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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work www.watercoloursdavidwork.co.uk
Featured in the April 2015 issue

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Nestled at the foot of the Lincolnshire Wolds, the east Lincolnshire town of Louth is an historic bustling market town, with lots to offer not only residents but visitors as well.

A plethora of long-established independent shops, an obvious community spirit and a warm welcome, means there is no wonder it was in recent years voted Britain’s favourite market town.

And despite controversy over the future of the town’s traditional cattle market, which has dominated the headlines, Louth still has those same characteristics which make it a unique place to live, work and visit.

There were concerns that when Louth Town Partnership folded last November due to East Lindsey District Council (ELDC) withdrawing its funds, ongoing initiatives would fall by the wayside.

But in true Louth spirit, people have come forward to fill the gap and pushed to make the town bustle again.

Neil Sharpley of Louth Chamber of Business said the organisation had just taken up where it had left off when the Town Partnership came into being.

He said: “We used to be called the Chamber of Trade but it was renamed in the early 1980s to the Chamber of Business. It has been in existence for seventy years at least, since not long after the war, and some senior members of the local community have been chairs in the past.

“When ELDC decided to employ someone to manage the town centre of Louth we ‘stood back’ so the Town Centre Partnership could do its job. But the funding from ELDC came to end so we relaunched the Chamber.

“We have picked up the thread of our previous agenda – some local issues and some wider issues and we have great representation.”

Longer term initiatives include the promotion of not just Louth, but the Wolds as a distinct brand and the creation of a digital strategy for the town.

“I am keen to see the Wolds and its attraction worthiness, as a brand. It is distinct from the Visit Lincoln brand and also the fun coast seaside holiday brand. It is a separate brand that attracts people between the two,” said Neil.

“There is general agreement that it would be a good thing for three reasons. It would point the way and generate more interest in the Wolds. From a Louth standpoint it would attract people to come and work here for existing companies and it could also attact new businesses for the quality of life available here, costings and the good schools etc.

“Creating a digital strategy for the town would involve tying in all the e-commerce sites to one site, using the Quality Assurance sign and trying to marry everyone together.”

The immediate concern for the Chamber is the issue of parking in the town.

“We are trying to develop a scientific approach to the parking issues, undertake detailed research to analyse the provision and requisition expert knowledge to see how to get the right balance to provide parking, but not interfere with trade,” said Neil.

“We hope to lead the way in looking at parking and to set different ways of identifying whether we have enough parking for the prospective visitor numbers we want to attract, especially as we want to promote the Wolds as a brand.”

Neil added: “We are in positive mode, wanting to do the best for Louth in the longer term. We are upbeat about it. Louth has a lot to offer, there is a lot to do and there are always issues cropping up.”

The Chamber is also liaising with the Louth Independent Traders group who are working to preserve the market based events which the Louth Town Partnership introduced – the summer (St James’s) food fayre, the Victorian market and the Christmas market.

Chairman Gary Denniss said it formed because one or two members of the partnership felt something needed to be done to maintain the impetus set by the Partnership, particularly the events it used to organise.

“We felt something needed to be done so we did. We have lots of things planned,” said Gary.

“We are working on a painting competition for Easter with four schools involved and the pictures will then go in the shops to decorate the town for Easter weekend.

“A Louth fashion week is also on the cards. If London can have one, why can’t Louth? The idea is to bring the retail traders together to work as a group on the fashion week.

“All the clothing retailers will get together to design a fashion show arranged in the Town Hall jointly. It will be all of them showing off their new stock at the fashion show and then each individual retailer will have their own event in their own shop.

“It won’t just involve the clothing retailers, either. It will also involve the nail bars, hairdressers, shoe and handbag shops.

“If the fashion week works we can roll it out for other events, such as Louth Food Week and Louth Interior Design Week.”

Other things being taken up by the Louth Independent Traders’ Group include the Victorian market, which is going to be linked to the 500th anniversary celebrations of the spire of St James’ Church and the Christmas market.

“The Victorian market is going to be a joint event with St James’ to make our first event a major one. It is quite encouraging. They are happy to work with us,” said Gary.

“We have fifty members in our group all from local businesses and all non-political. It is about increasing the footfall into the town. There is a lot of work involved but ELDC is being very supportive.

“We had our first meeting in January and we have achieved a lot in a short space of time. It is all because people are working together.”

