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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the May 2011 issue

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Massive multi-million pound investments and crowd-pulling events promise to make the Lincolnshire coast a real sizzler this Summer – whatever the weather is doing!

If you haven’t been to Skegness, Mablethorpe, Sutton on Sea or their close neighbours for some time, then make sure you catch-up with these much-loved resorts over the coming months.

The seaside always tends to spring some surprises when it ‘wakes up’ for the season and this year there are new shops and entertainment complexes to enjoy and an exciting programme of events, guaranteeing plenty of family fun.

Although Lincolnshire’s traditional resorts have not escaped shop closures – one famous name now missing from Skegness’ streetscene is Marks & Spencer – it seems that levels of employment have been maintained, and new jobs are being created every day.

One of the biggest developments in the town is Grand Central, where the Bangham family is splashing £2.5 million on a multi-faceted shopping entertainments and events venue, which ultimately promises to create 150 jobs.

New shops, such as Mooch – a gift shop and café – based in the former Windsor Café in Lumley Road, have sprung up and other outlets have been given a facelift, creating a fresh buzz among day and staying visitors.

Events-wise, this year will also see the return of the hugely successful SO Festival – and it will have an Olympic twist to it, ahead of the much vaunted 2012 Games.

Skegness’ preparations for a busy summer are echoed in Mablethorpe, which has also been welcoming new businesses and attracting the attention of a variety of investors.

One of the new arrivals this Easter was the Monks Bay Model Railway and Tearoom, which has established itself in the main amusement area on the Town’s Promenade.

Coastal hoteliers and guest house owners are in upbeat mood too, as the season gets underway. And this year they are also ready to tell visitors that holidaying doesn’t just have to mean sea and sand, even if they are the essential seaside ingredients!

East Lindsey District Council’s economic development department business development manager Alison Macdonald said that the shop vacancy rate for Skegness currently stands at 6.43 per cent and 10.29 per cent for Mablethorpe.

But she said that unemployment rates in East Lindsey have fallen during the winter period compared to last year, which would suggest that there has been a rise in the number of people now in full-time employment.

“Whilst it is evident that people are being more prudent with their disposable income there is a growing increase in the ‘staycation’ market, which, although it does not benefit accommodation providers, will support an increase in day visitors to visitor and leisure attractions.”

Skegness, East Coast & Wolds Association (SECWHA) secretary Colin Foran, runs the eight-bedroomed Clarence House Guest House in South Parade, Skegness.

Mr Foran said the organisation’s members know that the county’s coast and countryside have lots to offer families, couples and individuals, but they have noticed that many people appear to be deciding their holiday arrangements on the spur of the moment.

“We are finding that more and more people are leaving it until the last minute to book their breaks. It all depends on what the weather forecast looks like,” he said.

“However, this part of the coastline is still the seaside as far as people from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are concerned, because it is so close to home - just a couple of hours’ drive away.

“And we are also seeing a new trend. We are beginning to appeal to a much wider market and we are attracting holidaymakers from Warwickshire, East Anglia, the wider Midlands and Central England too.”

Mr Foran puts the area’s growing appeal, to a much wider clientele, down to the fact that the area’s guest house owners, hoteliers and other accommodation providers now boast such a wide range of ratings.

This means they offer something to suit all tastes and budgets. And the choice for holidaymakers is vast, ranging from tiny guest houses to larger hotels, self-catering options, including caravan sites and, of course, holiday camps.

Butlin’s at Ingoldmells is currently celebrating seventy-five years in the business.

But Mr Foran believes that attracting more holidaymakers and wealth to the coast also means ensuring that visitors know about attractions inland.

“I think that we also have to promote all that the area offers, to encourage people to stay with us for longer. They could maybe base themselves in Skegness, but also explore inland and discover attractions such as the Lincolnshire Wolds, aviation history centres and even Lincoln Cathedral.”

Mr Foran welcomed new developments along the Skegness seafront and added that SECWHA members continue to keenly promote everything from the Skegness Carnival in August, to Caterex in February and the town’s brass festival, which takes place at the end of July.

