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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the April 2012 issue

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The small North Lincolnshire market town of Brigg will be buzzing with community spirit this summer, ahead of the Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

With the news that Brigg is home to the highest number of independent retailers in the East Midlands and the fact that it has put in a bid to become a Portas Pilot Town, which would bring in £100,000 of funding, the town is already brimming with optimism for a good trading year.

Businesses have teamed up to form a partnership aimed at improving the look of the area, increasing footfall into the heart of the town and encouraging residents to enjoy everything Brigg has to offer.

And the town council is pulling out all the stops to ensure Brigg continues its celebratory mood right through to the Olympics.

The driving force behind the moves is the Brigg Town Business Partnership which initially formed in April last year as the BATLE group – Brigg Against Tesco’s and Lidl’s Expansion. It was so well received that members decided to carry it on and it has gone from strength to strength.

BTBP vice chairman Paul Keane, who is also proprietor of Grandad’s Shed in Wrawby Street, said: “It has gone great. We set the group up to fight Tesco’s expansion plans but thought we might as well create a business partnership from it.

“We are now a group of more than fifty businesses and we are getting bigger and bigger. There’s an exciting time ahead for Brigg. I feel very positive about it. Brigg as a whole is starting to get busy; it has a much busier atmosphere which is such a boost for the town.”

Town Mayor Councillor, John Kitwood said it was a sad day for the town when the old Brigg Chamber of Trade folded some years ago, but there were clear signs that things were starting to pick up.

Mr Kitwood said: “This is indeed an exciting time for the town. The formation of this new business forum is a clear sign that the business community feels re-energised and optimistic about the future.

“Together with my wife Kathryn, the Lady Mayoress, I was delighted to attend the balloon launch which was the first public event organised by the newly formed Brigg Town Business Partnership, back in November 2011.

“The summer of 2012 will have lots to offer the town’s visitors. Thanks to a hard working group of volunteers the community will be coming together to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee on Monday 4th June, when the town will be resplendent with bunting, flags and floral displays to mark the occasion.

“The Jubilee celebrations will conclude with the annual Brigg Summer Fair on Sunday, 10th June, once again organised by a dedicated team from the Brigg and District Lions, but the town will hardly have time to recover before the Jubilee Torch comes through in July, as part of the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games,” added Mr Kitwood.

“2012 really is the year for Brigg to put itself firmly back on the map as a traditional market town with lots to offer its visitors.”

Brigg has been boosted by the findings of the Local Data Company’s Independents’ Day national survey of Britain’s high streets. It topped the East Midlands section as the town with the highest percentage of independent businesses with 73.3 per cent.

“We have a lot of independent retailers. Because we have a lot more specialised businesses in Brigg it has helped us survive better than other towns,” said Mr Kitwood.

The partnership aims to reinvigorate the local economy of Brigg and safeguard the variety of its local shops with the character of the town.

Brigg is one of 300 towns across the UK bidding to become a Portas Pilot Town which carries with it a £100,000 improvement grant as well as support from the Government and plans are taking shape for a number of events and developments geared towards creating a united town.

Its bid, which has been submitted with support from North Lincolnshire Council and Brigg Town Council, sets out its ideas to enhance Brigg’s High Street appeal.

The Portas Pilot town competition was launched by the Government in February following a report by retail adviser and journalist, Mary Portas who last year led an independent review into the future of the High Street.

The aim of her review, the Portas Review which was published in December, was to ‘put the heart back into the centre of our High Streets, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning.’

Mary Portas and the Local Government Minister, Grant Shapps, will choose twelve towns to become ‘Portas Pilots’, with the winners benefiting from a share of £1 million to help turn around their retail areas.

“We are bidding in the Market Town and Rural Town sections. If we get the money, we will be looking at having a town centre manager to promote the town and we want to help regenerate the river area, create business in the Market Place and promote Brigg as a whole. We want to recreate that feel of a community which we seemed to have lost a long time ago,” said Mr Keane.

Unlike many other towns, Brigg has held its own in the current economic climate and has not been plagued with business closures and empty retail units.

“Brigg is a lovely old town with lots of little courtyards and we don’t have many empty shops. New business is being created,” said Mr Keane, whose family opened Grandad’s Shed Furniture fifteen years ago.

“There’s going to be a heritage centre which is going to be quite exciting and a new cafe and tea room is being proposed there which again is
going to create business and bring in visitors.”

The heritage centre is to be housed alongside the library which is being re-located to the town centre into part of the premises known locally as ‘The Angel’ (and previously used as council offices).

