Let the festivities begin

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
October 2011

It’s cheers all round in Gainsborough this month – in more ways than one.
As the town raises a glass – or two – to the annual action-packed Octoberfest event, businesses have reported a better-than-expected year of sales and a number of charity groups and organisations are celebrating cash windfalls thanks to Lincolnshire Co-op’s 150th birthday giveaway.

On top of that, town centre retailers and businesses are awaiting news as to whether proposals to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) in Gainsborough have been successful at the second attempt.

And work is also underway to create a brand new innovative business hub out of a derelict town centre pub.

Gainsborough is going to be a hive of activity over the coming weeks with Octoberfest events planned for Marshall’s Yard, the Market Place and Richmond Park, as well as various pubs and clubs, the Trinity Arts Centre and the Weston Rooms.

This is the town’s third Octoberfest, which sees a diverse range of groups and organisations coming together in partnership with Gainsborough Town Council to organise a programme of entertainment and activities offering something for everyone.

Town Council leader Paul Leeder said: “Octoberfest is a wonderful and wide-ranging series of events held within our town throughout October. More than thirty organisations are holding events and we are extremely grateful to all of them for the hard work they put in to enliven and enhance the quality of life in our town”.

Highlights include Gainsborough Folk Festival, which starts on 14th October, and the third Gainsborough Beer Festival, which runs from Thursday, 20th October to Sunday, 23rd October.

It is hoped that the festivities will help coincide with the go-ahead for another scheme aimed at creating a commercially vibrant town centre area, bringing more revenue into all businesses.

Traders, large and small, have been balloted over the last month on whether to establish a Business Improvement District in the town. The proposed BID would include businesses based in 460 properties in the town centre acting together to decide how to improve their trading environment to help combat the present economic climate.

“A BID is all the businesses working together and co-operating to deliver improvements that they want to see happen,” said BID co-ordinator David Hawkins.

“The idea behind a BID is to give all businesses and organisations in the area a local voice. It’s a not-for-profit organisation which is completely independent of any council, police authority or any other public body.

“The key is to get the town to pull together and work collectively to improve the town. It’s about attracting local support for local businesses and also getting visitors coming along to see everything the town has to offer.”

Under the BID scheme, all traders within the area would pay a levy based on their property’s rateable value. If set at two per cent, it would generate £700,000 over five years which would then be spent on projects and services identified as needed by businesses themselves.

These could include developing a marketing strategy to promote Gainsborough, its history and all the businesses in the BID area; promoting and supporting new and existing events to increase footfall, generate longer stays and more frequent return visits and ensuring the BID area is attractive by raising the overall appearance and the level of street cleanliness.

Safety and security would also be addressed, by the introduction of street rangers carrying out daily foot patrols; supporting and working closely with the ShopWatch and PubWatch programmes and reviewing CCTV provision across the area.

Illegal parking enforcement and improved pedestrian and road traffic signage would also be looked into. The result will be announced next week.

It has already been a successful few months for Marshall’s Yard, with independent retailers reporting a busy trading period and new traders moving into the centre.

Assistant centre manager at Marshall’s Yard, Medi Parry, said there were a lot of things in the pipeline over the next few months but trade is already good.

“As a whole we are fully let and feedback from the retailers is that they are performing well. They have had a good year this year. Obviously our anchor tenant Marks and Spencer is trading extremely well and other retailers are benefiting from that as well. It has definitely been better than expected for the majority of retailers.”

The latest newcomer to take up residence at the centre is chocolatier and patissier Emdis, which opened its brand new store, Chocolishious, just a month ago.

“It opened a factory on the industrial estate in Gainsborough and had a trailer on the site selling chocolate, fudge and ice cream as it waited for the unit to become available. The shop sells a selection of hand-made chocolates, celebration cakes and custom-made cakes too, so that is good news,” said Medi.

The shop is based next door to Chic of Gainsborough, which has also just moved into new premises after expanding its range and outgrowing its earlier Marshall’s Yard unit.

