Do you know, I don't want this to be a rant, or a criticism of our country, or the way we do things, but more a comment and perhaps a pointer to what "works" with people - yes, even us English abroad!
My family and I had a fab holiday in St Jean de Mont on the west coast of France in the Vendee region. It's about 100 miles north of La Rochelle. We booked it last minute, so didn't know what to expect, though we had been to La Rochelle before, and also to the neighboring Perigord Vert. We love Europe, particularly Italy and France.
The place we stayed at was lovely, with it's own pool so our youngest kids are happy!
But, where I'm going with this is the town itself. St Jean de Mont, not really spectacular, but lovely long promenade, beautiful beach, well organised tourist office.
Here's what made our holiday fab: The town put on the most lively set of cultural events each day, that you could easily have spent the whole holiday just going along to the various events. These included giant sculptures on the beach, bands of all kinds from the bizarre to the even more bizarre (but always good), BMX and inline skating exhibitions, and on, and on and on!! All free to all-comers! Even better, not a single Pay and Display parking meter ANYWHERE!!!
So, why is this important to us back here?: Well, let's be clear. Brackley isn't St Jean de Mont, so I don't seek to change the town! But the events there were incredibly well attended. We have events here as well, like the Beer Festival, the Cheese Festival courtesy of the Deli, and the Farmer's Markets, and the Soapbox competition. They're well attended generally, but why can't we do more - what about bands playing on the piazza during some evenings (weather permitting), what about street shows for kids. Why couldn't all these events be planned in advance, and advertised through the year, printed in booklets so people and families can plan to be there?
What I'm saying is that it doesn't take much of a reason for people families to congregate in the centre of town. And this congregation is good for all the businesses in Brackley.
Final note: to those who are intent on putting parking meters in the car park next to the piazza. Parking charges put people off staying in town. Don't do it!!