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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the November 2016 issue

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Just over three years ago the Lincolnshire town of Market Rasen was described by retail guru Mary Portas as one of her top three progressive pilot towns.

The self-styled ‘Mary, Queen of Shops’ made the declaration at the beginning of 2013 as she toured the country assessing the progress of her Government backed multi-million pound Portas Pilot Town regeneration programme.

Market Rasen was one of only twelve towns to receive Portas Pilot Town status for which it was given £100,000 investment to revitalise the town centre.

“I would definitely put Market Rasen in the top three of the pilot towns I’ve visited,” she said at the time of the visit. The team has made extraordinarily brilliant use of the money, with a standout programme of both sophistication and commitment.

“By regenerating the market they’ve increased footfall and now the priority is to create a destination by improving both ends of the high street.”

But after just over two years of activity by the Market Rasen Business Improvement Group (MR BIG), the group wound up its Community Interest Company in the spring of 2015 and there followed a period of inactivity on the regeneration front.

There is still a good spread of largely independent shops but parking remains a big issue, with the town facing possible new charges; the regular thriving weekly markets, which centuries ago helped Market Rasen rise to the fore, are struggling.

However, the project is now going to be taken forward following talks with the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.

Richard Hailsworth, partner at Nicholson’s Accountants, who took a lead finance role in the project, and currently acts as secretary to the group of volunteer directors, explained: “The original project was tasked with regenerating the High Street in Market Rasen using funding from the Portas Pilot Project.

“As part of the project we wanted to work with market traders in the town who shared our passion for regeneration. We wanted to give them the support so that they could transition from the market place to the High Street.

“We secured suitable properties on the High Street, and the project enabled market traders to put their produce and products into the shop. For many, this was the first time they’d been able to display their goods in an actual shop window for all to see, even on days when the market was not on. And the concept of providing a gateway for market traders to move into premises was born.

“One of the areas that we found challenging was around finding volunteers. Speaking to other social enterprises painted a very vivid picture of the important role that volunteers play in the success and sustainability of similar projects. We found it challenging to mobilise the manpower without incurring high wage costs which were difficult to sustain.”

Richard said the Portas Project was one of the first social enterprise schemes the team had worked on and it was a valuable learning experience: “I’m really proud of what was achieved because overall footfall in Market Rasen increased, the town won two national awards, the number of empty shop units decreased and grot spots were tackled. A lot of good came from it.”

“But the infrastructure was not there to sustain it long-term using the model we’d originally created, so conversations are taking place with Lincolnshire Chamber to pick up activity with the funds that remain.

“The Chamber can help link the local community and Lincolnshire’s business community together to deliver the aspirations of the town, at a time when there’s less public funding available. It’s a really exciting project that I’m looking forward to being part of.”

MR BIG worked tirelessly to improve the town for both residents and visitors alike and it strived to achieve its aim of enhancing the look and feel of the High Street retail areas. It introduced regular monthly markets in the town’s historic Georgian Market Place to celebrate everything that is special about Market Rasen.

Up until the thirteenth century Market Rasen’s market originally took place on Sundays but it was changed to Tuesdays. Over the years it has seen a wide assortment of goods bought and sold such as cattle, arable crops, grain, coal fertiliser and salt and is still an integral part of the town with markets taking place on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Market Rasen has always been seen as a quiet market town, with obvious agricultural ties because of its situation. But don’t be fooled.

At one time in the nineteenth century it boasted nearly a dozen breweries or beer houses, dealers in coal, lime, sand and agricultural requisites, and manufacturers of items as diverse as tiles and washing machines/mangles.

There were many inns and coaching houses, and Market Rasen was a centre for the carters from surrounding villages, who converged on the town for market days.

Located on the A46 main road between Lincoln and Grimsby, Market Rasen is a busy thoroughfare for coastal traffic, but it is also still served by a rail service making it accessible to people far and wide.

Its railway station was built by the Great Grimsby and Sheffield Junction Railway, with the opening of the line, in 1848 and it is the only station now between Lincoln and Barnetby. Nowadays it is on the ‘Grimsby–Lincoln–Newark’ line and is managed by East Midlands Trains.

One major issue that still remains in the town is parking and West Lindsey District Council has just introduced new pay and display parking charges in the town despite a 2,600-signature petition opposing them.

The petition called upon the council to ‘withdraw the proposal, investigate further the likely effect on businesses and other ways to create more car park spaces’ and asked that the council ‘fully consults with local residents and businesses on any future proposals.’

The feeling of the town was that the introduction of parking charges would finish traders’ businesses and that turnover for local traders had dropped over the last four years due to the recession and further losses could not be sustained.

However, the council took the decision to go ahead with the proposed charges saying there had been complaints over time regarding the lack of available parking spaces due to them being filled by commuters taking them for full days and car parks had to be funded, not only the cost of ticket machines and equipment, but surface maintenance, which was currently in poor condition for walking upon, giving potential for injury.

Market Rasen Racecourse continues to bring in the crowds which helps increase footfall in the town and brings a welcome boost to the local economy.

This year has seen the venue enjoy its largest crowd since the Second World War when more than 14,000 spectators were on track for an evening of racing which also featured a concert by chart topper Jess Glynne afterwards.

General manager Nadia Gollings said most of the crowd were new racegoers and ninety per cent were on site before the first race. They came from far afield such as Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham.

CARE HOME EXPANDS
We are delighted to announce that our brand new extension is progressing very well. The new building is being constructed using our innovative household design. This will provide an additional 11 spacious, single bedrooms, all with en suite ‘wet room’ bathroom facilities. Residents will also be able to enjoy comfortable, homely lounge areas, and an open-plan kitchen/dining area.

