Wake up to Woodstock celebrates 21 years of supporting local businesses


Wake up to Woodstock (WUTW) has celebrated its 21st anniversary as a non-profit association of local businesses with a mission to attract visitors to the market town of Woodstock.

This month, Wake up to Woodstock celebrated its milestone anniversary in style! It was a memorable evening at The Bear Hotel, a founding member of the WUTW, with VIP guests Chris Bayliss of The Real Wood Furniture Co. and co-founder of WUTW and Woodstock Town Mayor Cllr Dr Elizabeth Poskitt.

Guests were treated to fizz, delicious food, live music and the chance to socialise with shop owners, local artists, service providers and those who work from home. The evening was a huge success and a wonderful celebration of Wake up to Woodstock’s thriving business community.

WUTW was first conceived by a handful of business owners who felt the need to maintain and increase visitors to the town at a time when many retail outlets on the high street were closing.

The association has created a business community which today consists of around 66 members, 80% of which can be found on the high street, ranging from pubs and restaurants, fashion and coffee shops, hair and beauty salons, hotels, and boutique B&Bs, and antiques and art galleries. The remaining 20% fall into the off-street category of independent service providers and artisans.

Right from its inception in 2001, the association has been governed by a committee of volunteer members who all either live or work in the town. The founding committee included The Bear Hotel, which remains an active committee member today and is now supported by local resident Dennis Allen, who has lived in Woodstock for over 30 years and has been Chairman of WUTW since 2017.

The association organises and supports local events, including Woodstock Live, A Night of a Thousand Candles and the Woodstock Festive Fayre, all with the intention of giving something back to their local community as well as attracting visitors through the doors of the town’s diverse range of independent shops and places to visit, stay, eat and drink.

A WUTW Member commented: “Surrounded by Blenheim, Oxford, and the Cotswolds, Woodstock’s vibrant community and the influx of visitors is great for all businesses. WUTW fosters growth, collaboration and unique opportunities that would not have been available in many other towns”.

There are many benefits to becoming a member. These include the option to attend regular ‘mixer’ networking events, which aim to strengthen business connections and get fresh ideas and collaborative promotion through their PR & marketing activities and through their partnerships with Blenheim Palace, Cotswold Tourism and Experience Oxfordshire.

A more recent benefit was realised during the COVID-19 lockdown, where WUTW provided their support and digital marketing platforms to help all businesses to remain ‘open’. During the pandemic, WUTW offered free memberships and onboarded 54 new independent businesses looking for help during that time.

Dennis Allen, Chair of Wake up to Woodstock, said: “We do usually have a tiered membership subscription, to suit all budgets, but during the lockdown, we decided not to collect that while our local businesses were so hard pressed.

“We also invited non-members to join for free. To our amazement, we doubled membership as so many were working from home and have retained many of those since things got ‘back to normal, as they could see the benefit from our business community efforts.”

Over its 21 years of existence, WUTW now stands out in the leisure and tourism industry as a role model to other visitor destinations on how they can bring business communities together for the good of their towns or villages.

Woodstock is a community of business owners who support and encourage you to thrive. It helps to know that there are people who do all they can to keep the town the beautiful and bustling town that it is. ~ WUTW Member

In 2022, WUTW were proud to have won The Thames Valley Business & Community Awards ‘Leisure & Tourism Award’. The judges said, “The work you do in Oxfordshire, supporting the local community and ecosystem, is vital to those outside of town and parish councils.”

The association is not for profit, and all members’ subscription fees go back into the organisation to help promote the town and attract new and repeat visitors.

The WUTW team comprises experienced entrepreneurs and business owners, finance, website, and PR Consultants who work in synergy with their members. Together, they form the foundation to keep the town thriving.

WUTW will also be celebrating with a fresh new look and purpose-built visitor attraction website, due to launch in late Spring. The new branding and improved visitor experience website will aim to better showcase the town to potential leisure tourists, business travellers, event planners, stakeholders, and locals. It is through a successful bid to the OxLEP Visitor Economy Grant scheme that this has been made possible.

Party photo credits: Bokeh 8, Woodstock

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