Sharing hope and light this season

A special community project to transform a town shopfront and new initiatives in the retail and leisure sectors are giving residents of Louth reasons to be optimistic this festive season, finds Melanie Burton.
As businesses retailers take stock of how the latest national lockdown and local tiered restrictions have impacted on their busiest trading period of the year, council leaders and business groups are looking at what can be done to help ensure that the challenges of 2020 do not dominate 2021.

Though most Christmas market events, lights switch-on ceremonies and festive shows including pantomimes have all had to be cancelled some events are still taking place.

East Lindsey’s Hope and Light project is still on schedule for this month, which should bring some festive spirit into communities around the district including Louth.

Hope and Light is a unique community project which will see special light projections in each of the district’s Vital and Viable market towns. A projector will be placed in each town opposite a building that will act as an outdoor screen for a short film comprising artwork designed by residents.

Prior to the latest lockdown the Hope and Light team released unique templates for each town and residents were encouraged to get creative and submit designs for inclusion in the projections which will run each night until New Year’s Eve.

Councillor Adam Grist, portfolio holder for rural economy and market towns, said: “We realise that Christmas will be a bit different this year, and with traditional Christmas markets not taking place, we want to give our communities something they can really get behind and be a part of.

“Hope and Light will do just that, and I can’t wait to see our residents getting involved and helping bring some festive cheer to our towns.

“It’s great to see the positivity Hope and Light has generated. Following the announcement of a second national lockdown, the need for some hope and light at the start of December was even greater.”

Simon Hollingworth, creative producer of the Different Light Collective which is behind the project added: “We were delighted to be asked by East Lindsey to devise and deliver this project and we feel that due to the lockdown, this project might become even more significant in terms of bringing local residents and communities together.”

Hope and Light is part of East Lindsey’s Vital and Viable project, which aims to work with local communities in Alford, Horncastle, Louth and Spilsby to protect, promote and preserve the towns by keeping them thriving, clean centres which are attractive places to live, work and visit.

Hope and Light will also see an empty shopfront in each town transformed with a festive backdrop and digital display, which will show all the designs submitted by the local community.

This month residents will also be encouraged to share their hopes and wishes for the coming year by completing a special weatherproof tag and affixing it to a display in the town centre.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Craig Leyland, has urged residents to continue to follow the government guidance, and help each other to stay safe.

“Our residents have shown such a fantastic spirit in coming together and following the government’s guidance and rules throughout the pandemic. However, we cannot afford to become complacent.

“We have been incredibly fortunate in East Lindsey to see a more limited impact in terms of restrictions, but we must continue to behave responsibly in order to ensure that remains the case.

“That means following the ‘Hands. Face. Space’ message; regularly washing our hands, wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance are the simplest and easiest ways we can ensure the virus does not spread.”

It isn’t just Christmas events that have been scuppered by the latest pandemic restrictions – leisure centres and fitness suites have also been hit.

The Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure and Culture is the charity that operates leisure centres throughout the district including Louth’s Meridian Leisure Centre. It has lost around 25% (800 members) of its health & fitness membership since March and latest figures from the Community Leisure UK Covid-19 Impact Report shows that 44% of leisure facilities in England have not found it economically viable to reopen since the lockdown measures were eased.

Swim England has said that an estimated 20% of swimming pools in England will close permanently due to Covid-19.

Potentially 700 child swimming learners did not return in September and school swimming has also been negatively affected, with many local schools not planning to return until possibly January 2021.

However it is not all doom and gloom. Just prior to the latest lockdown Louth Cycle Club announced an official partnership with Magna Vitae Trust whereby its premier members are offered additional benefits including discounts on their membership with Magna Vitae and additional workshops and classes, as well as fitness plans and courses offered for cyclists at all four leisure venues in the district.

Having undergone a revamp in 2018, the Meridian Leisure Centre has a dedicated Cycle Studio, where cyclists can take advantage of instructor led and virtual Les Mills classes.

Gavin Borthwick, founder of Louth Cycle Club said: “It’s an exciting partnership and I’m really looking forward to helping more of our members and the local community reach and maintain their goals, be it social or fitness based.

“Magna Vitae offers cyclists (and non-cyclists) some fantastic facilities and in announcing this partnership we hope that we can continue our impact on the local region’s overall health and fitness.”

Naomi Wilkinson-Baker, area general manager of the venues said: “We as a charitable trust like to see our partnerships grow with local businesses and clubs.

“We are here to help everyone be more active more often, and in the process help them live a great life. Cycling is a fantastic form of fitness and we hope our partnership will continue to grow with Louth Cycle Club, not just in Louth but at our other venues within the East Lindsey area.”

Louth is already starting to see the positive impact that Louth Cycle Club is having on the local community, enabling more than 380 residents the perfect opportunity to either get back into cycling or start cycling for the first time and doing so in a safe and fun way.

Mayor of Louth, Councillor Darren Hobson said 2020 had been a challenging year but he was confident the community would continue to work together to make sure that everyone has the support they need.

“It is vitally important that we follow the basics that have been reiterated to us throughout this year – maintaining social distancing when we are outside of our homes or support bubbles, ensuring compliance with face coverings and sustaining good hygiene, plus making sure that we both look after ourselves as well as checking on our friends, family and neighbours in a safe manner.

