The Grimsey Review

Currently working my way through The Grimsey Review which can be viewed here:

http://www.vanishinghighstreet.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/GrimseyReview04.092.pdf

There are some brilliant points within it which are very relevant to Chorlton and to the Chorlton Revival project.  Bill Grimsey’s review eloquently outlines the issues facing British high streets, as well as offering some inspiring solutions.

I particularly like the fact that Bill and his team recognise that ‘local people have a role to play’ and that ‘creativity and innovation can be encouraged and fostered whilst working inside clear guidelines.  The future of our economy depends on thriving, vibrant mico economies across the nation and reform is required now’.

The Grimsey Review also understands the need to ‘facilitate change, encourage local investment…by cutting red tape’ and the importance of crowdfunding.  In the wake of our success with our Kickstarter campaign, I now have evidence that funds can be raised if people believe in a vision, and especially one which will benefit them.

My absolute favourite bit so far in the review is the aknowledgment for ‘all Mega Mall developments to create a percentage of affordable space within the development for local traders and market stall pitches.

Sadly the report also states that the North West has the highest percentage of vacant shop units in the UK – 20.2% in 2012. This is why I believe The Grimsey Review to be extremely revlevant to Chorlton Revival. Please give it a read.

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Chorlton Art Market

With a lot of support and hard work from the council Regeneration team, Savills UK (the precinct estate managers) and Chorlton Traders, the first Chorlton Art Market took place on Saturday 2nd November 2013. 

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The market was a great success and without exception, all 25 traders wanted to trade again at the next event.  For me, this was the measure of success because obviously the most important thing was that the traders made money.  Using my own experience as a stallholder at markets for many years, I wanted to avoid some of the mistakes I have seen at other events.

I believe that, considering all the many factors that had to be considered and planned, the first market has laid a good foundation for future plans.  Photos of the day can be viewed here: http://sochorlton.wordpress.com/

The current work now involves organising the next market on December 7th, which was planned to coincide with the first Small Business Saturday and the Chorlton Christmas lights switch on.  I have recognised ways in which the whole market can be improved so I am now working hard to put plans in place.

The First Bench

With agreement from the other members of the Chorlton Revival group, it was decided that the first thing we should purchase would be a carved oak bench, dedicated to the late Harry Goodwin.  Harry was a local photographer who worked for the BBC in the 1960s and 70s and was a very popular figure within the community.

We commissioned a local chainsaw artist, Mike Burgess, to create a photography themed bench and we were delighted with the finished product.

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Plans are underway for the first of the murals, working in conjunction with the Green Chorlton organisation.  This is aimed to be completed by the end of November. After this, we will then concentrate on the plans for the other murals.  We propose this being an evolving project, whereby the murals are painted on to mounted boards which can be unscrewed.  The idea currently is that the murals will change every six months with the boards being auctioned off to raise funds for Chorlton Revival. 

Raising Funds

After our stint in the shop ended (the unit was taken by a long term business shortly after we left), I got in touch with Chorlton Traders Association, who were all very quickly behind my bigger idea – to regenerate the neglected part of the precinct, and to create the market.  Following on from this, I connected with the Manchester City Council Regeneration team who supported me more than I could have ever dreamt of.

After taking the advice of the Regen team, I set up a campaign on a relatively new crowdfunding initiative, Kickstarter.  I created a project description and set the target amount at £2,500.  Within 30 days, the Chorlton Revival project had raised nearly £4,000 from 68 backers.  We then obtained further funding from the Cash Grant scheme.  The campaign can be viewed at the link below: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1820613655/chorton-art-market-mural-regenerate-a-neglected-ar

Creating a Kickstarter campaign was not only a good way to raise funds, it also provided an opportunity to build awareness of the aims of Chorlton Revival.  The facebook group dedicated to working on our ideas now has over 70 members, and our work has been featured in a number of online articles and blogs which can be viewed on the links below:

http://victorchamberlain.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/guest-blog-by-alice-de-ville-chorlton.html

http://crowdfunduk.org/2013/11/03/crowdfunding-success-chorlton-art-market-mural/

http://thenubiantimes.com/tnt-local-news-new-arts-market-to-chorlton-precinct/

The First Project

This project has gone from an idea to reality in the space of 6 months.  In June 2013, the first step that Chorlton Revival worked on was taking over a large empty retail unit in Chorlton precinct, which we named Chorlton Design Emporium.  The shop provided an opportunity for 15 locally based artists and designers to sell their work for 3 weeks and was fantastically supported by the local community.

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The success of this project provided us with further proof that this was something that could really work in Chorlton.  Many of our customers commented that this was something that the town really needed, as well as recognising that it was far better for an empty unit to be actually used as a shop.

The surrounding shops within the precinct were incredibly supportive of us because they understood that this was only the beginning of a much larger idea which would hopefully benefit them as well.

More photos of our shop can be seen on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/alice.deville.144#!/ChorltonCraftEmporium

 

Project overview pt 2

The proposed location for Chorlton Art Market in the shopping precinct:Image

                       

Before this area was recently cleaned up and whitewashed, it had just been left as an empty space for years.  Ever since I moved to Chorlton in 2006 I have wanted to use the space for something positive so it has taken a long time to get to this point.

Alongside organising the market, I have also formed the group, Chorlton Revival, with one of the aims being to raise funds to regenerate neglected areas.  Our first project is to commission local artists to create large scale murals on the walls in the photo above, as well as four carved oak benches.  We realised that instead of this area being used for nothing during all the days the market isn’t on, it had the potential to be used as a meeting spot and a focal point which was accessible to everyone. 

Our other main aim is to work towards utilising vacant shop units and operate temporary pop up shops to further give small businesses a high street presence and create awareness of their brands and work.

Project Overview

I began recognising the issues facing the high street over the last few years, and started making plans to make changes in my local community.  As an experienced trader at hundreds of craft fair events, my dream was always to have my own shop, but I soon realised that in today’s climate it would be very hard to make this financially viable.

Instead, I identified an empty, neglected area of Chorlton and liaised with the estate managers to find out if there was any chance that I could use the area to create something good for the whole community. My goal is to turn this grey, dead space into something colourful and which will actually be used.

As I began formulating my plan of action, I started to seek out people who shared my vision and who had the skills to help get the project off the ground. Out of this, we have formed Chorlton Revival – our constitution aims being “to regenerate neglected areas in the Chorlton environs, using design, artistry and other creative innovations, to make useable, enjoyable and accessible spaces for all local residents and to facilitate independent trading”.

I also recognised that alongside with the regeneration plans, the space also had the potential to be used for something else. This lead to plans to create a new monthly market, specifically selling locally produced art and high quality design (from my own experiences, I have realised that the quality of the work on offer has to be paramount in order for the market to be a success).  In addition to this, the long term goal would be to attract local creative businesses and organisations to use the market as an opportunity to promote themselves and their work.

Having been involved in various Chorlton Arts Festival projects, I recognised the amount of talented local artists and creative people who live and work here.  Many are self-employed (such as myself) and work hard to make a living selling their work online and at fairs and markets all over the country.

It is my belief that due to the location of the market, it will benefit not only the market traders, but also the surrounding businesses.  It will also turn a large unused space into a community hub and become a place that people will make a special effort to visit.  The market will become an opportunity for local people to build up a face for their business and raise their profile, and at the same time, build up connections and contacts with each other.  This will then in turn help their businesses to grow and build a stronger sense of local identity.