The library, and the heritage centre will complement the successful community venue known as The Angel Suite, which is managed by Brigg Town Council and used by residents and community groups for a wide range of community events and family
celebrations (including weddings), as well as local businesses and public sector organisations for their meetings.

It is hoped the centre will be up and running in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations on 4th June, which are being organised by a hard working committee of community volunteers, led by members of Brigg Town Council.

The council has also set aside the funding to ensure that the day will be one to remember and is underwriting the cost of the jubilee celebrations, as well as the cost of displaying bunting throughout the town centre.

The annual hanging basket hire scheme and town centre planters will reflect the patriotic theme; all the businesses in the town have been encouraged to display a Union Flag outside their premises to complete the displays.

As well as a parade of floats through the town, there will be an arch of balloons on County Bridge, street entertainment, events and Morris dancers in the Market Place and a town gala with fun for all the family on the Recreation Ground.

A ’50s dance including live entertainment, a disco, bar and food, will round off the festivities in the evening.

The Partnership’s efforts to bring back the town’s community spirit don’t end there either.

Preparations are well under way for a summer Woodstock-type music festival with a number of bands playing at various locations around the town.

Visit the new Brigg Town Council web site, www.briggmarkettown.co.uk or the BTBP website, www.briggisbest.co.uk, for more details of all the events that are happening.

BRIGG INDEPENDENT RETAILERS
Independent retailers have proved Brigg is Best when it comes to shopping, after the town came top of the East Midlands region in a national survey.

The Independents’ Day 2011 survey, which was carried out by the Local Data Company, concluded that last year was a year of growth for independent retailers, but a year of decline for multiples in town centres.

In Brigg 73.3 per cent of its town centre retailers are independents, the highest percentage in the East Midlands.

Its pedestrianised centre is lined with independent shops, boutiques and service providers and a number of them are long-established family-run businesses.

The LDC report, on the openings and closures of all retail and leisure outlets in 500 town centres in 2011, shows that independents opened three times more stores (15,233) than the chain stores (5,094), which are either closing stores or relocating to out of town sites.

Key growth areas for the independents included auto and accessories, charity shops, pet shops, pound shops, as well as fashion and general clothing. However, florists and garden, menswear, sports, toys, cycle shops and hobbies showed a decline.

Restaurants, cafes and fast food were where the independents really made their mark with an increase of 2.2 per cent.

Brigg Town Mayor Councillor, John Kitwood said: “I am not surprised that Brigg is top of the East Midlands region for the number of independent retailers. The town has a myriad of excellent shops, which give a first class service to their customers, and the re-introduction of the two-hour free parking by North Lincolnshire Council has certainly had an impact on the number of people who are once again coming into Brigg to shop.”

Brigg has a long trading history going back to the twelfth century when, as a crossing point on the River Ancholme, it became a forum for buying and selling goods and services.

It was granted a Royal Charter for a weekly market by King John in the thirteenth century and was once the setting for one of England’s great horse fairs.

Brigg now has a traditional street market every Thursday and a smaller one on a Saturday, which is joined by the award-winning Farmers’ Market on the fourth Saturday of the month.

North Lincolnshire Council principal tourism services officer, Margaret Price said: “The Farmers’ Market attracts around 5,000 people into Brigg and all the markets make an economic contribution to the town.

“Brigg is also home to North Lincolnshire’s Tourist Information Centre where, not only is there information on the Brigg area but visitors can pick up information on all North Lincolnshire attractions as well as those across the country.”

THE ANGEL SUITE
The Angel It may only be a small market town but Brigg can boast a long trading history and an important heritage.

There are still a significant number of buildings in the town centre dating back to the late 1700s or early 1800s and the old town as a whole is designated a Conservation Area.

One such building is The Angel, a former sixteenth-century coaching inn which was of great importance as far back as the days of Oliver Cromwell.

It functioned as a hotel until 1989 when it was closed, refurbished and re-opened in 1995 by Brigg Town Council as a community venue for meetings, conferences and special occasions.

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.

Now it is about to begin a new phase in its own history and play its part in encouraging more people to visit Brigg.

It will be home to the new town heritage centre which is due to open in May and which it is hoped will generate extra footfall into the market place.

The heritage centre, to be housed alongside the library which is being re-located, will have as its centre-piece the famous Bronze Age raft, the Brigg Raft, which was uncovered in Brigg back in 1888 and which has been held at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich since it was re-excavated and raised in 1973.

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