Holywood 11

John Goes Behind the Scenes of ‘Best Kept’ with a Visit to Holywood

Since the beginning of the year, Open+Direct staff have been ‘getting their hands dirty’ and blogging about their experiences, as part of our sponsorship of the Best Kept Awards.

So far they’ve told us how they’ve been helping local improvement committees and resident groups who are gearing up for the judging of the various ‘Best Kept’ categories.

This time, John Laverty, Retail Network Manager is giving us some “behind the scenes” insight about his experience with judge Ken Forbes on a recent ‘ride-along’ to the picturesque Holywood:

It was a huge honour and privilege to accompany Ken on a judging session and get the opportunity to witness first hand just what the judging process entails. Despite it being a miserable day weather wise, we made sure it didn’t dampen our spirits!

We began our journey by driving along the main Belfast to Bangor carriageway – where clear sign posts and approach roads pave the way to Holywood and there is an obvious pride in appearance present. Holywood is renowned for its variety of specialist shops, historical and welcoming pubs, award-winning restaurants and cafes. Of course dominating the centre of the town is Ireland’s only remaining Maypole, which dates back to 1700. It is a magnificent sight as you approach the crossroads on the High Street.

I was struck by how in-depth and detailed the judging procedure is. Recipients of previous awards are taken into consideration, with the drive lasting three hours. We checked the results and feedback from 2014, reviewing past observations and comments.

In total, there are seven categories incorporated into the judging practice; everything from general appearance and cleanliness to open spaces and natural environment is taken into account, in addition to recycling areas, absence of rubbish and vandalism.

Surrounding Holywood are several scenic wooded parks, offering spectacular panoramic views of Belfast and across the Lough to Carrickfergus. Many of its older buildings have been renovated to accommodate new businesses such as consultancies and design agencies, while the railway station is conveniently situated only a short walk from the town centre. We were warmly greeted by passers-by and I was struck by the real sense of community spirit that is evident amongst the town.

It was a personal highlight for me being asked to accompany Ken on the day and be a part of ‘Best Kept’ from a different perspective. The whole experience really made me appreciate the effort that goes into the Open+Direct Insurance ‘Best Kept’ Awards. Everyone involved, from the residents’ groups, community associations and improvement committees to the judges do so much work; all because they feel so passionately about how their surroundings reflect on their community.

All of us at Open+Direct are now looking forward to the ‘Best Kept Town, Village and Housing Area Awards’ final next week at the Guild Hall in Derry.