Stevenage Borough Council: Event Island Project
Event Island Stevenage is a space in the heart of the town, adjacent to the Town Square, surrounded by a mix of uses. Following the bus service relocation to the new £9.6m Bus Interchange, construction works began in June 2022, and opened to the public in October 2022.
The flexibility of the space is what makes it so innovative. Offering a green space with new planting to increase biodiversity, informal play areas, and seating, it has performance areas, including a stage, and a multi-purpose, multi-use events space. It seeks to support the local economy, stimulate growth, and attract people back to the town centre.
Stevenage was designated the country’s first New Town in 1946. Event Island Stevenage celebrates the arts and culture of the town – and its proud history – by offering a platform for local talent to be showcased. Stevenage Town Centre is transforming through a £1bn regeneration programme that will continue to serve its residents, businesses and visitors with private sector partners including Mace and Reef Group. This programme is delivering a refreshed environment, offering something for everyone encompassing the culture and heritage of the town.
Before the pandemic, the council recognised consumer habits were changing and the traditional pattern of shopping was evolving. There was a need to diversify the town centre to create a modern, vibrant space with a mix of uses. This programme does that, including improved transport facilities, leisure, culture, retail spaces and town centre living creating a cohesive community. Pre-empting this nationwide shift in town centre expectation enabled the council to advance a programme which is already delivering tangible benefits.
This is a phased programme which will take time to deliver, the council has delivered some early interventions. This case study focuses on one aspect of this larger vision, Event Island Stevenage.
The delivery of Event Island Stevenage marks another milestone in the diversification of the town centre. The space played home to an ice rink over the winter and is quickly becoming a place for people to gather. It has formed the backdrop for some important town centre events, including Halloween and the Christmas Light switch-on, demonstrating its importance in the town. Its stage will also be the future setting for school performances. Communities are at the heart of the everything that the council does. Vast consultation was undertaken ahead of works beginning, with an activity programme designed with local people. The space named through a competition with local school children. All activity has reiterated the benefits this space brings to the town.
Whilst local businesses can enjoy an uplift in footfall, the community now has a seasonal programme of events and activities in the heart of the town centre, which has proven extremely popular, offering free events for residents and visitors to enjoy. This community space is enjoyable and relaxing. By activating an area that has historically been largely inaccessible, a new destination has been created.
Event Island Stevenage will be in situ for at least two years, following this, elements will be carried across to the wider masterplan.