“Grand Central is now part of the seafront, which needed to look rejuvenated. It is going to have shops, conference facilities and bars and should be good for the economy,” he said.

“The Embassy Theatre has a good programme for the coming season and staff are doing a brilliant job in bringing people into the town. And we have got the Amateur Motor Cycle Association British Masters’ Beach Race for three years (the first one in the resort took place last December) which is absolutely amazing,” added Mr Foran.

SECWHA has 120 members. Traditionally centred on the accommodation sector, Mr Foran said it is now working to include businesses across the hospitality field and to help develop tourism throughout the area.

GRAND CENTRAL OPENS
Fireworks and fire-eaters were lined-up to ensure Skegness’ hottest new venue got off to a flying start over the Easter Weekend.

The Bangham family really went to town to launch its £2.5 million one-stop entertainments and shopping venue, Grand Central, which has been built in Grand Parade, which was gutted by fire in 2007.

The new multi-faceted development, which is expected to create 150 jobs, is designed to offer something to appeal to everyone.

Director Gary Bangham said: “The aim of the venue is to provide something for all members of the community.”

Events manager Matthew Dickinson said: “This isn’t just for kids, the owners have specifically designed it to appeal to all groups of people and they are keen to make it a very community-orientated facility too.”

Grand Central features the multi-level A Bar and a basement-level shopping plaza, which is already home to a hair salon and a diner, with more to follow.

This leads through to a courtyard, which is ideal for folk and jazz evenings.

On the first floor is Stage 1, a really versatile area, which easily lends itself to use as a nightclub, a venue for dining and dancing, a theatre, and a space which is capable of staging everything from fashion shows to wrestling matches.

Park View Terrace on the second floor has a balcony, allowing people to look down into Stage 1, and to also step outside and make the most of the local views.

On the third floor you will find the open plan and heavily-glazed Aqualounge, which offers exciting, almost-360 degree views over Skegness and the seascape.

This facility is already attracting attention as a great potential wedding venue.

A mezzanine level floor houses Grand Central’s VIP Suite.

WELL WORTH A ‘MOOCH’
mooch is the brain child of sisters, Sami Ling-Hall and Jodi Ling. The shop and café are on the site previously occupied by Cafe Windsor, run formerly by the Ling family and latterly by the girls themselves. After forty-six years of family ownership, Sami and Jodi felt they wanted a new challenge and something befitting the modern era and it was with this vision mooch was born.

The refurbishment of mooch was undertaken to the very highest standard using local craftsmen and designed by Sami and Jodi themselves. The business now consists of a gift shop at the front of the building and a cafe at the rear providing seating for thirty-six covers.
mooch gift shop offers a wide range of quality goods to suit every age and budget, whether you are male or female there will be something to catch your eye. mooch is proud to stock some very exclusive brands such as: LSA International glassware, East of India, Gisella Graham, Bombay Duck, Daisy Roots, Arran Aromatics and a fantastic selection of fashion jewellery by Design Six and Funky Things amongst just too many to mention.

Cafe mooch offers a full menu ranging from a breakfast croissant, a snack such as a pannini to full home-cooked main meals such as lasagne with salad and a garlic slice or home-roasted hand-carved ham, egg and chips. Again like the gift shop there’s something for everybody including a children’s menu.

Also something they are very proud of is their homemade soups, which are made fresh on the premises. The variety is extensive and there’s normally two to choose from and they change daily which has proved very popular with mooch’s growing band of regular clients.

Since opening in November 2010 the sisters have been delighted in the response from locals and visitors alike who have been so positive about the high quality and uniquely different product that the shop offers which has given an uplift to Lumley Road.

Recently, mooch has been nominated for an award by East Lindsey District Council which the girls are obviously very excited about.

mooch perfect gifts and café is open: Shop 9am till 5.30pm. Cafe 9am till 5pm. 89, Lumley Road, Skegness PE25 3LS Tel: 01754 763526

SO FESTIVAL
Three days of amazing events, arts and culture are on the cards for Skegness this July – bringing the promise of another £1 million-plus boost for the economy.