All of us at The Poplars feel very much a part of the local community and we can’t wait to show off our new facilities, which are due to be completed early next year. With a total of 50 rooms available, and an ability to offer specialist dementia care, with the support of our St John Admiral Nurse, we are looking forward to giving an even better service to people living in and around Market Rasen.

The Orders of St John Care Trust is one of the leading ‘not-for-profit’ care providers with 15 care homes in Lincolnshire and strive to provide high quality person-centred care and services to everyone with dignity, respect and compassion. All residents are supported in the pursuit of active lifestyle and personal interests, while benefitting from a care philosophy that prioritises personal independence alongside health, safety and security.

The Poplars offers dementia, residential and day care located close to the centre of the small, vibrant market town of Market Rasen in Lincolnshire.

This friendly, welcoming home offers the opportunity to continue to enjoy a fulfilling and independent lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that our dedicated, professionally trained team is on hand around the clock to give high quality support and care.

The cosy households with their views of our gardens and courtyards provide the ideal place to relax or socialise with friends and family. Alternatively, the garden offers the opportunity for a stroll or to lend a hand with the planting.

Our Activity Co-ordinator organises a varied programme of events, activities and outings around each person’s requests, hobbies and interests. From arts and crafts to gardening, playing cards or dominoes or simply reading a book, we make sure everyone is able to enjoy themselves to the fullest.

Home cooked meals are freshly prepared in our own kitchen by our talented cook and kitchen team. As well as taking advantage of seasonal produce whenever possible, the delicious dishes are also carefully balanced to get the best nutritional value and to take account of any individual dietary requirements and preferences.

The best way to find out all that we can offer you – be that for long-term care or attendance at our day care centre – is to come along, have a chat and see for yourself. Do give us a call to make an appointment – we’ll be delighted to welcome you.

BEAUTIFUL BATHROOMS WITHOUT THE EXPENSIVE FLANNEL
Bathroom Desires has been open in Market Rasen for almost four years. At the helm, Ian McCready has over thirty-six years of experience to help you find your perfect bathroom.

Whether you are looking for a full design, supply and installation service or just to pick your bathroom for self-installation, Ian is on hand. With a full home design service you can be sure any bathroom will work for you, and with service from Ian himself, you can be assured of the personal touch and great low prices all the time.

Inside the showroom you will find ideas from wet room installations and luxury baths to tiles and decorative features, and even accessories – and who doesn’t need somewhere to put your champagne bottle and glasses whilst soaking in one of Ian’s designs. You will find the perfect bathroom for your space.

With late night openings every Tuesday and one-to-one appointments available, look no further for your new bathroom design than Bathroom Desires.

Bathroom Desires, 55 Queen Street, Market Rasen, T: 01673 843351.

VENUE AT HEART OF THE COMMUNITY FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS
A big boost to the town has been the regeneration work carried out at the Festival Hall.

West Lindsey District Council invested £10,000 in a feasibility study into the 400-seater hall, which was built in 1972 from subscriptions raised by the town.

Work carried out included a set of costed-out plans for a refurbished venue – new roof, portioned main hall, upgrading and modernising to exterior and interior and a community consultation on the town’s vision for the venue.

The feedback from the town was very positive and showed a desire to see the venue improved and more public events being held there. And 2016 has seen lots going on.

Nicola Marshall, who was appointed project consultant for twelve months in January to raise the profile of the venue and build evidence towards big funding bids, said: “We will need approximately £400,000 to modernise the venue and bring it up to twenty-first century standards. The Town Council is investing in the project and is positive about the future of the venue.”

So far this year an open day attracted 200 people to the Festival Hall, who were able to take part in a range of activities that are available at the venue.

“We had a scene from Shakespeare, Turkish belly dancing, singing, a puppet show, a ballroom dance taster session, Market Rasen Children’s Centre ‘wigwam’ and play area as well as other exhibitors. It was a fabulous day,” said Nicola.

The hall hosts free Sunday Tea Dances to encourage people to come and give ballroom dancing a try and they have attracted dancers from a wide area, as do the popular Saturday Night Live events.

“Dancers are wowed by our lovely dancefloor and it has been said it is better than the ballroom at Blackpool Tower,” she explained.

“We have also had a well-attended wedding fair with our business partner Advocate Arms Hotel. The venue is great for a budget wedding, with packages starting at just £250. We have banqueting furniture and a full setting of crockery for up to 300 people.”

Cultural events have been re-ignited and the hall has hosted its first stage production in two years, which was well supported by local people.

“We have invested in new stage lights and electrics – at a cost of around £4,000 – which means we can now welcome touring theatre companies and musicians which will be a boost for the town,” said Nicola.

On a week by week basis the hall is home to all sorts of groups and organisations including Zumba, University of the Third Age, slimming classes, Alzheimer’s Café, Clubbercise, an embroidery and quilting group and the Flower Club.

The hall is open 365 days a year and on average has 140 users every week.

“Additionally, we have commercial businesses who see the benefit of holding their shows and events in the venue with awards nights and business events as examples,” added Nicola.

The hall will be hosting a music event with Kelly Oliver headlining, on 19th November.

Kelly has appeared on BBC Sunday Live performing her song ‘Rio’ and Bob Harris of BBC Radio 2 fame hails her as ‘an emerging voice in British folk music’. 

“This booking is a coup for Market Rasen and we want to do the Festival Hall proud by having a packed night,” said Nicola.

“Going forward in 2017, we are looking forward to more events and activities and will be concentrating on getting funding applications ready. West Lindsey District Council is supporting the project and working alongside us in their sports development and investment in the town – so that is excellent news.”

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