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.


Lessons I have Learned

So, we are already 1/6 of the way through 2014!  How did that happen?

2013 was an exciting year, with the formation of this project and all the many fun things that happened along the way.  It’s hard to believe that this time last year I was still vehermently against social networking and anything ‘computery’.  I was perfectly content in my own little semi-Luddite world, with my sewing machine and record player, and I truly believed that Facebook, Twitter and blogs were just not for me.  But I did obviously give in eventually and, although I still have my issues with it all, it has helped me emormously in setting up the Chorlton Revival project and the Chorlton Art Market.  Through becoming more accepting of social media, I have connected with many people and organisations who share my passion for town centre regeneration and the worrying situation of Britain’s high streets and without it, I know that I could not of raised the amount of money that I did in the time I did it.

So, the Revival plans for 2014 are now underway.  The next bench is currently being made and the next mural is being designed, with the aim for it to all be installed in the precinct some time in March.  It is thanks to the generousity of local people and businesses that all this can happen so I truly hope that the additions will make a difference to the area.  Raising the money to make this happen, and forming a group to help to spend it has taught me many, many things.  All I will say is that, when it comes to ‘community minded’ people who you meet online, trust your first instincts!  Sometimes strange people are simply strange people and no matter how reasonable and democratic you try to be, stange people will not change.  I very nearly let certain events completely put me off taking this project forward but now I am even firmer in my convictions!

As for the market, here is where more important lessons (which I should have already known) have been learned.  I have learned that big businesses have no intention of helping out someone if there is no financial gain to them.  I have learned that big businesses will quite happily facelessly use someone and then just drop them without any discussion.  In essence, I have learned not to be so earnestly naive when it comes to dealing with some people.

So, in summary (so as not to drone on about the boring details), because of all these lessons learned, Chorlton Art Market will not be held in the precinct any more.  From this coming Saturday, the market will now take place in a new location in the town.  Although slightly smaller than the precinct space, the plan is to have 20 stalls with high quality artwork and locally produced designs.  I need to make ‘High Quality Artwork’ the market tagline as it is absoultly crucial that this market is a high quality event and is clearly different to the usual ‘craft fair’ events.  This has been my drive from the beginning and I need to always keep this in mind.