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What the locals really think of Altrincham

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 October 2015 | UPDATED: 21:14 21 October 2015

Members of Altrincham Society of Arts (from the left); Ros Barton,  Chris Robertshaw, Margaret Norris, Adrian Homersham, Sue Brereton, Vivien Edge, Gillian French, Elizabeth Jones (Secretary) and David Reid (Chairman)

Members of Altrincham Society of Arts (from the left); Ros Barton, Chris Robertshaw, Margaret Norris, Adrian Homersham, Sue Brereton, Vivien Edge, Gillian French, Elizabeth Jones (Secretary) and David Reid (Chairman)

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We meet the people flying the flag for Altrincham. Emma Mayoh reports

Margaret Norris has been a member of the Altrincham Society of Arts for 50yearsMargaret Norris has been a member of the Altrincham Society of Arts for 50years

Altrincham has undergone a bit of a transformation. This busy town has upped the ante in recent years with a raft of improvements designed to transform it into a 21st century destination. There is no denying that developments like the new Market House have opened it up to a whole new type of visitor.

But there is plenty to celebrate about its history and what has made it the place it is. Everything from the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse, established in 1941 and the Military Hospital, in nearby Dunham Massey, all play a part in the town’s DNA.

There is one group who are an important part of its history. Altrincham Society of Artists has been running for more than 75 years. It has a mix of professional and amateur artists who share a studio just outside the town centre. Between them they create works in all types of media and styles.

Chairman, David Reid, joined the group in 2000 after he retired. He had only painted a little before he applied to become a member.

He said: ‘I was very nervous about applying, not only because I hadn’t been painting long, but also because it had a very good reputation and I really wanted to be a part of it.

‘It is a really lovely art group. The talent we have in the group is incredible. We are very lucky to have such a great group of people.’

Members of Altrincham Society of Arts Chris Robertshaw, Sue Brereton and Adrian HomershamMembers of Altrincham Society of Arts Chris Robertshaw, Sue Brereton and Adrian Homersham

This month the group will stage their Autumn Exhibition at the Altrincham College of Arts. The event, being held from October 25th-30th, gives the 175 members an opportunity to showcase their work. It is one of two exhibitions they hold each year.

The talents of the group are undeniable. But what also shines through is the community spirit and the camaraderie members share. It is something that has become integral to the group. Margaret Norris, has been a part of the group for 49 Years.

She said: ‘Coming here really helps building your confidence as an artist. But it has also been really good for meeting new people. I get a lot of enjoyment out of being a part of the society.

‘It’s not just about painting; it’s about making friends and spending together. I love the society because there are so many nice people that are a part of it. It is wonderful.’

Finding a new voice

Emma ClarkeEmma Clarke

It’s a lucky thing Emma Clarke lived in a secluded area of Altrincham. If she didn’t, her neighbours might think she had hundreds of people living in her house. But the writer, broadcaster and stand up comedienne who has written plays, sketches said her family often hear a variety of voices and accents coming from her home studio. She has voiced everything from the Mind the Gap announcements on the London Underground as well as being the voice of the Manchester United podcasts.

But she is now airing her voice in a different way through her new book. Virtually Me is aimed at helping children become more web and social media savvy as well as encouraging them to confront the good and bad of the internet. The 45-year-old mum-of-two decided to write it after her teenage daughter, Ellie, asked about having a social media profile.

The book includes activities, scenarios and moral dilemmas to encourage young people to think about their internet use, including what should be made public and what should be kept private, how to keep yourself safe online, how to handle awkward situations and how to use the internet in creative and inspiring ways.

Emma said: ‘Internet safety is such a huge issue for young people and their parents at the moment, and there are plenty of advice books for adults, but, until now, none for children.

‘Young people are very savvy. Tell them what to do and they will often rebel against it, but allow them to reach their own conclusions and their maturity may surprise you. The book asks many questions and can be the catalyst for conversations that might otherwise be difficult to start.

‘But we mustn’t run away with the idea that the internet is bad, it’s mostly good, is a great place to research for homework and learn about the world as well as to keep in touch with your friends.’

Siobhan Harkin of Hummingbird Flowers and Pamela MacAuley at Vintage AngelSiobhan Harkin of Hummingbird Flowers and Pamela MacAuley at Vintage Angel

Designs with vintage

It all started from making cards for friends. But now designer and businesswoman Pamela Macauley has turned her hobby into a business. The 55-year-old collects vintage postcards and transforms them into handmade greeting cards. She also makes display package, party embellishments and gifts as well as hand-painted shabby chic furniture at her shop Vintage Angel, where she also sells other vintage inspired items from other suppliers.

She said: ‘It is something I get a lot of enjoyment out of and I’m lucky that I’ve been able to turn something I love into a business. I’m also pleased to be in Altrincham. It is ideal for me.

‘It is a town that really feels like it is going somewhere now and finally recovering from a few years when it wasn’t doing very well.’

Pamela, originally from Toronto but now living in Bowdon, also shares the shop space with friend and florist Siobhan Harkin of Hummingbird Flowers. The pair met when they set up their businesses at Traders Outlet in the town. They were keen to strike out on their own and now have their own shop in Moss Lane.

Del Lowe, owner of Riddles BarDel Lowe, owner of Riddles Bar

Riddle me this

Speakeasy bars came into prominence in the United States during Prohibition. Hidden away behind secret doors and in basements and cellar, they were set up to get around the laws brought in that banned the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol. While you won’t find an alcohol ban in Altrincham, you will find a speakeasy bar. Del Lowe and partner Emma Rostaing set up Riddles Bar in the Market Quarter in a bid to bring a quality drinking experience to the town.

Del, 31, who has several years experience in the industry, said: ‘Back in the days of prohibition people just wanted alcohol and they didn’t care about the quality. But then people starting mixing cocktails to disguise the taste of the alcohol.

‘It is a bit different for us now. We’ve modelled ourselves on that style of 1920s bar but we serve the best types of alcohol mixed with the best ingredients to create amazing cocktails. I tell people I’m a cocktail sherpa, leading people through the complicated world of cocktails.

‘We want to be known for doing the best drinks but it’s not just about that. When we first thought about doing it we knew we were striving to make a bar that we would want to go into. We wanted to provide really good quality drinks but also be passionate about the product and the service. We really hope we’ve achieved that. We love Altrincham so for us it was the natural choice for us to open here.’

Fiz Festival organiser, Janet HarrisonFiz Festival organiser, Janet Harrison

Cheers to success

Champagne corks will be popping in Altrincham next month as the first Fizz Festival comes to the town. The event, taking place on November 14th and 15th at Altrincham Town Hall, will be a wine fair dedicated to lovers of Prosecco, Cava, English sparkling wine and Champagne. There will be producers, importers and specialist retailers from around the world. There will also be live music, cocktail mixing classes and talks from prominent wine personalities including Kate Goodman, from Didsbury, who featured on the BBC’s Food and Drink programme with Michel Roux Jr. She also has a wine shop in Altrincham’s Market House. Visitors will be able to try, buy and learn more about celebration wines.

Fizz Festival is being organised by Janet Harrison, who runs Cracking Wine. She has spent years visiting wine regions and meeting producers before setting up her company earlier this year.

She said: ‘My husband and I love fizz and it made sense to turn it into a business. Talking to other people in the industry, they all said there wasn’t any type of serious showcase up in the North and I wanted to try and change that.

‘This will be the inaugural festival but I’m hoping there will be many more. There will be a fantastic festival atmosphere and what better place than Cheshire to have a fizz festival.’

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