Enlivening the Town Centre

In November 2020, members of the Spalding Town Centre Regeneration Steering Group were asked to put forward suggestions for events that would bring more life back into the town centre. This is our initial response.

This is not about enhancing buildings, introducing public art, removing clutter, improving standards of window-dressing or revising car-parking and market stall charges.  It is about the use (or misuse) of our central public spaces – here mainly the Market Place and Hall Place – and some suggestions for how they might be used more effectively to the enjoyment and pride of Spalding people and the enjoyment and interest of visitors, thereby increasing footfall and hence the commercial viability of the centre.  It is about opportunities.

 

1. The Market Place

Although it contains some of our most impressive buildings, many of them listed, it too often seems a rather bare and bleak expanse, somewhere to pass through rather than stay and enjoy.  It needs a focus – the Johnson Drinking Fountain perhaps – and the softening of a few more trees. The seating doesn’t help, being in straight lines and back to back; it needs re-arranging in a more friendly layout or layouts.  On market days the Red Lion and St.Barnabas Trust should be able to spread their outside tables as an integral part of the market itself, rather than shut them away.

 
The space is big enough to accommodate two continental-style advertising drums for the South Holland Centre’s films and events, so that the posters no longer have to conceal the architectural feature of the glass-enclosed staircase.
 
The focus of the stall market has gradually shifted northwards since the building of the Holland Market, often leaving an empty deserted look at the south end.  A weekly or twice-weekly ‘on the stones’ auction in this space would rapidly draw people back, to the benefit of market traders and shops alike. 
 

2. Hall Place

Vastly improved though it became when the present layout replaced the jumble of street furniture and single seat (facing north) that used to occupy it, Hall Place is still not fulfilling its very considerable potential as a social space.  The seating circle is at its heart.  It is immensely popular, with rarely less than 20 people on the seats on a sunny day.  All ages, too.  Shoppers sit for a moment or two’s chat and toddlers run about safely for their moment, free from buggy straps or mum’s hand.    It is a visual feature that ought to be a camera-clicker and a natural arena for market-day entertainment or exhibitions.

 

The planting, however, makes little impact and the hanging-basket poles are just gaunt gibbets for eight or nine months of the year.  On market days, far from being the social heart of the market, its misuse is utterly depressing.   Cars and vans park inside it unquestioned (or even allocated?).  Its abuse by some market traders – who seem to regard it as a hindrance or a dumping ground or convenient shelving to be incorporated within their stalls – has been allowed to develop and goes unchallenged.  Often nearly half the seating cannot be used. 

 

(The photographs were taken mid-morning, not when the stalls were being set up.)

The seating circle must be regarded as sacrosanct, the showpiece at the heart of this part of the market.  To this end there needs to be a rearrangement of the stalls – with some of them concentrically round the outside of the circle and with their attractive displays facing onto it, not their scruffy rears.  Further, there should be no vehicle parking within the area, except for those which function as stalls in themselves, such as the fishmonger’s or the locksmith’s.

 

The flaking brown coating of the planters could be sanded down to leave the silvery weathering of the natural hardwood.  And the planting needs to be rethought, above all to make it three- dimensional.  Bedding plants at waist height give very little return for time and money expended. This is how it could look.

 

3. Fly Posting

We have come across other towns which provide one or two official (free) spaces for posters and notices.  Although reducing the indiscriminate splatter of fly-posting, such boards inevitably look a bit messy, so they would need very careful siting, combining high passing footfall with relative unobtrusiveness.

 

4. Additions to the market.

In addition to the ‘on-the-stones’ auction already mentioned, there are other possibilities:-

 

  • Flea Market    One or two such stalls appeared some time ago in Red Lion Street, but tucked out of sight round the corner.  Could a flea market move up to between Lloyd’s Bank and the hotel and thus become part of the market proper.
  • Fair Trade    Spalding is a Fair Trade town.  What about a Fair Trade stall?  
  • Eastern European Food    Persuade our Eastern European shops to take up a stall or two (on a rotating basis?), encouraging people to try out new foods.  (At present they probably feel a bit reluctant to enter the usually blanked-out shops, feeling them perhaps to be ‘foreign territory’.)
  • Extending the Market into the Sheepmarket     On a rotating timetable:- car boot sales, second-hand car sales, childrem’s flea market, gardeners’ market.  Very occasionally: a continental market.

5. Entertainments.

Give the buskers a place within the market.  Some are very good.

 

Hall Place ‘Circle’

 

  • Use this obvious performance space for a programme of entertainments:-  Punch-and-Judy,  jugglers, boy (and girl) bands (but not too loud!),   ukulele band, local choirs, Act II and Polka Dot and other local drama and dance groups, magicians, Holbeach Brass Band, SADOS, work at a mobile forge, gymnastics,   judo,   martial arts, TRANSPORTED events …….
  • Use it as a recruiting showcase for local clubs and societies to display what they do (encouraging bystanders to join in and have a go perhaps):-  crafts, folk club, ukulele band again, roller skating, flower arranging ……

Maypole dancing from scratch, anyone can join in, with music ……

Have a mini-ceilidh ……

Exhibitions under a central gazebo:- paintings, photographs, ceramics, stained glass, work of the Civic Society, Local History Society, RSPB, Ramblers, ATC, PEDALS, TRANSPORTED again ……  

 

Sunday Fundays
 
Monthly?  Bi-monthly?  Establish the idea that the town centre is where things happen – interesting, entertaining, family fun – with immediate spin-off for the town centre shops that open on a Sunday and subconsciously reinforcing the vitality of the area for the Tuesday and Saturday markets as well.
 
Family Physical Fun   Also a PR promotional occasion for local firms to show off their services by adapting some of their equipment for a temporary fun use:- Crowland Cranes,    cherry-pickers, tyre dealers, Fire Brigade,‘Iron Man’ events (truck-pulling, lifting tyres ); team tower building with straw bales; tug-of-war. Climbing wall. Competitive events for mini-wheelers largely within the central pedestrian area:-  scooters, skate-boards,      segways, quad-bikes, slow bicycle race,  even perhaps sedate motability event.
 
Treasure Hunt (for heritage details? using smart-phone technology in some way?).  Vital that whole families can be involved in the day.
 
Vintage Displays:- tractors or cars or motorbikes or bicycles, rounded off with a round ‘tour’.
 
Citizen’s Fair, in which all local societies and clubs advertise themselves and offer coffee and refreshments.  (Add Rotary, Round Table, Lions, Young Farmers, Unique Studios, fitness groups, etc., to those already mentioned.)
 
Performing Arts Festival     Set up three or four stages at separate points within the town centre, for local drama, music and dance groups to show off their talent during the day and advertise forthcoming programmes or productions.
 
Historic Bus Rally. Both Fowlers of Holbeach Drove and Delaine of Bourne have experience of attending such events and Delaine have even organised them. A route running along both sides of the river from Springfields to the bus station via  Little London with a temporary bus stop at the end of Bridge Street offering views of the river would be attractive to passengers. Combined with a town centre market consisting of model bus and other transport empheria related stalls this would be a way of guaranteeing footfall. This could be a Bank Holiday event. (Chairman’s suggestion)
 
All the suggestions in the Entertainments section above draw on what has been done in other towns.

 

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