THE leading lights of Swindon’s blossoming business community assembled at Audi’s Delta showroom on Tuesday night to launch a new initiative.

Switch On to Swindon is intended to unite businesses, organisations and individuals across the area in a powerful network to change perceptions of the town and to raise its profile.

More than 400 people turned up to enjoy Audi’s warm hospitality, which included a fine selection of wine and canapes, and provided ample opportunity for businesses, charities and entrepreneurs to sell themselves.

Addressing the gathering from the podium, campaign co-ordinator Nicky Alberry said: “It’s fantastic to see so many people here tonight. We were expecting a couple of hundred, but over 400 of you have come this evening, so thank you for your interest in Switch On to Swindon.

“Tonight is a major milestone in the on-going success story that is Swindon.”

Nicky also chairs a group called Influence which was set up in 2012 to act as Swindon’s business voice.

Speaking about her involvement with Influence, she said: “What we wanted to do five years ago was work much more closely with our public sector bodies to help them understand the needs of our businesses and to help them understand the economic area in which we were all working.

“To work in partnership properly we needed to understand their challenges and priorities too, and I think it has been a great success.”

Swindon is the UK’s seventh most productive economy and boasts the fifth highest employment rate. In the past decade, the number of business start-ups has increased by twice the national average, a rate of 281 businesses per 10,000 population.

Some of those success stories were represented on Tuesday night.

Will Davies, owner of popular coffee shop Darkroom Espresso in Faringdon Road, was offering people delicious cups of coffee.

He said: “We are here tonight to give out some coffee and let people know who we are. It’s great that so many people have come out to promote the town and it’ll be really good if we can encourage more businesses to come to Swindon over the next few years.”

Staff from Wiltshire-based sales training course providers Longley Academy also attended the event.

Owner Graham Cherrett said: “We have recently relocated from London and we thought coming along tonight would be a really good opportunity to see what’s going on in the area and get a feel for things.

“When you have always done business in London you tend to develop a network there. But I have always liked the idea of supporting local businesses and investing in the local economy.”

Switch On to Swindon is supported by Swindon Borough Council and led by local businesses. It is intended to make people aware that the town is a great place to live, work, invest in and visit.

As well as local businesses, Tuesday night was also a good opportunity for projects and charities to drum up support.

Representatives from the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery showed off their ambitious plans for the new gallery, which is to be located on the site of the now demolished Wyvern car park.

The butterfly-shaped structure, which will house a nationally significant collection of modern art, is intended to become a focal point of the town’s new cultural quarter.

Director Hadrian Ellory-van-Dekker said: “I think Switch On to Swindon can play a very useful role in promoting the town and challenging the sometimes negative perceptions people have about it.

“The new museum and art gallery will, I hope, be the new cultural centre of Swindon and a reason for people to come to visit.”

Hadrian was touched by people’s positive reactions to the project, most of whom, he claimed, had said the new design looks fabulous.

Between 2010 and 2016, Swindon saw the second largest increase of any UK city in its share of private sector Knowledge Intensive Business Services jobs.

It is this success upon which Switch On to Swindon hopes to build.