OPEN LETTER TO GMPF #1

This is an open letter to GMPF, our business landlord.  It is highly probable that it will be the first of many such letters over the next 18 months.

Dear GMPF,

Ten years ago this month I moved to Chorlton as a bit of a stop gap whilst I figured out what to do with my life.  And, as life has panned out in the unexpected way that it does, I never left and I am now happily settled, raising two children and running a successful business in this strange but loveable suburb.

A heatwave was just kicking in on the day I came here back in 2006 which made the whole exciting move even more full of promise.  We were in a whole new world of beer gardens, open mic nights and roof top BBQs!  I remember going off to explore my new surroundings and stumbling upon the precinct and wondering if I had stepped into a 70’s verion of the Twilight Zone.  And I don’t mean that as a negative – for me it felt special and was somewhere full of untapped potential.  I always knew that it would inevitably be updated at some point, but I could very clearly picture a way to do it and still retain some of its nostalgic charm.

In the time I have lived here, Chorlton precinct has had at least 3 owners to my knowledge.  And over the years, rumours of redevelopment have been ever present.  I remember public consultations and architectural plans aplenty, but then the recession hit and all these plans were, I guess, put on the back burner. 

For me, the timing was perfect.  In 2011 I had my first child which gave me the opportunity to see those shop units in the precinct sitting empty and I began to formulate a long term plan – I knew by then that I wanted a business in Chorlton precinct and I was going to find a way to make it happen, no matter what.

Fast forward to the present day and that goal has been achieved…for now.  I understood when I signed my lease that it expired in 2018 but I didn’t worry because I don’t think I fully appreciated the potential that my business had back then.  I guess I thought I’d be just content to have a shop for a few years and I didn’t really consider too far ahead.  But time is ticking fast and battle mode is setting in.

I now have 3 children – a girl one, a boy one and a shop one.  I unashamedly admit to loving the non-human one just as much as the human ones.  The roots of all 3 are connected to the precinct to some degree and I can’t accept that in less than 2 years it could all be over if all the spaces are allocated to large corporations.  We have all worked hard to create something special in a part of Chorlton which we truly love.  The Chorlton Art Market belongs in the precinct.

My fear is that the redevelopment will see the precinct turned into a soulless identikit plastic mall when I know that it has the potential to be something truly special and something which could be a real gem for Chorlton.  As anyone who has ever lived here will tell you, Chorlton is a beautifully weird place, filled with people with a great sense of social pride and I believe that you, the landlords, have an amazing opportunity to create something that will sit pride of place in your property portfolio.

When the time comes, please consider the fate of my family business – a business which supports over 60 other local people and a business which is loved by an ever-growing customer base.  In a place like Chorlton, with a bit of imagination something ‘different’ has the potential to thrive…but only if the opportunities are there. Please don’t forget about us when you make your plans.

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Hard work & Frustration

For over 18 months now, I have been trying to, in a small way, work towards improving our local town centre and providing an opportunity for dozens of local artists. It is a struggle, and it continues to be so, despite exciting promises and glimmers of hope. My goal is not one which I hope will benefit me personally, but also the community and many other individuals. I have, in a way, put my life on hold as I try to make my dreams a reality and it is so much harder than I ever thought it would be.

The government website (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/improving-high-streets-and-town-centres) states that it supports local markets and helps ‘new market traders starting up businesses’, going on to say that it helps ‘start-up businesses to set up in the high street’. Sadly, I was recently turned down for funding from The High Street Innovation fund, partly, I suspect, because my project is based in Chorlton – a percieved ‘affluent’ area. This is frustrating because, despite its reputation, there are plenty of people like me who live and dream here. We truly want to make something happen, but at times it always seems just out of reach. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been expecting to get recieve funding to make my goals happen, only to be left disappointed.

I will continue to try to make my plan happen until the end of the year. After then, I will admit defeat, knowing that I have tried my very hardest, and hopefully be able to put my experience to use in a paid role. I ask myself quite often; why have I been trying to make this happen for so long? I have worked so hard, for so long and for so little and I really can’t carry on much longer, financially and mentally. A change is gonna come…and I hold on to a tiny glimmer of hope that my plans WILL happen and will be the spark for many great things for our town. I am hoping and keeping everything crossed that this will be the week that we will finally get some good news after putting in 18 months of work towards it.

Cosgrove Hall statues

We have the next bench ready to go into the precinct any day soon. The wait has been long so I am going to feel quite relieved when it is finally there. The story behind how this bench theme came to be decided on is, for me, slightly tainted, but its a much too boring story to recount here. The bench is dedicated to aviation duo, Alcock and Brown and despite my reservations about the theme, Mike Burgess has done a fantatic job on it.

My original goal was to use some of the Kickstarter money to create something to honour to work of Cosgrove Hall Animations stuidos which, in its hay day, was based in Chorlton. It has always amazed me that there isn’t already something here dedicated to them. When I look back on my own childhood, Cosgrove Hall cartoons figure highly in my memory: Jamie and his Magic Torch, Danger Mouse and Count Duckula, as well as the wonderful Wind in the Willows and The BFG adaptations. And, of course, Chorlton and the Wheelies. My proposal is to have 3 carved wooden statues of the most iconic of the characters situated around Chorlton town centre. Who would not love to see Danger Mouse outside the Post Office or Count Duckula outside the library?!

This goal is proving the hardest to achieve – but I will not be beaten! Since November I have been trying to obtain permission regarding the Intellectual Property rights of the Cosgrove Hall characters – I obviously don’t want to spend a large chunk of the money on a Dangermouse statue only to be told that we would not be allowed to display it in public. Unfortunately, at the moment, Fremantle Media (who own the rights to the CH characters) have rejected my request, citing various reasons which don’t really make sense. I’m really hoping that they will be able to realise that my proposed plan could have a fantastic impact on Chorlton, and in turn could generate good publicity for themselves.

I never would of imagined that it would be so hard to sort this out, but I won’t give up until it happens.