A Dunstable charity and campaign group dedicated to boosting the town has marked its tenth anniversary despite its founding businesswomen only expecting it to last two years.
Don’t Let Dunstable Die (DLDD) was set up in the aftermath of the town being notoriously dubbed “a cemetery” by the self-styled Queen of Shops Mary Portas.
Co-founder of DLDD and the DLDD Trust Sharon Knott admitted when they started ten years ago: “We didn’t really think it through properly.
“I was incensed about what she said because ‘what right has she got to say that about my home town?’ that it’s a graveyard.
“Things were going on behind the scenes, but you just didn’t know about them,” she said.
“We were so incensed. We wrote to her to have a meeting with her. Someone from her team responded.
“The BBC’s Inside Out programme came and filmed us for two days, and later did a report on how things have improved.
“So it just goes to show it wasn’t a graveyard. It was just struggling like every other small town, and it’s now turned around.
“Things were happening and the people of the town weren’t being informed,” she explained
“When people are not informed, they get frustrated. So we set up our Facebook page and within two days we had 2,000 followers.
“We had meetings in the beginning with councillors and I think they thought we would go away. But ten years on we’re still here.
She and her co-founder Sharon Warboys, neither of whom takes a salary, quickly established a social media page for their organisation.
“We led and others followed. Since we did that, the council has got one and there have been other groups established within Dunstable.
“We now have more than 15,000 followers and we’re proud of the support we get.
“We’ve got a lot of small, independent businesses which are really doing well. There are fewer empty shops than elsewhere.”
Co-founder Sharon Warboys said: “I feel overwhelmed with the help and support we’ve had from the businesses and all the community.
“We couldn’t have done it without everyone behind us. I never expected it to become a large organisation and a charity.
“We didn’t have a long-term plan. It just rolled on and on.”
The two Sharons were at school together, and then drifted apart until attending a council meeting about the future vision for the town, out of which DLDD was born.