The fight to save Louth’s iconic cattle market has been ongoing since 2009 and was led by the Keep Louth Special Group.

Alternative plans were submitted for a refurbishment of the site, with a concert venue in the middle and also a rock face for climbing. There were plans to sell the site to Asda but after a recently revised offer this too is now in doubt. The group took the first offer to a judicial review questioning the process but lost the argument and had to pay the £2,000 costs.

Chairman Alan Mumby explained: “We thought the whole process was flawed but the judicial review disagreed. There are a lot of people in the town that think we want to keep Louth back. But we don’t and we are not anti-supermarket either, so long as they are out of town.

“Louth is a market town – it was voted Britain’s favourite market town – and we want to keep its uniqueness but make it develop. Our campaign isn’t over.”

Mr Mumby used to be on the Louth Town Partnership and is also chairman of the Zero Degrees Festival. He said: “I was on the Louth Town Partnership and felt Louth should be a festival town. The Zero Degrees festival was organised under the auspices of the town partnership.

“When the partnership ended I gathered people together and asked them if we should carry on and the plan now is to build and make Louth a festival town.

“There are four events which we are going to keep going. I have lived here for twenty years and Louth has a lot of good qualities. It has its unique independent traders and it is that ambience that helps.”

He added: “I have a lot of ideas on how Louth can be more buzzing as a town.”

ZERO DEGREES FESTIVAL
Plans to make Louth renowned as a festival town were compromised with the demise of the Louth Town Partnership. But the festival committee together with Louth’s Independent Traders’ Group took up the gauntlet to put the project back on track.

It means the main crowd-pulling events will go ahead as usual this year, along with a few new smaller ones. In particular the Zero Degrees festival, so called because Louth is on the Meridian Line, plays an important part in putting the town on the map.

Festival chairman Alan Mumby explained: “Zero Degrees festival was built up under the auspices of the town partnership and I gathered people together and asked them if we should carry on.

“Last year we had a unique day in the Cornmarket. We had two days of brilliant weather. It was buzzing. That brings people in and it helps the local economy. Because of what happened to the town partnership, we have to be cautious because we don’t have the financial backing of the partnership.

“It started in 2012 and we think the best part of 50,000 people have taken part in the festival over the last three years. This year we haven’t got money for the branding so we are going to use social media.

“The festival committee was going to go independent next year but, because of what happened to the Louth Town Partnership, it has been brought forward.”

Events are set to run for three weeks and will range from comedy and live music to arts and crafts workshops, classical concerts to ballet, street dance and tap to zumba and salsa.

Party in the Pews in St James’ Church is also a big part of the festival but this year it is taking a bigger role. It is being developed as a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the church spire and is called Inspire 500.

“We have held Party in the Pews for three years but because this year it is the spire’s 500th anniversary we want to make it a special event,” said Mr Mumby.

AWARD-WINNING LUCK OF LOUTH
Luck of Louth is a name synonymous with the fabric of Louth’s shopping area and has been part of the streetscene of the town for nearly three decades.

2015 is proving to be an exciting year for the independent retailer with national recognition, the opening of a new department and the introduction of lots of new top named brands.

Established in 1985, Luck of Louth was shortlisted in two categories of the 2015 Pure London Awards.Pure London is a collective of buyers, influencers, retail and trend experts, dynamic brands and media curators from over sixty-four countries. Gathering twice a year in London, it is the UK’s definitive fashion tradeshow for premium, fashion-forward, trendsetting brands and designers from around the world.

Luck of Louth was one of just three retailers shortlisted in the Midlands region for its shop and also in the footwear category.

These inaugural awards, created in partnership with the Fashion Association of Britain (FAB), aim to seek out the best independent stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

The awards looked into all aspects of Luck of Louth’s business, from its attitude to customer service and website to its store merchandising and buying team.

The judging panel recognised the values Luck of Louth holds so dear, and were impressed by its traditional customer service culture, product range and continuing achievements.

“It was fantastic for the shop to have such a good mention and to get so far in the awards,” said manageress Kate Burton.

The shop opened its new ladieswear department just a few weeks ago and has introduced a lot of new brands.

“It is a nice change and a different way to bring in new customers and continue to keep our current customers. We’ve got lots of exciting brands and products in store, from favourites like Radley, Dubarry and Schõffel, to our latest newcomer Superdry,” said Kate.

