What is working with Vincent Design like?

Local historian Jane Mills explains how this community project came together, and how the collaboration developed.

The Tenterden Family Fun Trail arose from two initial ideas.

Firstly, the Secretary of the Tenterden & District Local History Society had always had a wish to make the town’s history more accessible for children and families.

Secondly, in 2021 the Tenterden Schools Trust had set up a Community Art Project across the town, featuring students’ artwork, with an original installation by Mr Doodle. The simple Art Trail and map for this was designed by the Secretary and the TST Media Centre.

Then, two very fortunate developments brought the new Family Fun Trail into being, giving it life and legs: the appointment of a Town Centre Co-ordinator for Tenterden – Keli Nolan-Lyons, and the commissioning of Vincent Design to manage the project.

Funding had been secured previously, as a donation from the Tenterden Town Council (two-thirds) given to the history society (one third).  This was good for direction of the project: there was a) a budget; and b) a tourism, footfall and town centre business objective which was to be met.

I already had a route for the town trail in my mind with a very basic layout, some family activities and a child-friendly approach and style. Nick Vincent then proceeded to find the perfect artist to illustrate the Tenterden Trail – Andy Robert-Davies.

Andy produced an initial sample drawing for approval, which was brilliant. For me this was a very reassuring process – the built-in checks at each stage to ensure that development of the project was in the right direction. So for example, at one of the earlier stages, a discussion issue was one of equality/diversity; the illustrator responded quickly and changed some of his work to achieve that end.

It was an interesting dynamic, between myself the author, Nick the designer and Andy the illustrator.  I knew there was too much content but choosing what to discard was difficult. All of us had to compromise and change at different points – it’s very much a question of trust in each other’s role. Keli the Town Centre co-ordinator played an important part here too, negotiating points and coming in from the perspective of what was needed for Tenterden tourism and business.

What also really helped at the beginning was the settling on a nautical theme, from the historical perspective of Tenterden being a Cinque Port, with a very distinctive town coat-of-arms.  This inspired wonderful pirate characters from the illustrator, evoked a pirate vocabulary to use and brought the instructional points of the Trail to life.

Vincent Design had set out a schedule and as each stage was achieved, an invoice to that point was produced and payment made by the History Society. It was helpful to have progressive drafts of the work, to submit to the committee and the treasurer.

An additional benefit from using a professional design company is having reliable technical advice about for example colour schemes, printing processes, and how previous community projects have been promoted and achieved.

The finished product is just fantastic!

The main tourist points of the town are linked – the railway, the museum, the delightful high street. When distributing our piles of the initial leaflets, we saw that local business owners and workers immediately recognised its attraction and usefulness. It’ll be a long-term asset to the town.

For children, enjoying the ‘Horrible Histories’ approach and seeing their enthusiasm on the Trail was hugely satisfying – for me as the author, the best part!