“We have a wonderful community in our town and by looking after each other, following the guidelines and supporting our local businesses wherever possible, I have full confidence that we will get through this challenge and be able to look forward to brighter times ahead.”

The Ranch Steakhouse & Grill in the heart of Louth welcomes diners to sample a taste of the Wild West with its full menu of authentic classic American ranch dishes, including juicy steaks, irresistible burgers, and succulent ribs.

Every dish is served with a choice of potato, including everyone’s favourite sweet potato fries, as well as rustic or loaded fries and there is a wide selection of cocktails, beers, spirits, shakes and soft drinks.

Eat in and make the most of chilled west coast vibes and classic soundtracks.

Vegetarians and vegans are also well catered for with a selection of mouth-watering choices, including vegetarian burgers, three-bean chilli, jambalaya and macaroni cheese, while gluten-free delights include cheesy baked mushrooms, garlic & chilli king prawns and lamb chump chops.

Make sure you leave plenty of room to sample calorific must-have desserts which include delicious Ranch waffles served with flavoured ice cream and a range of toppings – chocolate, maple syrup, Nutella and banana, and the ultimate cookies and cream.

“With such a wide choice on our menu, we aim to offer something for everyone,” says owner Oliver Crossland. “If you’re looking to experience authentic US flavours and sample cowboy classics, the Ranch Steakhouse & Grill aims to deliver a memorable experience.”

The Ranch Steakhouse & Grill, 17-19 Aswell Street, Louth LN11 9BA

Louth Library was one of 15 core libraries and a number of community hubs across Lincolnshire able to remain open during the second national lockdown following lessons learnt from the first.

But it is only open for the collection of reserved books (Click and Collect services) and for residents to use pre-booked public access computers and essential digital services. There will be no access for browsing.

Councillor Nick Worth, Lincolnshire County Council’s executive member for culture, explained: “We know these services are a real lifeline to the community, and we saw how they were missed in the first lockdown.

“We worked closely with our community hubs to give them the support they needed and we did all we could to keep the facilities Covid-secure with many safety measures in place, including hand sanitiser, asking visitors to use face coverings, remaining two metres apart, quarantining books for 72 hours and keeping space beside computers.”

During the first lockdown libraries and leisure operator GLL (the social enterprise that operates under the Better librarians in Lincolnshire brand) moved many of its services online.

A major success was the number of people who tuned into Facebook and Twitter for Lincolnshire library activities normally provided in library buildings. Engagement grew by 100%.

Better librarians in Lincolnshire made 31 Facebook videos which were viewed 26,810 times.

Cllr Worth added: “Libraries are about so much more than books these days. Over recent years the service has continued to evolve, and group activities are now a big part of what we do. These are even more important at this difficult time, when it’s easy for people to feel isolated.”

This year, our worlds have been turned upside down. The age of social distancing has forced us to re-evaluate our wardrobes, and whether working from home or shopping for necessities, casual clothes now more than meet our needs.

But it’s easy, with all the staying indoors, to forget about ourselves. What better way to lift our spirits and make us feel good than to put on a good pair of jeans or trousers and a cosy knit?

At Orchid Boutique and Daniella’s you will find a perfect selection of easy wearing separates: knitwear and tops from Gollehaug, Monari, Bianca, Just White, Le Comte and Picadilly to team with their ever popular range of jeans from Toni or Anna Montana. To stay on trend, combine with a pair of casual yet elegant sneakers or boots from the Geox Winter collection.

Hopefully, we will all be celebrating at Christmas, so for gift ideas for friends and relatives Orchid Boutique and Daniella’s stock a range of beautiful scarves and jewellery, and what better way to say ‘I love you’ or ‘Thank you’ than with a gift voucher for some much needed retail therapy.

A new initiative launched in September and designed to promote and champion town centres as safe places to shop and visit will be more important than ever following the latest national lockdown and tiered restritcions.

Shop Local, Stay Safe, Be Kind aims to encourage residents and visitors alike to safely rediscover the district’s market towns like Louth, which has a whole host of unique independent businesses that have been part of the fabric of the town for generations.

The campaign seeks to raise awareness of local shops, stimulate support for the high street and make finding information on businesses’ new Covid-19 safety measures easy and simple to do.

Louth also has its own dedicated social media pages (Love Louth) on Facebook and Instagram, which brings residents and visitors news on events, inspiration for shopping, special offers and guidance on staying safe.

Councillor Adam Grist, portfolio holder for market towns and rural economy, said: “Our independent businesses and thriving high streets are the lifeblood of our market towns.

“Many of our businesses have gone to extraordinary lengths to continue trading during the Covid-19 pandemic. We recognise their dedication, and now want to help raise awareness that our town centres are open for business and safe to visit.

“Working with our businesses to promote the way in which they’ve adapted their trading practices to be Covid-19 secure and push the message to Shop Local, Stay Safe and Be Kind, we can help visitors and residents safely return to our towns with confidence.”

The Shop Local, Stay Safe, Be Kind project is funded by the government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund.

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