In an electronically connected world, live, in-person connections can seem rarer than ever. Yet people need real connections for emotional happiness, which means events that bring your community together can have an outsized impact. Supporting local businesses with event ideas such as ‘shop local’ evenings can be a great way to reunite your community and strengthen neighbourhood bonds.

In fact, there are wide-ranging benefits to cultivating community experiences. When you shop at local businesses and support community associations, you strengthen the economic and community bonds among your neighbours and friends. Farmers markets are a chance to shop for locally grown food. You get to know local farmers and walk away with food that’s often healthier, as well as fresher.

One common thread running through many successful community organisations is a regular meeting time, whether it’s a weekly gathering or a monthly book club. A regular schedule means everyone knows when and where the event will take place, which helps to boost attendance. It’s something to remember when coming up with your own community event ideas.

Let’s take a look at other inspiring Eventbrite creators to see how their events helped to bring their communities together.

What community event ideas might look like

Most UK neighbourhoods and small towns have an obvious focus point – a high street, square, or even a small park. This can be a great spot for community events, as many people already pass through it on a day-to-day basis, so they will naturally gravitate towards your event.

We’ve grouped some community event ideas by theme or as a way to give your event focus and communicate a clear message to your potential audience.

Focus your buy local event on shopping themes

Why not speak to local shops and organise a monthly ‘buy local’ shopping day? Businesses could stay open extra late, and neighbouring streets could be closed to cars to encourage shoppers on foot to wander about and enjoy the neighbourhood.

One way you might attract guests is to invite local shops to offer a discount or special offer for the day. People will always come out for a bargain! Name your event after the day of the week as a way of reinforcing when it takes place each month – call it First Friday or Small Business Saturday, and people will naturally remember when the event is taking place and be more likely to attend.

Make food your ‘shop local’ focus

Food always makes a popular theme – restaurants and takeaways are often a key part of local areas, as are businesses and homes filled with people who will inevitably be hungry for lunch or dinner. Restaurants and food vendors are often a bellwether of the local economy, thriving in good times and struggling when customers decide to save money and eat at home instead.

Organise a monthly local food truck night with a designated outdoor area where the trucks can set up and customers can sit down with their meals. It’s a great way to forge neighbourly connections. Alternate it with a ‘taste of’ night, where restaurants offer tastings of new or favourite dishes as a way of generating new customers.

Get your monthly culture fix

Cultural works and performances add energy to a community that both invigorates locals and attracts others who might come along. They provide communal experiences that are more about emotional connection than simply shopping.

Ask local galleries or museums to offer free or discounted admission one night a month – just point out that a once-a-month discount night can bring new attention and new business for gift shops and on-site restaurants.

Another popular idea is to make your event a local arts fair. Showcase the works of local painters, sculptors, jewellery designers, and other creators. Hire local musicians to provide ambience. Redirect traffic or close streets altogether, and encourage artists to set up booths for a colourful, almost carnival feel.

How to create your first night on the town

Creating and organising event ideas to support local shopping and your community is a noble endeavour. It will, above all, require strong organisational and interpersonal skills. We think breaking down the details into three sections – Before, During, and After – makes a lot of sense and helps make such an event manageable.

Before

Before your event, it’s all about preparation and organisation. Determine what your themes are, who your audience is, and what your goals are. Let’s look at your main objectives.

  • Set goals. What do your attendees want? What do the participating businesses want? What do you want?
  • What businesses will you invite? Be sure you know your event’s theme so you can be sure what businesses to invite. However, if you’re hosting an evening supporting local restaurants or a local shopping event supporting neighbourhood boutiques, you might want to let the gallery next door know about your event should the focus be on local art next time.
  • Get your licenses. Make sure you’ve satisfied local rules and regulations. Most likely a permit will be required, and certainly street closures will require official permission. You don’t want the police shutting down your event mid-bite.
  • Break it down. Now that you’re official and have a sense of your event, break down the tasks you’ll need to have a successful one: ticketing and admissions, vendor relations, marketing and promotions, decorations and design, and whatever other help you will need. Then assign the roles to your team. Eventbrite can help keep you organised – take advantage of tools that help you create unique tickets, manage exhibit registrations, and gather unique attendee data (which helps you group by demographic for more effective promoting the next time).
  • Communicate. Keep in touch with participating businesses and with your team. You want to keep them up-to-date regarding any developments. You don’t want to get a business to commit, and then go silent for weeks or months. They may forget all about it! The key is to stay in touch.
  • Promote. Be sure to let the community know about your event. Place brochures in the participating businesses so customers know about it, and get permission to post flyers in windows for passers-by to see. Hanging banners and signage from lamp posts always makes an appealing and effective promotion. Community social media groups or pages are also a great way to spread the word.