“Chic has done really well since expanding its range.The autumn and winter collection is already available in the store and it is now stocking completely new brands for Gainsborough.”

The popular fashion and lifestyle retailer is stocking a great selection of leather handbag brands including Radley, Tula, The Bridge and Kipling, as well as clothing from iconic country fashion brands such as Joules, Dubarry and Musto.

Marshall’s Yard’s Christmas lights switch-on takes place on 18th November.

“We are looking forward to the new Christmas lights on display this year and we are hoping for a really good Christmas,” said Medi.

Celebrations have already been the order of the day for seventeen charitable groups and organisations in the area which received cash funding from the Lincolnshire Co-op to mark its 150th anniversary.

Gainsborough and District Heritage Association was the biggest beneficiary – with a £25,000 grant towards its plans to transform its Old Post Office premises on North Street into an exhibition and heritage centre.Chairman Susan Edlington said the Association was delighted with the award.

“It’s certainly been a fantastic boost. We are over the moon to receive it. The Co-op has been in Gainsborough a long time. It was the members who voted for us so it is nice to know they appreciate us and what we are doing. There are exciting times ahead,” said Mrs Edlington.

The Breathe Easy Gainsborough group, which is based in Heaton Street and offers support to people with lung conditions, was awarded £5,000 along with St Barnabas Hospice in Front Street, Morton.

There has also been good news for start-up and small businesses in the area.

Sturton-by-Stow based Gelder started work at the derelict Plough pub on Church Street in mid-September to transform the building to make it suitable for small businesses to work there.

Once completed it will comprise ten small offices, a meeting room for businesses and community groups and hot-desking/rent-a-desk facilities for businesses in the very early stages of starting up.

The project was made possible after the council successfully applied to the East Midlands Development Agency for funding for Gainsborough Strategic Property Acquisition Project.

A feasibility study found there was a need for high quality, very small business units, offering affordable rents and ‘easy-in, easy-out’ terms. It is hoped that building work will be finished by February 2012.

After 700 applications and weeks of decision making, Lincolnshire Co-operative gave away a total of £500,000 to local organisations as part of its 150th birthday celebrations.

Grants of £25,000, £10,000, £5,000, £2,500 and £1,000 were handed out to community groups, schools, NHS organisations, charities and other good causes at Lincolnshire Co-op outlets on Friday, August 19th.

Some of the lucky groups came together at Gainsborough Home Store in Market Place to receive more than £30,000 in cash awards from the Society to mark its official birthday.

Gainsborough and District Heritage Association was among the top earners scooping a massive £25,000. The grant will go towards building new exhibition space designed to show how the town looked in various periods of history.

Another lucky group, Blow Me Down Woodwinds, was presented with a cheque to the tune of £2,500 which will ensure members have enough music to keep them entertaining the crowds.

150 groups across the county toasted their Big Birthday Awards – decided by the Society’s members – but it wasn’t just the recipients who were celebrating.

From barbeques to cheese and wine, balloons and bunting to fancy dress, staff from all outlets got well and truly into the birthday spirit, especially in Gainsborough.

The Home Store was transported back to the 1860s with employees dressed in period clothing and various old fashioned artefacts on display. Staff in the coffee shop hosted high tea with a selection of birthday cakes on offer and colleagues in the post office dished out juice and muffins. Meanwhile customers browsing for a holiday settled down to some cheese and wine with the travel team.

Gainsborough Home Store Manager Peter Thurlow said: “I was so proud to be part of Lincolnshire Co-operative on our official 150th birthday. As well as all our different departments and outlets getting involved, the Society gave out the Big Birthday Awards, which will help groups in our area continue their fantastic community work.”

Exciting improvements are in the pipeline for Gainsborough’s medieval manor house, the Old Hall.

Not only are there plans for a £165,000 revamp to be carried out on the English Heritage-owned property but also proposals to allow couples to tie the knot in its medieval setting.

Designs have been submitted to planners by Lincolnshire County Council for a reorganisation of the Parnell Street building, to make it more practical for staff and visitors. A twenty-eight-day consultation period is in its final stage.

