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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the January 2016 issue

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“Brigg is Best” is a phrase often heard in this small flourishing North Lincolnshire market town but now its reputation has spread far and wide.

Being shortlisted as a finalist in the Great British High Street competition at the end of 2015 meant it was put firmly on the retail map and, although it finished runner-up in its category, being selected from 230 towns throughout the UK has given the town an optimistic air.

Brigg Town Partnership (BTP) was behind the town’s entry into the competition along with the town council.

Chairman Malcolm Bailey said: “We were runners-up in our category and, even though we didn’t win, the fact that we were shortlisted as 2015 finalists is quite an accolade to all that has gone on in the town.”

It was nominated as a finalist because of its innovation, collaborative approach and results, evidenced by the halving if its High Street vacancy rate over the past four years.

“One of the things that got us to put the submission in was the fact that in the last four years Brigg has managed to half its High Street vacancy rate,” said Malcolm.

“It is better to have fewer empty shops, so the BTP worked at that and we now have more and more people opening shops on the High Street. They are new businesses as well and that is a great advert for Brigg.

“Some of the new businesses have come to Brigg, not by chance but because they have researched where they wanted to be and selected to come to Brigg.”

The competition led to a huge rush of activity in support of the town and created a teamwork ethic which bodes well for 2016.

“It gave a voice to people to say how much they appreciated Brigg. BTP increased its web-base (www.briggisbest.co.uk and Facebook.com/briggisbest) and the competition gave people the opportunity to voice their opinions about Brigg and there was a huge amount of support,” said Malcolm.

“The Brigg is Best website has been transformed over the past couple of months and it is now very much about using that as a platform for all businesses.”

This year BTP plans to concentrate its efforts on building on the success of the Great British High Street competition to promote Brigg and also to improve skills sets in the town.

“We had a couple of successful workshops last year that were run to help improve skills in terms of the retail sector, such as a window dressing workshop, and we are planning another one this month to kickstart the new year,” said Malcolm.

“And there will be a centralised approach to promote the town. There is a sense of increased teamwork emerging in Brigg and there are lots of things businesses can do together so that they are not in competition with each other.”

BTP’s ambitions for 2016 are to continue to encourage new businesses to come to the town and create opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

“There are a few things the group is talking about. We would like to fill the High Street and have people queuing to run a business in Brigg,” said Malcolm.

“We want to market Brigg not just for shoppers and visitors but for businesses as well and we want to look at possibly setting up an apprenticeship scheme where, collectively, as a business partnership we can support the town’s young talent and also offer job skills opportunities for youngsters at events that we run, such as the music festival.”

The Brigg Town Business Partnership was formed in 2011 to support local independent traders in Brigg. Brigg Town Council also supported the High Street competition bid and accompanied the judges around the town.

Clerk Claire Davis said it was good news for Brigg. “The competition gave people a big lift. It made them see that we are alright. You look at other places and they are struggling. I think there is a positive air around town at the moment because of it.”

As well as being home to many long-standing businesses, which have clearly stood the test of time and have been visited by generations of the same families, Brigg is a traditional market town.

Every Thursday there is a traditional open-air street market with a smaller market taking place on Saturdays. Running along Wrawby Street down to the historic Market Place, the lively market is set against the impressive backdrop of The Angel, a carefully restored eighteenth-century coaching inn, which the town council is justly proud of.

The Angel Suite was officially opened in 1995, following the final phase of renovations to the old Angel Hotel. The main function of the building is to provide Brigg with a community venue that lends itself to any type of function, but it is also a room for that special event or celebration.

There is a large hall on the upper floor (still known as the ballroom from its days as the Angel Hotel Ballroom) and a mid-sized lounge/meeting room on the lower floor.

Brigg has a number of well-known long-established shops including Grandad’s Shed, which sells furniture and accessories for every room and which has The Loft restaurant above.

Another is Wallhead’s, a town and country clothing shop which has been trading for more than 117 years. Then there is the sewing shop Jaylaurs Sewing Studio which has been trading in Brigg for thirty-two years and which attracts customers from all over the county including Lincoln and even Hull.

To help encourage more footfall into the town North Lincolnshire Council has introduced all-day free parking on Sundays.

It follows on from the successful two hours’ free parking during the week, introduced in May last year and free parking all day on Saturdays, which came into being in June 2014.

The new initiative aims to get even more people into the town centre and encourage more businesses to open on Sundays.

Council leader Coun Liz Redfern said: “It was clear to see that the existing free parking initiatives made a huge difference to the town centres across North Lincolnshire. We hope that free parking on Sunday will be a great addition to this and encourage people to venture into town.

“We are one of the only councils in the country to provide free car parking and I am delighted that we are able to extend this even further. This shows North Lincolnshire Council’s commitment to improving the economy and making our town centres thriving places that people want to visit.”

JAYLAURS SEWING STUDIOS
One of Brigg’s niche independent retailers is enjoying a revival in the popularity of its products.