During

If you’re well-prepared beforehand, the event itself should run smoothly. But that doesn’t mean you get to sit back and watch. Instead, you can play an important role in ensuring the event’s success.

  • Team participation. Make sure your team is mingling with participants and taking part in the festivities. They’ll naturally want to check out the action. The more people out and about during the event, the more people you will attract. Team members can add to the fun while helping to ensure things go well and solve problems as they arise.
  • K.I.T. (Keep in touch). Stay in contact with business owners and your local council so any concerns can be addressed. For example, problems with traffic or parking are not unheard of. You may want to think about backup plans or secondary facilities if your event draws more people than expected.

After

After the event, it’s time for cleanup – and getting prepared for the next event. Here are some key things to plan for:

  • Check in with attendees. If you used Eventbrite’s registration tools to help organise your event, you’ll have obtained email addresses for your attendees when they registered. Send them an email to thank them for joining in the fun and remind them of the next event. Not all events are conducive to registrations and email collecting – you do want to encourage drop-ins, after all!
  • Debrief with business owners. Send the participating business owners an email or survey to get their thoughts on how the event went for them. Ask them what they thought worked especially well during the event, and what might need additional attention.
  • Keep it going. And now it’s time to start the campaign for your next event. Get business owners excited by sending them a weekly or bi-weekly email with updates on the event and new participants. And keep your team pumped up with encouragement and your own enthusiasm – high energy can help keep everyone motivated and moving.

Make your ‘shop local’ events truly communal

It’s essential that your Shop Local Saturday or other community events actually involve your community. To make your event truly local, take a walk around your neighbourhood and note the key businesses and shops. Determine who the major players are, and make sure you include them.

Among your invitees, consider:

  • Local business associations: many areas have an organisation of local business owners who work to promote business interests. Getting their support for an event focused on a ‘buy local’ theme is a great way to get things off the ground.
  • Local small businesses: There are countless local small businesses that may not be directly involved in retail but may be willing to support the community. Check with garages, hairdressers, law offices, and other service businesses.
  • Local restaurants: Restaurants, too, can be a fruitful avenue to grow support for your event. They will likely see a monthly event as a boon to their businesses, as more foot traffic will inevitably mean more hungry people looking for good food.
  • Community centres and local halls: Community centres, Scout huts and church halls are often places for people to come together for yoga classes, educational events, kids’ activities, and other community-focused events. They’re a natural place to attract interest in your event, a prime location to place flyers and other promotional materials – and perhaps serve as your next event venue!
  • Customer lists: Many local businesses store the email addresses of their customers to let them know about special deals and other promotions. Ask these businesses to spread the word about their participation in the ‘shop local’ event.

Successful creators show the way

We checked out how some successful event creators are helping to promote and support their local areas with shop local events. Here’s how they’re getting their communities together.

Makers Markets

Brew Norfolk host friendly community markets featuring local creators of art, jewellery, ceramics, and more. By inviting local food vendors, they help to turn their venues into a great space for locals to hang out and connect with one another, as well as get to know local makers and food spots better. There’s a small charge for admission, which they use to provide every guest with a free drink to help them relax and feel welcome.

Museum Nights

For Warwickshire Heritage and Culture, organising museum tour nights is all about helping local people to discover the history that’s all around them. Their regular museum tours showcase everything from Roman times to famous cars built in the area. Entry is free, making it accessible to all, while the museum cafe and gift shop are open for guests to get a snack or browse for interesting finds.

Create your own ‘shop local’ event

Creating and promoting your own ‘shop local’ event can be a great way to show your support for your community while establishing your own brand – and have fun in the process. A local event naturally includes many stakeholders in your program’s success. That’s a smart way to gather support and backing for your event.

If a recurring monthly event seems too intimidating to start with, consider starting small. A local holiday shopping event focused on small businesses can quickly turn into a monthly event if it’s a success and if you enjoy it. Eventbrite makes it easier than ever to gather your community with our Community Resources full of valuable tips to get your neighbourhood together.

Then, once you’re ready to get your local event underway, just sign in with Eventbrite and your event details can be up and online for all to see within minutes!

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