Clare Watson of consultant Mouchel said: “The current layout of Gainsborough Old Hall is impractical for both visitors and staff since the shop and main entrance are located in the west wing and the tea room and school room are located in the east wing.

“It is proposed that all three rooms are brought together in the east wing of the building, thereby minimising the modern facilities and improving visitor understanding and interpretation of this important fifteenth-century hall. In order to reorganise the layout of the building, it is necessary to undertake a number of improvements and to introduce some new features associated with the new tea room and the shop.

“The value of the Old Hall to its owners and the people who used it continued throughout the centuries. This is shown by its condition and survival. Not only do documentary and historical references to the building make it so important, but the building itself tells a unique story about its development and its ultimate survival.”

A partnership of Lincolnshire County Council, English Heritage, the Friends of the Old Hall Association and West Lindsey District Council has developed the proposals, which will include the introduction of a new civil ceremony service.

A spokesperson for the partnership said: “This development will mark the start of a new chapter in the history of the Old Hall. We are sure the idea of being married in such beautiful and historical surroundings will appeal to many couples. The Old Hall has certainly stood the test of time – hopefully, this will inspire the marriages made there to do so too.

“We’ll also be creating a new gift shop and café to further improve the visitor experience for the thousands of people who come here each year. This will be complemented by an updated handheld tour guide device and a new display, helping visitors gain a better understanding of the hall’s historic importance.”

Design plans were submitted at the beginning of August. The consultation began on 6th September. If there are no objections, the plan can be decided by the planning committee under delegated powers. If approved, the scheme could be delivered ready for a spring opening. Civil ceremonies would be available from summer 2012.

The Old Hall is one of the best preserved medieval manor houses in England. It was built by Sir Thomas Burgh in 1460. The Burghs were rich, flamboyant and powerful people. Gainsborough Old Hall was not only their home, but also a demonstration of their wealth and importance.

When Thomas, the Fifth Lord Burgh died without an heir, the Hall was sold in 1596 to William Hickman, a merchant from London, who made many improvements, especially to the east wing.

In 1720 a new house was built at Thonock on the edge of the town and the Old Hall became unoccupied. It remained in the family and was used for a variety of purposes. John Wesley preached at the hall several times in 1759. Today, the house is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum.

Gainsborough is a town full of excitement, as a month-long programme of entertainment and activity gets underway.

Businesses, residents and charitable organisations have teamed up with Gainsborough Town Council to ensure the third Octoberfest event is a huge success. With traditional markets, cycle rides, live music, street entertainment, concerts, exhibitions and sporting activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy every week.

Gainsborough Organ Society, which holds concerts on the last Thursday of each month at the Weston Rooms, kicked off proceedings with a performance by international star Nicholas Martin and is also hosting a supper dance, Sunday lunch event with dancing and a concert with leading organist Eddie Ruhier, who hails from Horncastle but now lives in Yorkshire.

The Trinity Arts Centre, Trinity Street, has film nights, concerts and shows on offer and will round the month off in true Hallowe’en style with a ghost hunt on 31st October.

Cycle training and a number of rides around the area are being provided by Gainsborough Aegir Cycling Club and football coaching for children aged from six to thirteen is being organised at Roses Field.

Highlights of Octoberfest are the Gainsborough Folk Festival at the Trinity Arts Centre on 15th October and the Gainsborough Beer Festival.

The annual folk festival began in 2000 as a Millennium project. The music ranges from traditional to contemporary with a generous serving of humour. Artists appearing this year include George Papavgeris and his Los Marbles, Tom Napper and Tom Bliss, and Vicki Swann and Jonny Dyer.

There will be a tunes session in the bar, a harmony workshop and a songwriters’ forum. Festival-goers can also enjoy an audience with Bernard Wrigley, who is well-known from many television programmes including Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Dinner Ladies.

Gainsborough Folk Club meets on alternate Friday evenings at the town’s Melrose Club.