“We used to have wax jackets and luggage upstairs. Now we have Inwear Part 2 and Braintree in the upstairs ladies department and downstairs we always have a supply of new brands which now includes Superdry and Gant.”

TRACEABILITY IS KEY
Meridian Meats is an award winning Lincolnshire butchers based in the historic market town of Louth.

As a Q Guild butcher they specialise in traditional British breeds, craft butchery, dry-aging and forgotten cuts. Everything they sell can be traced back to the farm of its origin, and they work very closely with local suppliers to make sure all the meat is high welfare and non-intensive. As well as purchasing from local farms, they also rear a large quantity of their own beef on their farm in Tetford, a mere nine miles away from the shop, which is where their Longhorn beef, that won ‘Britain’s Best Steak’ comes from. 

Butchering, curing, preparing and baking everything at their shop in Louth, from the ‘champion’ dry cured bacon and award-winning sausages to the traditional pork pies and genuine Lincolnshire stuffed chine. Many of their products have won multiple awards locally, nationally and even internationally!

You can also go online and shop with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for home delivery or their new ‘click and collect’ service! Visit www.meridianmeatsshop.co.uk and navigate your way through the menu on the left hand side. Add items to your basket and, when you are finished, checkout, add your delivery address or click ‘pick up in store’ and pay with the secure online checkout. Enjoy top quality meat products from the experts.

GMS ARCHITECTURE
Since relocating to Louth from Lincoln in 2011, GMS Architecture have gone from strength to strength, building on a successful practice of thirty years’ standing. The firm’s location in Little Eastgate under the shadow of the magnificent St James Church has also had a positive effect, helping GMS to expand its church repair and reordering portfolio, with current local projects including works to Somersby, Raithby, Welton-le-Marsh and Candlesby, and further afield at Caythorpe, Kirton Lindsey, Broughton, Freiston and Spilsby.

“As one of the rare 507 conservation accredited practices in the country we are proud to act as professional adviser to some of the most interesting churches in Lincolnshire, with the support of Heritage Lottery and other funders including Lincolnshire Churches Trust, who are invaluable in helping financially to keep the buildings in good repair and enable communities to use these heritage buildings to best effect. 

“Making a building suitable for twenty-first century purposes, whilst retaining the historic significance of the structure and internal layout and fittings is no easy task, and the process of discussion and dialogue is both exciting and challenging. We have been pleased to assist private and commercial owners in finding the best uses for their historic buildings, designing conservation, repair and alteration works that are in keeping with the status of the building while meeting the approval of the local authorities.

“Our location in Louth brings us among friendly people, with neighbours who take the trouble to know each of us, and some of the best shops and facilities.  Louth is well-positioned for access to all parts of Lincolnshire including the Humber bank, and over the bridge to Hull. Our move to Louth was one decision we will not regret.”

CLIVE RHODES INTERIORS
I find an unending source of joy and satisfaction working in one of the few remaining truly independent professions, enabling me to offer the widest choice of products and materials available outside the London Design Centre, ranging from modest budget to super opulence.

With over thirty years in private practice there are few design problems I have not encountered and overcome. Yet my service is characterised by original and innovative ideas, tempered with an abiding respect for the aspirations of the customer and the architectural aspect of the space.

Whether decorating a Lincolnshire bungalow bedroom, preparing rooms for a royal visit to a stately home in Yorkshire or advising Scottish Hydro Electric on colour schemes for the diverse spaces within a power generating station, every client is assured of thoughtful attention to detail.

My small team of six employees sustain this ethos, one colleague clocks up thirty years with me this year, two more fifteen years and my younger assistants are contributing fresh ideas and enthusiasms to ensure we never stand still.

Last word always belongs to the client and here is how one family spoke of their recent project: “‘Tread softly,’ said the poet WB Yeats, ‘because you tread on my dreams.’ The business of interior design and decoration calls not only for great skill, but great tact and we recognise the way in which Clive Rhodes helped us to define and refine our rather vague hopes and intentions with his own imagination and experience. We’ve come to think of him as good for our heads, good for our hearts and good for our house…always ready to go the extra mile, literally, in making repeated long journeys to North Norfolk to discuss, measure, fit, hang and attend to the last stitch.

Thank you, Kevin and Linda Crossley-Holland.”

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