HITCHIN town centre manager Keith Hoskins marked 15 years in his post this month. The Comet talked to him about what the last 15 years have been like, and what he wants for the town in the future.

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TC: What’s been your highlight of the last 15 years?

KH: Obviously winning the UK Town Centre Manager of the Year in 2005 was good, and getting the BID vote through was good because it took us to a new level. Personally, I think some of the work I’ve done in mentoring round the country for the Association of Town Centre Management and Action For Market Towns is another highlight. The growth of Hitchin Festival has been pleasing for us. I’ve said how important arts and culture are to a town centre. Then there’s the work that we do through Hitchin BID, the community ownership of the markets through Hitchin Markets Ltd, and the huge achievement of the asset transfer of Hitchin Town Hall. There’s masses.

TC: What do you want to achieve for the town now?

KH: Our aims really remain as true today as they were when it [Hitchin Initiative] was set up in 1995, which is actually to make the town a better place. It will be especially challenging in the current economic climate, but we think that the work we have done has contributed a lot to the vibrancy of the town and the relatively high occupancy rate compared to many of our neighbours. You just have to look at the involvement that we get from business and industry. If we were to cost it, the cost of people’s time would be almost incalculable. It’s massive.

TC: How have people marked your 15 years?

KH: I’ve had some cards and goodwill messages and texts from people in the town. That was nice.

TC: How would you describe your job?

KH: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I don’t believe that the job of a town centre manager is a job that you can do half-heartedly. I can’t just get on a bus or train and travel 40 or 50 miles - I think you have to get very involved in the community. Particularly with one like this, when you see how passionate people are about the town. I think generally speaking, people are appreciative of the work we do. I think sometimes they don’t understand the role. Sometimes, people think I work for the local council, which I don’t. I think some people think the Christmas lights are paid for, which they aren’t. We get some funding from Hitchin Committee, but the bulk of it is raised through fundraising.

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