The beer festival, the third of its kind, takes place at Gainsborough’s Old Hall from Thursday, 20th October until Sunday, 23rd October. It is believed to be the only beer festival in England held within an English Heritage building.

Organised by the Gainsborough branch of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, there will be a selection of twenty-six beers from East Midlands breweries, with each brew starting with a different letter of the alphabet, including four beers brewed specially for, and sold for the first time, at the event. Award-winning local brewery, Grafters of Willingham-by-Stow, will be serving six of its beers on hand-pump. Other drinks include four ciders, three perries and soft drinks will be available free of charge for drivers.

Admission to the festival is free. As an added bonus, there will be no charge for people wishing to have access to the Old Hall during normal opening hours on Saturday.

Marshall’s Yard has its own Octoberfest events, with a Farmers’ Market on 8th October and its Hallowe’en event on Friday, 28th October from 4pm to 8pm. Hosted by Lincs FM, there will be a fancy dress competition, pumpkin design competition, food and craft stalls, face painting and family entertainment, along with a show and children’s rides.

There will also be a Hallowe’en Fright Night at The Old Hall on Saturday, 29th October, involving a spooky trail around the medieval manor house, with some unexpected guests.

Gainsborough’s Richmond Park has Hallowe’en fun on offer from 4pm to 6pm with free treats, arts and crafts, spooky animals, a fancy dress competition and more.

Octoberfest concludes on Friday, 4th November with a firework extravaganza at Roses Field from 5.50pm until 9pm. Gainsborough Town Council will host the event with a spectacular fireworks display, fairground, live music and entertainment.

Mention the word ‘croquet’ and most people would think of it as a pastime connected to days gone by. But it seems to be still very much alive and well – particularly in Gainsborough.

There are 187 croquet clubs in the country and the town has its very own club which meets in Richmond Park on Morton Terrace. Called the Richmond Park Croquet Club, it was formed six years ago by Julie Willoughby, who is activity officer for West Lindsey District Council.

It meets twice weekly throughout the summer, on Wednesdays and Sundays, and anyone is welcome to play. Members can play on a social basis, or competitively in the East Midlands Croquet Club League.

Team captain Tony Hesp said: “Our members have been quite successful in competitions over the years. September 2010 saw Tony Fisher win the men’s cup at Woodhall Spa; then in March 2011 Tony and Val Fisher and Joan Hesp won the Jubilee Park Challenge Cup, also at Woodhall Spa. In May this year, at Lincoln Castle, Mike and Richard Bilton won the Lincoln Cup for the second year running.”

The club has played four matches in the East Midlands league, winning three and losing one.

There are two types of croquet played in England – Association croquet and Golf croquet.

“Numerous croquet clubs exist in England, some playing Association croquet, others playing Golf croquet. Some clubs play both but Richmond Park plays Golf croquet,” said Tony.

Association Croquet is the full international version of the sport, which is played by the majority of tournament croquet players. Golf croquet has simpler rules and is more interactive (each turn is just a single stroke), but it requires a similar level of accuracy and tactical awareness,” said Tony.

The origins of croquet are a little cloudy. Some believe that it developed from the French game of Pall Mall, but arguments link Pall Mall more to golf than croquet. What is known is that the game travelled from Ireland to England around 1851.  

At first, croquet was most popular among women. It was a new experience for them to be able to play a game outdoors in the company of men. The oldest document to bear the word ‘croquet’, with a description of the modern game, is the set of rules registered by Isaac Spratt in November 1856 with the Stationers’ Company in London.

In 1868 the first croquet all-comers’ meeting was held at Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire and in the same year the All England Croquet Club was formed at Wimbledon, London.

The four-acre Richmond Park also has a children’s play area, including swings and slides, sandpit, football and basketball areas.

There are formal gardens, a woodland nature area with a Tree Trail, where you can see a 600-year-old oak tree, and an aviary with budgies, cockatiels and zebra finches.

In addition, you can try your hand at French Boules as Richmond Park also has a pétanque piste and is home to Richmond Park Pétanque Club.

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