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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the November 2012 issue

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Diverse is probably one of the words which immediately springs to mind when trying to describe the port town of Boston.

But this popular market town’s diversity is about much more than its multicultural population. It’s a word that equally applies to its history, shopping attractions and events.

The town is home to an unmissable landmark – the Parish Church of St Botolph’s (more commonly known as The Stump) – as well as many other interesting buildings, long-established family-run businesses and waterways well-used by freight and leisure craft.

Boston Business Improvement District (BID) aims to play a key role in maintaining a vibrant shopping scene, through initiatives designed to support retailers and service businesses.

BID chairman, Alan Ellis and his wife Moira run the town’s Harmony Music Shop and Alan is proud of what the BID has achieved in recent months and delighted to be putting the polish on some great festive celebrations.

More than 550 businesses are based in the BID area – which covers an area roughly bounded by The Maud Foster Drain, the town’s Asda store, Norfolk Street and John Adams Way.

Within that patch you will find scores of well-known names, including Oldrids department store, Tates fish and chips (which started life in 1903 and which is one of the oldest fish and chips shops in the country) and furniture and furnishings shop Cammacks, which began trading in 1919.

There’s also Hoppers jewellers, which has just had a smart facelift and J Carr & Son Ltd, the family-run lawnmower and garden machinery business which was established in 1909.

“Boston is being successful and is hanging onto its small, independent and long-established businesses, but firms’ livelihoods are being affected by the loss of major stores, such as JJB and Clinton’s, which have gone,” said Mr Ellis.

“Newer businesses are continuing to move in though, one of the most recent being the B&M discount store which is trading in the former Tesco outlet in Lawrence Lane.”

This year has seen the BID step up a gear and intensify the range of support which it offers its levy payers.

“We now have a six-strong team of rangers. Every day they visit businesses of all sizes to check that everything is okay and to ask if there are any issues which the BID can help with,” said Mr Ellis.

“Rangers also deal with the difficult element in the town, of which we have a small, but prolific minority. Shops rent or buy radios and use the radio link system run by Boston Borough Council, which has now been extended across the town centre, to let other traders know if there are any problems so that these can be nipped in the bud.

“The rangers can hold someone who may be being a nuisance, until the police arrive and they may also defuse a fight,” said Mr Ellis.

All the wardens are first aid and Security Industry Authority (SIA) trained. Three have undergone defibrillator training, should a medical emergency arise, and the remainder of the team will be trained by the New Year.

“In August, the BID started a new initiative which has been hailed a real success by the town’s publicans and restaurateurs. That is our evening economy work, where the rangers deal with street drinking,” said Mr Ellis.

“It has been very successful around the St Botolph’s Church area and the Ingram Memorial, where alcohol has been taken off people. This project will carry on until the end of the life of the current BID in October 2013.”

Wednesdays and Saturdays are Boston’s traditional market days and the BID hopes to have occasional live music on Wednesdays. Craft markets take place on Thursdays. As we went to press it was hoped these fortnightly markets would be held weekly.

The Boston Christmas Market runs from 30th November to 2nd December and promises to be a sparkling affair, complete with celebrity appearances and attractions to suit every member of the family.

“On 30th November there will be a genuine craft market in the Market Place with up to 102 stalls. Demand for these has been phenomenal and they are ninety-five per sent sold. There will also be a farmers’ market,” said Mr Ellis.

“An exciting day is planned with live entertainment in the Market Place, from the afternoon onwards, led by Latvian violinist Laura Jonuska, accompanied by pianist Steve Clarke, as well as perfomances from the Dancing Dads, Allen’s School of Dance and members of the Blackfriars and Boston College’s pantomime casts.

“We have also just booked the Military Wives Choir to sing in the evening,” said Mr Ellis.

He is particularly delighted to have signed up two special stars to switch on Boston’s Christmas lights – Emmerdale actors Bhasker Patel and Fiona Wade (who play father and daughter Rishi and Priya Sharma in the soap).

“Moira and I went to see the musical ‘Rock of Ages’ in London. On the train coming back, we found ourselves sitting opposite an attractive young lady, who Moira recognised as Priya from Emmerdale,” he said.

“We asked if she did personal appearances and if she might do the lights switch-on, which takes place at 6.30pm. She ultimately said yes and asked if we would like Bhasker to come along too!

“For the day, we have organised a special parade around the town. It sets off from the New England Hotel at 6.15pm and will be led by the RAF Pipes and Drum Band, and will include children dressed as angels, civic dignitaries, an American police car and taxi, two bubble cars, Fireman Sam and vintage and new fire engines.

“The Parade will make its way to the Market Place for the Switch On, where everyone will be greeted by the Mayor and afterwards it will make its way to Pescod Square and Santa’s Grotto, behind Oldrids, where Santa and our celebrities will give sweets to the children.”

