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Whitchurch – A Winning Town

Andrew Reeves-Hall sprays the volunteers with champagne to celebrate the town's wins.

A lot of time has been put in by a gaggle of volunteers around Whitchurch over the past couple months to try to win a competition run by BT. They were offering to upgrade 5 rural telephone exchanges to use fibre-optic technology so that faster broadband Internet access would be possible. In November, three of us (me, John Buckley and Mike Stead) founded the Whitchurch Faster Broadband Campaign to coordinate the voting in the  ‘Race to Infinity’, after our Town Council backed our initiative.

A full story will soon be written about the whole campaign, suffice to say it was worth it and then some. Whitchurch won the Race, beating out the 2494 other eligible towns in the UK. Not only that, the town won £5000 of computer equipment for a community project. Were now collecting ideas from the community on what that project should be.

This was the first major campaign that I have ever been involved in. It was a tremendous experience, and I met so many people. The last two weeks of the competition saw many of us go out ‘door-knocking’ to sign-up votes from those people who might not have yet got around to voting, or were unable to vote online for lack of a computer. This turned out to be clincher for the town. Not only to win the race, but to bring the community together in a common goal. We’re throwing a party on Saturday at Campaign Headquarters (the White Hart Hotel pub) – and the whole town is invited.

Media interest has been high, culminating (so far) with interviews on BBC radio and mentions on BBC South Today TV. See the BBC article HERE.

A news item about the win is HERE, and another about the £5000 prize is HERE.

A report on the celebration by our local MP, The Rt Hon Sir George Young, is on his website HERE.

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