Beating heart of Baldock

Connor Wells on the SX Studio Stage on Baldock High Street

Connor Wells on the SX Studio Stage on Baldock High Street - Credit: Archant

Baldock is increasingly becoming a cultural hub in the county, with food, music, art, craft, comedy, sport and charity events throughout the year. James Scott looks ahead to the highlights of 2015

Tasty treats at Baldock Day

Tasty treats at Baldock Day - Credit: Archant

The team tasked with promoting business and increasing footfall in Baldock is determined to buck the trend among commercially declining market towns by providing a cultural calendar that is bursting at the seams.

Take a stroll down the town’s High Street and you will see the Save Rural Baldock posters that adorn cafe windows, newsagents and the museum – proof of the enterprising and passionate nature of those living here. The posters refer to North Herts District Council’s Local Plan which could see 3,414 houses built in Baldock over the next 16 years – a move that would almost double the small town’s population.

Take in the architecture as you walk up the street and you will see Baldock is is largely Georgian in style, butit has had a Charter Market for over 800 years, which the Baldock Town Partnership took control of in 2009.This year, the partnership made the decision to strengthen the market by adding stalls and moving them from the car park on the High Street to the pavement outside the White Lion pub – freeing up 40 parking spaces in the process.

‘We are constantly trying to increase the trader numbers to the market and we are bucking the trend with its growth down the High Street,’ BTP director James Lunnon explained.Our monthly Baldock Farmers’ and Craft Market on the second Saturday of each month from March to October feature many different traders that attract good footfall from Baldock and the surrounding villages.’

Nathan Penlington at Fireside Festival

Nathan Penlington at Fireside Festival - Credit: Archant

Over the course of this year medieval, Frenchand Italian markets will be held in the town – as well as a two-day Christmas bonanza featuring a fun fair.

The partnership is proud of the High Street, with pride coming to a head onthe second Saturday in July for Baldock Day – an annual celebration of the town’s focal point.

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Lunnon added,’We have events such as the Big Lunch on the High Street in June when about 500 residents sit down for a fantastic meal and enjoy the afternoon with great food and music put on by our restaurants and cafes.’

OnShrove Tuesday, businesses and members of the public flock to the street to take part in competitive, but spirited, pancake flipping races.

Runners at the start line of the Baldock Beast Half Marathon. Picture by Inner-Visions Photography

Runners at the start line of the Baldock Beast Half Marathon. Picture by Inner-Visions Photography - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire’s biggest free music festival – Balstock – has grown year-on-year since operating from a shed at the Engine Pub, and promises to be bigger than ever when it rocks into town from September 11-13.Last year’s festival saw 200 bands playing at venues across the town, with all money raised filling the coffers of Up on Downs, a charity that supports children with Down’s Syndrome.

Baldock Festival will also be looking to reach all parts of the community and keep the ale flowing for its 33rd event from May 1-17.

A boon for the town last November was the popularity of Fireside Festival – an 11-day celebration of storytelling through folk music, plays and even puppetry.

Despite being in its infancy the festival has seen appearances from writer David Bramwell, Mercury music award nominee Sam Lee, and Ruby Wax.The festival has injected new energy into the Old Town Hall, which has excelled in its new role as the Arts and Heritage Centre with a variety of groups setting their stalls out there.

Thriving clubs such as the Art Group, Creative Writing Group, the Baldock Museum and Local History Society and the Sing Aloud Choir will all be making their voices heard once again this year.

In terms of art, Baldock goes toe to toe with the Heritage Foundation-backed offerings of neighbouring town Letchworth.

Gallery 1066 has established itself as one of the finest art establishments in North Hertfordshire since opening less than four years ago.Sister gallery, London Row, opened in February last year, and is aimingensure that world-renowned artists of the calibre of Fabian Perez and Todd White continue to exhibit their work in Baldock this year.The gallery’s bespoke jewellery, furniture and glassware have swelled an art scene which includes the ceramic wonders at Blackgates Gallery and Studio.

A healthy dose of Last Minute Comedy is provided each month at the Orange Tree on Norton Road, as Paul B Edwards and his merry band of circuit stand-ups light up Thursday evenings.

There are delectable dining options aplenty in the town, including no less than five Indian restaurants and the much-loved Italian, Il Forno.

Recent developments have seen The George put back to proper use as a fine pub and restaurant, while Zeus Hotel and Restaurant has been transformed into the immaculate Templars Carvery and Bar.

And with all the food and drink on offer, it’s worth getting in shape by attempting to tame the Baldock Beast half marathon in February – if you dare.