Essentially, Our Union Street sees a window of opportunity where others might merely see a drab and uninspiring empty shopfront.
The barren buildings will be transformed, where possible, into a “fascinating and often changing street gallery”.
As well as brightening up these abandoned units, they could be an attraction for people to visit.
‘Tell the story’
On-street activities, such as tours, will be used to tell people about the Granite Mile’s remarkable history.
And teams will be encouraged to “develop a specific Union Street walking route” which would be showcased online.
Meanwhile, a new website would act as a “single source of information” about all that’s happening on the Granite Mile – and throughout Aberdeen.
Volunteers will be sought to “harvest and translate historic stories for a modern audience”, which will be used to “attract people and companies to the cause”.
People with digital marketing skills, including editing video and producing podcasts, will be asked to come forward.
‘Engage the city’
This means: Recruit and deploy even more volunteers.
Beyond the initial phalanx soon to set about the place with sweeping brushes, more and more will be needed to turn the community-led Union Street revolution into a reality.
Would you volunteer to help spruce up Union Street? Let us know in our comments section below
The white paper acknowledges that the previous few months have been “necessarily chaotic” as the various teams came together.
“The next phase needs to be more structured,” it states.
Project “milestones”, along with timings, will be decided and the further recruitment drive will be launched.
To volunteer, visit the Our Union Street website.
- Learn more about industry legend Bob Keiller’s business background
- And read his new call to action here