What the locals really think of Garstang
- Credit: Archant
Rebekka O’Grady visits Garstang to ask the locals what they love about their town
GARSTANG hit the headlines by becoming the world’s first Fair Trade town in 2000. In more recent times it continues to punch well above its weight by hosting a plethora of events throughout the year. And the secret is simple - community spirit.
No one knowas that better than the town’s mayor, Alan Cornthwaite, who has had the pleasure of wearing the livery collar not once, but twice – the first time decades ago.
‘I was town councillor and then mayor 27 years ago, but I had to step down due to work commitments. It’s fantastic to be back again, to be able to get out and meet the people around the town and talk to those who make Garstang a community.’
Once you take away the neighbouring parishes, it is surprisingly compact. But it is far from being sleepy hollow with diary of engagements, events, festivals, shows and community groups running all year round.
‘Some people don’t always appreciate or realise all that goes on here, all the volunteering groups that put so much effort into things,’ said Alan. ‘If it weren’t for people like that, the town wouldn’t be as vibrant.
‘Garstang still has a thriving high street and a market on a Thursday, and I think the community we have here does contribute to their continued success. In regards to the future, I don’t think many residents want things to change. We seem to have hit the right balance in Garstang – so it would be great to maintain that.’
John Whalley and Hillary Burns, Garstang Arts Centre
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When you walk into Garstang Arts Centre on a Thursday morning and see it packed to the brim with people enjoying a homemade cake and cup of tea, others passing through the rooms to view the art, you really get a sense of what this place means to local people .
For vice chairman of the Garstang and District Arts Society, John Whalley, it’s been a part of his life for 20 years. He explains that the 17-plus groups that exist here bring all manner of people from different backgrounds together, and that the centre provides them with a space to do that.
‘It’s a really integral part of Garstang. The calendar is fully booked; we have everything from calligraphy, wine circle and folk dancing. The newest group is ukulele, which has really taken off.’
Hillary Burns, the curator of the centre, said that it’s also a good meeting space for those who otherwise wouldn’t get out.
‘It’s important that it is here as a place to socialise. Garstang is fighting to retain its personality and the arts centre is a big part of that.’ www.garstangartssociety.org.uk
Ian Piper, Pipers
‘When I decided to open the restaurant, it seemed that Garstang was the right place at the right time,’ explained head chef Ian Piper, who opened Pipers with his wife Shelley ten years ago this month.
‘Although there’s been ups and downs within the town, things are still looking positive and it seems to be busier – which is great for business and encourages more people to visit.’
The restaurant’s decade of success is certainly reflected in its thriving customer base and, most recently, its contribution led to a win at the Wyre Business awards.
Pipers was recognised with the Made in Wyre award, for its use of local produce and its contribution to supporting and training local people.
‘Garstang is just a nice place to have a business. It’s a friendly market town with a great feel about it,’ said Ian.
Gwendoline Dunn, Garstang Deli Café
Although Gwendoline Dunn had run cafes and other businesses around Preston and the Lake District, there was no better feeling than to open in her hometown of Garstang.
‘I was born here, and lived here until I was 14. I just wanted to return to my roots,’ said Gwen, who runs the Garstang Deli Café with daughter Jane Robinson and grandson, Ryan Dunn.
‘It’s very much a family business and all three of us cook. It is fabulous to have a business here, the town is very friendly.
There’s always something going on in the community, plenty of events encouraging visitors.’
All the food is homemade, and Gwen said that all the dishes are their specialities as they only cook what they like to eat: ‘So we know that it’s good!’
Jessica Pedley and Damien Carr, Carr’s Jewellers
For nearly 30 years Damien Carr has been hand making beautiful jewellery in Garstang’s town centre.
The jeweller, who runs Carr’s Jewellers with his sister Jessica Pedley, creates stunning pieces using traditional techniques combined with modern technology.
‘I like to think if people are after an excellent friendly service, they think of us,’ he said.
We’ve been established here since 1820 and developed to where we are today. Garstang is still a great place to live, work and visit.
‘There’s a nice variety of businesses within the town, with fabulous local people who do a lot of community things. It’s this community aspect that makes Garstang a unique and special place.’
Emma Bailie, Aged in Oak
Another independent business in the town is Aged in Oak, which specialises in wines, ales and spirits.
Owned by Emma Bailie and her partner Alex Buxton, the store opened in 2012 after their passion for all things wine inspired them to set up a shop.
‘We chose Garstang because of the high street. We thought that an independent wine merchant would fit in well. If people don’t continue to utilise independents shops they will close down.
‘We are grateful to the local people here who do practise what they preach and shop local on the high street rather than at the supermarkets. What many people don’t realise is that we aren’t more expensive, and what we do offer is a great one-to-one customer service and a variety of things.’
With over 250 lines to choose from, you won’t be short of things to try and with the added bonus of the store’s wine bar with state-of-the-art wine dispensing machine, you can enjoy a glass or two before purchasing a bottle.
Andrew Noblett, Market stall trader
‘I’m one of the longest serving people on Garstang market,’ said Andrew, who will have been manning his stand in the town for 41 years in May. The weekly outdoor market, which runs each Thursday down the High Street, dates back to the early 1300s and the days of Edward II. The Market Cross at the top of the High Street is one of the most familiar landmarks in the area. Here, you can purchase everything from a new hat confectionary, clothing and household goods.
‘Nearly all the shops have changed since I’ve been here but trade is still pretty decent. Other markets don’t do that well but people still come and support you around here. I like the people of Garstang - it’s what has kept me coming back.’