Making the most of 2016: Wellington Makers’ Project
What is your town known for? What marks it out from other places? Some towns have a ‘thing’ which makes it easier to answer that question – Ludlow has food, Ironbridge has museums (and an iron bridge, obviously), Bishop’s Castle has arty bohemians, and further afield, Hay on Way has bookshops. There are only so many ‘things’ to go round, however, so for most towns, pinning their hopes on one star attraction is probably fruitless.
So what about Wellington? The most important thing for us is to articulate what makes our offer different to Telford Centre, as this is the main centre for shopping and increasingly leisure and night time spend in our area. We can’t compete like-for-like, so we have to tell a different story. If Telford Centre can plug you into a world of international brand consumerism – with all the global supply chains (and carbon footprint) that this entails, then Wellington can’t just be a pale, low end version of the same.
So let’s start with a different idea. Let’s start with the simple idea that Wellington has always been a place where things are made as well as just bought and sold. For me this is more compelling than an identity built vaguely on ‘independent shops’ – valuable as they are – because increasingly, the products you can buy from independent shops will be available somewhere online or in more savvy nationwide stores. But if something is MADE here, in the town, in the place where you buy it – well that’s something worth talking about. Moreover, if the act of making is something you can take part in yourself – craft clubs in a church hall, cooking classes in the back of a restaurant, a day at the brewery or throwing a clay pot – then suddenly you’ve got a whole set of social and creative experiences coming to light as well.
Wellington Makers’ Project 2016
This thought was the starting point for H2A’s Makers’ Project, which we turned into a bid to the borough council’s Pride in Your High Street Fund last year. We heard recently that ours is one of the successful bids – so it’s all go. And what will this project comprise? Read on…
1. A Makers’ Guide to Wellington
One part of the project is to create a guide to the town’s maker businesses. For instance:
- We’ve got two butchers shops in centre of town (Ken Francis Butchers and Hill’s Butchers), plus a third at the Brooklands (Cherrington Farm Butchers). They take locally reared meat and turn into stuff that we can buy for dinner. Also on the foodie side of things, we’ve got home-based cake-bakers like Madiapple Cupcakes, Apley Castle Cakes and Yeaman’s Bakehouse, and Mukaase in Queen’s Street makes bottles its own recipe jerk chicken sauces.
- We have the Wrekin Brewery in Market Street, where you can drink a pint right outside the building it’s made in – and they’ve just gone into gin production as well. A micro-brewery AND a gin distillery – there aren’t many Shropshire streets that can boast one of each.
- At David Lloyd Jewellers, you can buy jewellery designed by master goldsmith Edward Lloyd. Next door at Tink’s Treasures, you can make your own bead jewellery, and next door again, Nick Nack Crafts houses a host of locally-made craft and jewellery gifts.
- House of Evie turns out unique illustrations, the Belfrey Pottery is home to professional ceramicist and artist Sharon Griffin as well as a whole family of spare-time potters, and the Wrekin Arts Photographic Club hosts competitions that attract entrants from across the UK and further afield.
- Most unusual of all, Wellington is home to a professional puppet-maker called Jo, and just north of the town at Long Lane, a carriage-maker named Phillip.
So – a professionally-designed printed guide to these makers and others will be one output from the project. There will also be an online version, hosted on a brand new Wellington website, which could look something like this (which is just my amateur’s mock-up)…
2. ‘History-Makers’ Mural Trail
The second element of our project will see the creation of around ten murals to be installed in a series of ‘false windows’ around the centre of the town. We’ll be approaching property owners and businesses with appropriate spaces on the sides of their premises – a bricked-in recess, or a gap where a window could realistically go. These murals, painted by professional mural artist Paula Woof, will depict characters from Wellington’s making past – craftspeople, creatives and manufacturers from throughout the town’s history.
Some possible sites for our painted windows?
Imagine a medieval horn-worker smiling out at you from the 14th Century cottage where we know he would have lived and worked (on Walker Street); or 17th Century bell-founder Mr Clibury giving you a wave on Church Street. Look up and you might see 18th Century artists, a 19th Century brewer or a 20th Century toy-maker. There are lots of people we could feature, so it’ll be difficult to choose, but we’ll be asking people for their suggestions. Our friends at Wellington Local Agenda 21 and the History Group will hopefully be able to help us with that process.
Examples of painted windows in other towns & cities
Will this mural trail radically impact on Wellington’s future prosperity? I don’t suppose so, and certainly not on its own. But it’s one way we can help to inject some character and creativity into the streetscape – one way to make the experience of being in our town more fun, more interesting, something which lifts people’s spirits. And we hope this attention on buildings kick-starts a bigger facelift – shopfronts repaired, paint-jobs undertaken, signs replaced.
There’s no magic bullet for any town trying to succeed in a changing world, and Wellington isn’t any different. But there are tools we need to pick up and use – our history, our buildings, our small businesses which offer something a bit special or a bit different, and the clubs and activities which make our town more than a set of commercial transactions. Through the Makers’ Town Project, we want to use these tools in a way that starts to get attention and build momentum. We believe that from those ancient craftsmen to our modern-day micro-brewers and potters, there’s a story to tell which isn’t just about the past. In the telling of it and the celebrating of it, we can all help to write the next chapter – so let’s make it a good one.
Great idea, really looking forward to seeing the results. Have reblogged this post, please let me know if this is inappropriate
Fantastic concept. Superb article as ever!