Jaylaurs Sewing Studios in Wrawby Street has been part of the retail fabric of the town for thirty-two years and owner Jane Brett is hoping the busy times of 2015 will continue in 2016.

“Sew Magazine organised a big national sewing event in October which we were involved in,” said Jane who runs the shop with her daughter Lauren.

“We had a workshop, a raffle and the big sewing event to make people aware of sewing and it was the busiest day we have ever had. We are planning to do it again this year.”

Jaylaurs is a one-stop sewing shop stocking fabrics, sewing gifts and haberdashery. It also does alterations.

“Sewing is big business again. A lot of mums are doing crafts and sewing and it is coming back to the fore. We have been trading thirty-two years so it is nice to see it is so busy again,” said Jane.

Jane and Lauren are planning to start their own classes this year.

“We have an open workshop where people can see us sewing. We are hoping to set up a children’s Saturday sewing club and also a Learn to Sew class for adults. We are doing another Stitch, Bitch and Eat Cake event too where people can come along to sew and chat over a cup of coffee. It is always a popular event,” said Jane.

Jaylaurs not only attracts customers from Brigg and the surrounding areas but from as far away as Hull, Grimsby, Market Rasen and Lincoln as well.

“Our kind of business is few and far between now and we are quite central here in Brigg so we get a lot of people coming from other places, even from Hull,” said Jane.

“It has been another busy year. We have the sewing business but the retail side has been expanded and we have such a big range of fabrics. All the staff are sewers so when we get asked a question, we know what advice to give and we are always willing to help people who are stuck on something.”

WALLHEAD’S MENSWEAR FOR QUALITY COUNTRY WEAR
Founded in 1897 by James Blackburn Wallhead, Wallhead’s Menswear remains a family business, and is run today by fourth-generation Richard Wallhead. The shop specialises in men’s and ladies’ clothing from well-known brands such as Schoffel, Barbour, Brook Taverner, Le Chameau, Aigle, Viyella, Peter England, Gurteen and Farah, Hawick knitwear and Olney hats and caps.

Wallhead’s caters for formal, casual and country wear. Quality shooting clothing by German brand Schoffel is available, including tweed breeks and waistcoats, caps to match and five top-class Gore-Tex and Venturi shooting coats all fully waterproof and machine washable. Fantastic Schoffel ski jackets for men and ladies are also stocked.

Call into the shop and enjoy personal attention and good old-fashioned customer service. Wallhead’s welcomes customers who regularly drive over 200 miles to visit the shop. Brigg has much to offer.

Wallhead’s Menswear Est 1897, 52 Wrawby Street, Brigg.

HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY
With the celebration season out of the way, residents in Brigg will be turning their thoughts to a more sombre occasion.

The national Holocaust Memorial Day takes place this month and Brigg has been involved in the event right from the start. It even has a permanent memorial to the atrocity and has had a special exhibition in The Angel courtyard.

Brigg Town Clerk, Claire Davis said: “The Holocaust Memorial ceremony takes place in the third week of January and it is particular to Brigg.

“We were one of the first councils to be involved with that and we are hoping to be able to combine it with the Millennium Green and develop a ‘peace garden’ there.”

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) is the charity that promotes and supports the Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). HMD has taken place in the UK since 2001, with a UK event and more than 3,600 local activities taking place.

The UK played a leading role in establishing HMD as an international day of commemoration in 2000, when forty-six governments signed the Stockholm Declaration.

Brigg Town Council said it is a simple ceremony that provides the opportunity both for reflection on the atrocities of the past and consideration and unity against the prejudice and discrimination that still goes on today.

The aim is to create the peace garden at the Millennium Green off Elwes Street and include a new Holocaust memorial which would replace the current memorial located in The Angel courtyard, with an investment of up to £5,000.

Brigg Town Council property and services committee chair, Councillor Rob Waltham said: “We are going to put together a specific area around the Holocaust memorial. The one we have got now has served us well for around ten years, but it is not adequate and we need to find something more suitable.”

NEW FACES FOR TOWN COUNCIL
It has been “all change” at Brigg Town Council, with a new clerk and new set of councillors Jeannette Woollard, who was the first ever town clerk in Brigg, retired after 22 years in post and has been succeeded by Claire Davis.

Claire has spent almost 25 years working for authorities in the North East, Manchester and East Anglia,  including Lincolnshire County Council. She has specialised in Highways, Planning and Rights of Way work.

“Jeannette is a hard act to follow, but I have been in post since June and am steadily finding my feet. We had a new set of councillors at the same time and they will shape and mould the council going forward,” said Claire.

The town council was closely involved with Brigg Town Partnership in the Great British High Street competition.

“There is a very positive feel in Brigg at the moment,” said Claire, who also identified the other factors that made 2015 such a good year for Brigg.

“The town’s annual Remembrance Day parade was one to remember. It was the biggest we have ever put on and it was hugely successful,” she said.

“The town had new LED Christmas lights that were kept on longer than ever before. That was a project started by Jeannette and was finalised for last year.

“It was a big spend initially but the savings are massive. That was a big project for the town council.”

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