There are some individuals that can’t be constrained by a job title and although ‘Tourism Marketing and Development Manager at Guildford Borough Council’ would be grand enough for most people, it doesn’t come close to describing the wonderful, remarkable force of nature that is, Mrs Diana Roberts.
But then again, ‘Queen of Guildford’ might not look right on a business card?
With an unrivalled reputation as a generous source of knowledge, a staunch ally, a fierce defender of the town and a wonderfully supportive friend not just to The Fringe but to every entertainment venue, producer, act, manager or event organiser in the area, Diana is an asset to be treasured by us all.
We met for a coffee at one of Di’s favourite places, the Garden Cafe at Guildford House Gallery a great little place located appropriately enough, right at the heart of Guildford.
Within seconds of sitting down, it quickly became apparent that a single short blog would not be enough to cover what Di does for Guildford, in fact we could write a series of articles, a book and a screenplay and still barely scratch the surface.
We began by asking Diana why she is so passionate about Guildford.
‘It’s my job to ‘sell’ Guildford at every opportunity and I don’t think I could do this if I didn’t love the place so much. Luckily there are lots of people that share my passion for the area and it helps a lot that we have so much to offer.
Take Picnic in the Park as an example. This annual event has grown from a simple idea celebrating the castle grounds flower beds to become an integral part of the town’s entertainment calendar, this didn’t happen by accident, it happened because some wonderful people supported it, offering their time and expertise so generously.
Philip and Tony at Lucky Dog Theatre Productions were there from the start and in 2015 Guildford Fringe started to use the day to showcase some fabulous acts. The idea grew and grew and now we are only limited by the available space in the park with thousands attending each June. We launch the Guildford Summer Festival at the event and of course, there’s always lots of live entertainment from The Fringe, Guildford Shakespeare Company and other local groups.
A great example of a community effort.’
So, who do you ‘sell’ Guildford to?
‘Visitors from around the UK and abroad, individuals and groups, the diversity on offer in the area means that there really is something for everyone.
Live entertainment of course, great venues and some terrific events such as the Cheese & Chilli Festival every July, organised by the fabulous Simon Stewart, an organiser with a great attitude and a determination to do things the right way. For the thirsty we have Silent Pool Gin and the Hog’s Back Brewery, Denbies of course and lots of smaller businesses offering a unique taste of the area.
If a Group organiser asks me what there is to do in the area, I just say ‘what do you want to do, we have everything apart from a beach…and now thanks to Experience Guildford, we have one of them too for a few days every August!’
And finally for now, what one piece of advice would you offer to an organiser on how to promote their event?
‘Be relevant, be appropriate and be on time.
Relevant, make sure that you promote to the right people, don’t waste time and money trying to persuade people that aren’t interested in what you are selling.
Appropriate, if you are hosting a music event there is a limit to what you can achieve with the written word, use social media to encourage people to listen.
On time, start your promotion early, there is so much competition for people’s time and you need to allow at least 4 months to get the message across to your audience.
Oh, and don’t forget to tell the Tourist Information Centre all about your event.
Well, we did say that we wouldn’t get it all into one blog so next time we will be covering what the future holds for Guildford entertainments and attractions, Diana’s biggest successes, the changing market place and more insights from ‘The Queen of Guildford*’
*We do know that when Diana reads this, she will say ‘that’s a bit over the top!’…No Di, it isn’t, it really isn’t.