Some of the frequently asked questions about the Indie Durham City project, and how Durham businesses can get involved.

This page answers some of the frequently asked questions about the Indie Durham City project, and how independent Durham businesses can get involved.

It was last updated on 4 January 2023.

What is the purpose of Indie Durham City?

Indie Durham City is a campaign to support and promote independent shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and other businesses in Durham’s historic city centre as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The project wants to help independent Durham businesses get, and market themselves, online – and grow the reputation of Durham city as a place that is full of interesting and distinctive small businesses.

Attracting more local people and visitors – and independent traders – into Durham city centre will help to grow the local economy, and make it easier for Durham to navigate all the changes that are taking place as big-name retailers depart Britain’s high streets.

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Who is behind Indie Durham City?

The Indie Durham City project is funded by the City of Durham Parish Council, and managed by retail consultancy CannyInsights.com.

The City of Durham Parish Council has existed since 2018, and has 15 parish councillors covering three wards: Elvet and Gilesgate, Durham South, and Neville’s Cross.

The Parish Council is an entirely separate organisation to Durham County Council, though the County Council website does have some useful information of its own for retail businesses.

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How does Indie Durham City relate to Durham BID and other existing initiatives?

Indie Durham City is an initiative funded by the City of Durham Parish Council, so is entirely separate from Durham Business Improvement District Company (Durham BID), which is funded via a 1.5% levy on business rate payers within the BID area.

The BID and the Parish Council also have different boundaries, though Durham city centre falls within both.

At CannyInsights.com, we strongly believe that the most successful town and city centres are those where all the key stakeholders work together in the interests of their place.

That’s why we’re happily talking to and collaborating with all the main players in Durham city centre, including the BID, as well as Durham County Council, the city’s shopping centres and leisure complexes, commercial property landlords, local organisations and charities, and anyone else with a desire to make Durham an even better place.

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How has Covid-19 affected delivery of the project?

In the early days of the Indie Durham City project, lockdowns and other restrictions meant that we were spending substantially less time on the ground in Durham than would otherwise have been the case.

Since the lifting of legal restrictions, we have been pleased to be able to visit the city more frequently – usually at least every week or two.

At the same time, we continue to offer businesses the option of holding initial and follow-up consultations via video chat, where they prefer that.

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How long will Indie Durham City run for?

The Indie Durham City project launched in May 2020, and is funded for three days of activity a month.

After being initially funded for six months, the project is now continuing throughout 2023 and into 2024, to help local businesses as they emerge from the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and navigate the cost-of-living crisis.

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Who are CannyInsights.com?

CannyInsights.com is a Gateshead-based retail consultancy led by Graham Soult in partnership with marketing consultant Andrew Bartlett.

The business works with independent and multiple retailers online and on the high street, as well as with related organisations such as landlords, local authorities, business associations and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), to help them improve their offer and marketing.

The City of Durham Parish Council has commissioned CannyInsights.com to set up and manage the Indie Durham City project.

You can find out more about CannyInsights.com here.

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Who is Graham Soult?

Described on BBC Look North as “the region’s best-known retail expert”, and by ITV as “a North East Mary Portas”, retail consultant Graham Soult is often named as being among the most influential retail people on Twitter. He owns and runs the retail consultancy business CannyInsights.com.

He has appeared regularly on TV, on radio, and in the press, including BBC’s The One Show, BBC News, The Guardian, Retail Week, Wired and Forbes, and is a frequent speaker on retail and marketing issues at conferences and seminars.

Graham is a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management (IPM), and is also an Expert within England’s High Streets Task Force, an initiative to support communities and local authorities in transforming their high streets.

He also manages the Shop Chester-le-Street project, a successful business support and promotion campaign that has been running since April 2017. That project has had several aims to date: to fill empty units in the town centre; make Chester-le-Street and its businesses more visible online; and support and champion independent retailers, through business mentoring and marketing training.

This background makes Graham well qualified to support Durham independent businesses, and to help them spread the word about what they offer.

