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What the locals really think of Congleton

PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 June 2015 | UPDATED: 17:50 16 February 2016

Little Street

Little Street


It takes more than just a few people to make a town a great place to live. Luckily, Congleton has many individuals and organisations dedicated to that purpose. Emma Mayoh reports

Artist Petra Lea at The Electric Picture House produced this collage from old copies of Cheshire Life Artist Petra Lea at The Electric Picture House produced this collage from old copies of Cheshire Life

You would struggle to beat a town like Congleton. A busy town centre, thriving arts scene and food community and more local groups than you can imagine are all huge strings to its bow. Add to that the stunning countryside that surrounds it, beautiful parks and green spaces and an events calendar brimming with top things to do and see and you start to see what a special place it is.

But a lively town like this doesn’t happen by itself. Congleton’s success can be credited to the many people who drive their home town forward. This is certainly true of one group of people, mostly volunteers, who organise the hugely successful Congleton Food and Drink Festival. The one day event, which takes place on June 14th, attracts thousands of people.

This year’s It will have more than 100 stalls of local produce, global street food, an omelette challenge, an ale trail a Green Scene area with produce from local allotments, apple juice and cider produced from local apples and made by Congleton Sustainability Group as well as eco and charity stalls. Running alongside the event will be an On Yer Bike project, aimed at encouraging local people to cycle to the festival.

The event is organised by Congleton Community Projects, an organisation first established more than 20 years ago to ensure the town centre flourished. It still does that today. It is headed by manager Jo Money.

She said: ‘We arrange events that will enhance our community so that people feel pride in where they live and want to see an improvement of it. I think the food and drink festival does that really well.

‘It really is a fantastic day and do many people turn out to enjoy it. We’re expecting about 15,000 people this year. There are ten of us who organise it with help from many more volunteers on the day. It would be impossible to do without their dedication.’’

A first this year will be the addition of a Festival Fringe which will take place at the Electric Picture House. Here there will be a market, a craft stall, workshops and entertainment.

Jo continued: ‘We have been going for seven years now and each year we try and do something new. This will be a fantastic addition to the festival and also make people more aware of what a great place the Electric Picture House is. I’m really excited to see it all come together. It’s a great thing for Congleton and it’s a real thrill seeing everyone enjoy themselves.

The Electric Picture House is a haven for artists. The building has previously been everything from an ambulance station, bike shop, garage and a dance hall – it was even used as a cannabis factory.

Today, the artist-led co-operative’s purpose is for much better pursuits. It was set up to encourage people to participate in the arts. They regularly run workshops, exhibitions and community projects as well as music and theatre performances. There is also a lovely garden and Mike Nixon, also an artist and inventor, has set up beehives and will be running workshops on beekeeping.

There are several studios and creatives in the area are clamouring for a place – there has been a waiting list since before it was opened. Petra Lea, an abstract and collage artist, is one of the people responsible for establishing the centre. She has loved art since being at school and has been a working artist for many years.

She said: ‘Things have gone very well for the Electric Picture House. We have around 12 exhibitions a year, a lot of theatre performances and music. We have a lot of fun and people like to visit us here.

‘It is great that Congleton has something like this, a creative place for people to enjoy. There is an active art community here and it is growing. It is an exciting time.’

Rachel Egglestone-Evans at Alexandra Court Hotel Rachel Egglestone-Evans at Alexandra Court Hotel

A fine vintage

Rachel Egglestone-Evans could choose anywhere to live and work. As editor of internationally renowned Vintage Life magazine and managing director of Dragoon Publishing, it would be easy to set up offices in London. But for the 34-year-old, there is no place better than Congleton.

Her efforts have been recognised as her company was awarded Business of the Year at the Network She Foundation Awards and she has also been shortlisted for the North West Young Professionals Young Marketing and Media Pro Award. Vintage Life is also sold internationally including at Harrods and Selfridges.

Rachel, also a leading historical re-enactor, was the first female trustee and director of The Battlefields Trust, and has travelled extensively in connection with this passion.

But it has not always been plane sailing for Rachel, who lives with husband and antiques expert, Jon Egglestone. At just five-years-old she was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve. Then aged 20 she became very ill with endocarditis, a rare and potentially fatal type of heart infection. She has had life-saving heart surgery twice. But her experiences have driven her to succeed.

She said: ‘I love my life and love what I have done. There have been times when I have been very ill. But it has taught me that you have to get out there and take every opportunity in life.

‘I’m always thinking what’s next. I don’t want to stand still. I love being here in Congleton. I can’t think of anywhere better to be. It is a lovely place with such beautiful countryside very nearby. I love it.’

Former Olympic athletes Robbie and Ann Brightwell who are promoting Congleton's Every Step Counts campaign  throughout July Former Olympic athletes Robbie and Ann Brightwell who are promoting Congleton's Every Step Counts campaign throughout July

Best foot forward

Former Olympic aces Robbie and Ann Packer-Brightwell wowed athletics fans when they brought home medals from the Olympic Games in Tokyo1964. They both had successful careers in track and field and are well known for their achievements.

The track and field stars, who are married and live in Congleton, are putting their best feet forward again to support a new campaign in the town to improve health and lifestyle in the community.

Robbie and Ann, as well as other civic dignitaries including Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire David Biggs and representative from every corner of the Congleton community, are spearheading the new Every Step Counts fitness project.

The campaign, organised by Team Congleton, is encouraging people to walk 25 – 30 minutes every day in a bid to reduce the human and financial costs of sedentary lifestyles.

Ann, who is leading the campaign, said: ‘Our initiative is being driven by reports from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges that exercise is the new ‘wonder drug’. We need to follow that prescription.

‘The challenge we face is enormous. Our sedentary lifestyle is precipitating a national health crisis. The mass medication policy of giving people pills to continue their unhealthy lifestyle is financially ruinous and causing over 100, 000 deaths a year. Our current generation may even be on track to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.’

Head teachers, doctors and other leading professionals will complete a walk in this month but during July, Team Congleton want people to join the Step 5,000 challenge or groups of up to ten to do a Lands End to John O’Groats equivalent challenge, covering 900 miles over four weeks. There will also be several organised walks for people to participate in throughout July.
For more information see www.congleton-tc.gov.uk









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