Great idea – hopefully there will be a ‘Wrekin Giant’ on one of the murals!!!
What a really great idea -just what Wellington needs !
I’ve said for a long time that ‘we’ cannot compete with Telford Town Centre on a shop for shop basis and what we need is to make the most of what we have.
Ideas like this as stated aren’t a magic bullet however getting pride back in our town and encouraging shop owners to keep their buildings smart and maintained is a very good start.
Well done to all those who have been involved in this and continuing projects.
Its TinksTreasures not Tink’s Treasures and I don’t just sell beads…I run weekly classes and work shop’s, along with my Handmade jewellery and gifts aswell as stocking Disney Couture range and Silver pieces.
This looks a good project, and will need to be premoted well to attract people in.
We’ll make sure we take out that erroneous apostrophe, Pam. We’re certainly aware of the workshops – that’s what we were referring to in the article, and a good example of getting people involved in making activities things themselves. This project is all about the making aspect of what happens in the town, so before we put the guide together we’ll be asking businesses to tell us what they do that fits the bill.
An interesting art project which if carried out well will improve the image of the town and well done to all concerned. However, there seems to be a ‘romantic’ vision of Wellington which is light years away from reality. The town is in a very poor state with the market the ‘only attraction’ for shoppers and visitors. Sadly the town is deteriorating at a rapid rate with the continuing growth of pizza/kebab takeaways (there are now 5 within 100yrds), charity shops and bookies – there is not a single decent restaurant for an evening meal, no bookshop, no bakery, no hotel, no cinema/evening entertainment, no deli,no museum/art gallery etc etc. Sorry to be negative, but Wellington needs a ‘major’ regeneration project to save it and this lovely art project will in my view do nothing to attract new investment or businesses. Unfortunately I can’t see this happening, as the Telford and Wrekin Council are only interested in Southwater/Telford Shopping Centre.
Thanks for the comment, Sally. I agree with most of that, and I don’t think those of us behind this project are under any illusions about the mountain that Wellington has to climb. I suppose I’d argue that our approach is to be positive rather than ‘romantic’ – we’re not ignorant of the rubbish stuff, and we’ve been writing against take-away planning applications, poor shop front designs etc for several year now (with some impact). But we all have a choice – we can make ourselves grumpy and frustrated about all the things that don’t work and aren’t happening, or we can talk about the good stuff and hope to wake people up to the potential of the town. There are certainly those in Wellington who think that the current offer is wonderful and misrepresented – and that parking is the only issue! I’m certainly not one of them.
I despair at the lack of all those things you listed – but I’m not really up for the career change which I’d need to make to open that bakery / bookshop / deli etc – and nor is the money being made available to invest in that major regeneration you’ve talked about. So in the meantime, we could be despondent, or we can do what is possible – things like this art project. As I said in the article, this alone will not radically change things in terms of attracting investment – this is just about trying to at least change how people feel as they walk around the town, so that they’re smiling and looking up rather than feeling miserable.
Councils have made mistakes and missed opportunities in Wellington over many years, sure, but the towns I see around the country which really work have not relied on big council regeneration schemes (though they help) – they’ve been driven by local people with an appetite for making things happen (Transition Towns in Totnes, for instance). When the old library buildings were vacant a few years ago, some of us wanted to see them turned into a museum and cultural space – and with enough pressure on the council, I think they would have listened, as they owned the building. But not enough people were interested enough to make the case. The only place we have seen that public will really come alive is in the early phase of the Clifton campaign – it’s just a shame that the financial challenge here has been SO big that energetic individuals and 30k of contributions hasn’t been enough (so far, at least).
So – if enough of us do enough small things, then maybe the baker will think ‘this is the town for me’, or the group of friends who would love to have a bookshop in town say ‘let’s have a go’, or the town/borough councils could find a way to get Mythstories Museum into Wellington (they want to relocate – see other articles on this website). It’s all achievable, but nothing great is easy 🙂
Such a shame to read more negative comments about Wellington, you can buy freshly baked independent bread from the market, try doing that at Telford town centre!As for an evening meal, there is the Taj Mahal, one of the best restaurants for miles, and there are at least three hotels to stay at and also eat at some of them
For evening entertainment a lot of the local pubs put on music, quizzes, etc.and local groups meet , also for many things you would find in a deli, the two Polish shops in town are brilliant,and Morrison’s stock an awful lot of fresh items also
The library is a splendid building and a lively community hub, not just for books, but also for meetings,childrens events and used as a venue for the literary festival
I can’t see the problem with charity shops, I may be biased as I volunteer at one, but we raise a great deal of money and DO attract visitors to town, I have spoken to many who have come just to do this. I don’t see anyone complaining about Shrewsbury, have you walked around there lately?
I cannot agree with your comments about the town being in “a poor state” and “detiorating”. We have new cafés and shops opening,sure, Wellington will never be a major shopping centre, but that is the way of the world and yes,we have takeaways and bookies, but can you name me somewhere that doesn’t?
As chair of Wellington Local Agenda 21 and a member of the Town Council Promotions and Literary Festival committees I do not have a romantic view of our town but a realistic one, where we develop our identity, celebrate our difference from shopping malls, and try and do what we can for our town. Don’t apologize for our town,join those trying to help!
In that, I commend Wellington H2A for their work,and wholeheartedly ask people to support this new project and I look forward with great interest to working with them in the future