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What does Graham Soult know about Durham?

Even before managing the Indie Durham City project, Graham Soult has regularly visited and worked in Durham over the last decade. In this time, he has built up strong networks with retailers, commercial property landlords, letting agents and other organisations across the city.

Graham is currently the vice-chairman of Durham Business Group – the organisation that runs Durham Business Club – while his business, CannyInsights.com, has been a corporate supporter of Durham Cathedral since 2013.

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Does my business qualify for support?

Because the Indie Durham City project is funded by the City of Durham Parish Council, we can only support businesses that are based or have premises within the Parish Council area.

If you are unsure whether your business is within the parish boundary, you can check the map here.

To be eligible for potential support, you also need to be an independent business – a small, privately owned enterprise, often owner operated, that isn’t part of a large chain.

The project’s main focus is on “indie” shops, as well as hospitality businesses such as cafes, restaurants and bars. While most of the businesses we are helping have premises that customers visit, we are able to help home-based businesses within the Parish Council area too.

If you run some other type of small business in Durham city, get in touch and we’ll let you know whether we can help.

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What support is available via the project?

The project offers a range of support, particularly focused on helping businesses build an effective online presence to market their services.

You can read more about the types of support available here.

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Is the support being offered free of charge?

Yes – thanks to funding from the City of Durham Parish Council, any support offered to businesses via the Indie Durham City project is free of charge.

In some cases – for example, if a business we work with requires a new website, or wants someone to manage their social media for them on an ongoing basis – we may refer those businesses to other trusted companies that can help them further.

It will then be up to those businesses to decide whether they wish to make use of other services that are outside the scope of what the Indie Durham City project can offer.

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How do I apply for support?

To apply for support from the Indie Durham City project, get in touch with us using the application form.

For any other enquiries, contact us here.

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What happens next after I apply for support?

After we receive your submission, we’ll check that you’re eligible for support and then get in touch to arrange a chat!

We will normally come and visit you in your premises, but can also hold consultations via video chat.

We will want to understand more about your business, and where you think you need help, so that we can come up with a plan of how to work together.

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Is there a deadline for getting help from Indie Durham City?

No, not at the moment.

Independent businesses in the City of Durham Parish Council area can sign up for our free marketing and mentoring support at any point during the duration of the project – which began in May 2020 and is continuing throughout 2023 and into 2024.

However, the sooner you sign up, the sooner we can start helping!

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I’m based outside Durham city – is other help available to me?

If your business is not eligible for support from us – because it’s not based, or doesn’t have premises, within the City of Durham Parish Council area – there are still other ways you can access help or promote your business.

For example:

  • #indiehour is a regular Twitter hour for independent retailers and other businesses, which takes place nearly every Tuesday at 8pm. Its focus is “informal chat and collaboration”, and it’s a great way to make connections, share ideas and find support – while helping spread the word about your business, too. You can follow the hashtag here.
  • #NetworkNorthEast is another useful, friendly and supportive Twitter hour that brings together people from across the North East business community, every Tuesday at 2pm. Check out the latest tweets here.
  • For bespoke or in-depth support, CannyInsights.com – who manage Indie Durham City – may be able to help. The CannyInsights.com website includes full details of the services that the business offers.

If your business is not in Durham, but is within the neighbouring area covered by Chester-le-Street AAP – including places like Sacriston and Kimblesworth – then you can potentially access help via the Shop Chester-le-Street project instead.

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Can I follow Indie Durham City on social media?

Yes, we’d love you to!

We share updates about our work, and the businesses we’re working with, via the @IndieDurhamCity channels on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

If you’re a business or other organisation in Durham city centre, please feel free to tag or mention us, so that we can potentially like and share your own posts.

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Can I use the Indie Durham City logo?

Yes, we are very happy for independent businesses in Durham city to show their support for Indie Durham City by using the Indie Durham City logo on their website or other promotional materials.

You can download a PNG version in 2000×2000 pixel or 500×500 pixel versions, or a PDF (vector) version suitable for printing is available here.

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