East Lindsey District Council is, once again, staging its crowd-pulling SO Festival and this time around it will have an Olympic dimension – ahead of the 2012 Games. The dates to note are 22nd to 24th July.

The council organised the first SO Festival in 2009, during which nearly 12,000 people gathered on the beach to see an amazing fireworks and musical performance by World Famous.

Last year, some 16,000 people stood in awe as Plasticiens Volants’ gigantic helium-filled inflatable creatures told the story of Perle, along Grand parade.

This year, visitors and locals alike will get to see the première of ‘Games Time’, a large-scale spectacular inspired by and celebrating the Cultural Olympiad and The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games.

As well as bringing art and culture to one of the UK’s most loved seaside resorts, the SO Festival also increases consumer spending. In 2010, the event generated an additional £1.25m spend in the local area during the Festival, according to independent research commissioned by the festival’s major funder, Arts Council England.

ELDC chief executive Nigel Howells said: “SO Festival is not just about bringing great art and culture to Skegness. It’s a fundamental part of our strategy to help the local economy by giving people another reason to come to Skegness.

“We know from the market research conducted after the 2010 festival that it attracts thousands of people on day trips and weekend breaks. All of these people spend money with local accommodation providers, restaurants, foreshore concessions and public houses.

“SO Festival also increases the appeal of Skegness. It allows us to reach out to people who are interested in art and culture, who wouldn’t normally think of visiting the town.

“All of these factors make SO Festival such an important economic driver and one that the council is incredibly committed to. And, judging by the feedback we have received from businesses in Skegness, local entrepreneurs look forward to SO Festival 2011 as much as the people who travel to enjoy it.”

Further information about SO Festival 2011 can be found at www.sofestival.org

MABO MAGIC
Karen Froggatt is town manager for Mablethorpe, Trusthorpe and Sutton on Sea.

“Businesses are looking forward to the season ahead. As the exchange rate continues to be unfavourable for European travel, we hope to see more of the ‘Staycation’ and, if the weather continues to improve, then we expect to see a good summer,” she said. 

“We are quite weather-dependent and good weather will bring lots of visitors to the coast.”

Mablethorpe has welcomed quite a few new businesses, including a Cooplands Bakery. A Seattle Coffee Company Coffee Shop is due to open shortly and Karen said it’s very positive to see High Street names coming into the town.

“In terms of investment in Mablethorpe, there is already one planning application in for housing, an out-of-town supermarket and a family pub in the Golf Road area, out of the town centre,” she said.

“It is expected that Tesco will be submitting a planning application at the end of April, to build a store on the existing Station Sports Centre site on the High Street and build a new sports centre on Stanley Avenue.

“The first public consultations have already taken place. We don’t know what will happen yet, but this type of investment in Mablethorpe can only be good news.

“Also opening in the Summer, will be The Tide Gallery in Victoria Road. It will be based in the old library building, which has been closed and unused since 2007.

The Tide Gallery will be run by a Social Enterprise company and will include an art/exhibition space, Healthy Hub-style café, small locally-crafted retail area and, upstairs, a training room and multi-use office space.”

Karen believes the facility’s ability to put on exhibitions and art displays, will encourage new visitors to explore Mablethorpe and its surroundings.

One of the town’s newest attractions, which opened at Easter, is the Monks Bay Model Railway and Tearoom, which is situated in the main amusement park on the promenade.

Other venues of interest in the area include the Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary and The Loewen Cinema at Mablethorpe.

The Sanctuary has rescued hundreds of injured and orphaned seals since opening in 1974. It’s original seal hospital was opened in 1989.

Seals are looked after until they can be released back into the wild, but those who are unable to do so are offered a permanent home, with staff doing all they can to keep these wonderful creatures contented.

The independently run Loewen Cinema in Quebec Road, Mablethorpe, is equipped with all the technology that goes with big names in film entertainment.

Performances in Dolby Digital are available on two screens along with 3D shows, when films allow.

The cinema, which has car parking, is also a venue which is available for parties and it has a mid-week social club too.

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