Boston’s usual Saturday market will take place on Saturday, 1st December and the craft and farmers’ markets will be back again on 2nd December. Steam engines will be providing children’s rides and there will also be a fair.

From Thursday, 29th November to Sunday, 2nd December, there will be a Christmas Fair in Lawrence Lane, near the bus station. This will feature live entertainment on the Sunday, from the Peterborough Pipe Band and Scottish dancers.

Finally, Mr Ellis revealed that Boston BID has aspirations to bring back Boston’s Carnival, which has not been run for many years.

“Next June we would like to bring back the Carnival with a different flavour and instead of having a traditional Carnival Queen, we think it would be good to have Princes and Princesses representing the town’s different cultures,” added Mr Ellis.

ROADHOG BUS
Thousands of young people’s lives have been brightened by an unusual vehicle operating in Boston and its surrounding villages.

Lincolnshire Youth Mission’s (LYM) unmissable purple double-decker, known as the RoadHoG, has been taking the Christian message and much more to children and young people within local communities.

Youth missioner, Tony Coe said the Bus Youth Project offers young people the chance to chill out with others of their own age group, enjoy a hot drink, play board and electronic games, get stuck into crafts, listen to music or simply use the prayer/quiet area of the vehicle.

The bus, which supports fourteen local churches, visits eight different communities in an area stretching from Friskney to Holland Fen, providing a safe place for young people to meet. It also goes to school academies in the daytime, where it is used for RE and citizenship studies.

“I was talking to a young person about the bus in my PE lesson and asked how RoadHoG helps the community and he said ‘You are here to help us stay out of trouble aren’t you,’” said Tony.

“I asked if we did and he said yes. The young person also added that someone had once asked him to go elsewhere with him, but he had chosen to get on the RoadHoG instead.”

The work of LYM is funded by local Christians, with the support of the Diocese of Lincoln and the Lincoln and Grimsby Methodist District.

LYM director and chair, Nick Chambers said that other projects undertaken included the ‘X-Factor’, providing support to children’s and youth work within the south of Lincoln and neighbouring villages.

“The work of LYM is very different across the county as we respond, with the support of the church, to the needs of the community and facilitate the resourcing of such projects that reach out to young people at a time when many local facilities are being withdrawn,” said Nick.

“LYM is not about getting young people to go to church; it is about the church uniting and responding to the needs of young people, where they are.”

LYM, a voluntary organisation and registered charity, has further aspirations in a different area of the county. With the support of other local support groups, it is hoped to have another bus project on the road in 2013.

LOOKING GOOD
Jeweller Hoppers in the town centre is sporting a bright new look in keeping with Boston’s revitalised Market Place – which has just undergone a £2 million revamp.

The well-known business is the first to have taken advantage of a grant-funded scheme launched by English Heritage and Boston Borough Council, which pays fifty per cent of the cost of eligible repairs and ninety per cent of the cost of reinstatements.

Under the scheme, Hoppers – which had traded from its Market Place site for forty years – has had sash windows, which may date back more than 200 years, repaired. Guttering and leadwork has been reinstated and the front of the shop has been redecorated.

It is hoped other traders will be encouraged to follow Hoppers’ lead.

A GREAT WINTER DAY OUT
It’s going to be a totally tropical feeling at the Parrot Zoo this winter as the doors open for the first Christmas since 2010. The zoo will show off its spectacular new Rainforest Diner, a totally new concept in food establishments where you can dine and drink in luxury, warming your toes with the underfloor heating, marvelling at the large screens under atmospheric lighting and all this while being able to experience amazing animals in their enclosures through the viewing panels situated within the walls. The Diner, which seats 150 indoors and a further sixty outdoors is all part of a £400,000 refurbishment carried out at the zoo this year and can easily accommodate even the largest of work parties by day or at night – the choice is yours.

To promote their first winter opening the zoo is offering free entrance on 2nd December for their Winter Wonderland, to mark the first of what is hoped to be a regular and growing Christmas treat. The day out will include specialist market stalls, a school choir, Christmas music, gift shop, festive treats and most important of all: Santa’s Grotto. Add to all this a free walk around, seeing the amazing work carried out at the zoo, and that’s the perfect recipe for a great winters’ day for all the family.

BOSTON STUMP
No trip to Boston would be complete without a visit to St Botolph’s Parish Church – affectionately known as The Stump.

Dedicated to the seventh-century English saint St Botolph, its tower soars to an amazing height of just over 272ft, so visitors who fancy a climb can expect to be rewarded with fantastic views of the town and surrounding countryside.

However, for those who prefer to stay on terra firma, what is arguably the largest parish church in the country offers a wealth of interest at ground level.

St Botolph’s also has its own coffee shop (complete with magnificent surroundings) and a contemporary shop and parish office.

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