A look ahead to the annual Knutsford Royal May Day parade
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 April 2019
Visitors to Knutsford generally walk along town centre pavements in single file. That's thanks to Lady Jane Stanley who stipulated, when she paid for pavements in the 18th century that they must be narrow enough to avoid the scandalous sight of a man and woman walking together side by side.
It doesn’t stop tens of thousands lining the streets though to watch the annual Knutsford Royal May Day parade, even though her ladyship would be shocked! Apart from a break during World War Two, the parade has taken place every year since 1864, gaining the prefix, Royal when the then Prince and Princess of Wales allowed them to do so.
‘We’re pretty proud of that and, as far as I know, we’re the only May Day Festival that can call itself Royal,’ says Eileen Podmore, who helps to organise the parade and the 500 children it involves.
‘Touch wood, everything always goes smoothly: even the year when we discovered that the Maypole had gone missing. We found another and that wasn’t an easy task,’ laughs Eileen who certainly wouldn’t allow a drop or two of rain to dampen the day.
The event costs over £35,000 to run and this year supporters include the local Beer Festival and traders from the Market Hall, a building with a fair amount of heritage itself.
It’s home to Morgan Edwards, a fine wine and spirit company run by Edward Speakman and Morgan Ward, two 27-year-olds who met while studying at university and whose customers range from local celebrities to those who just want something to relax with at the end of a long week.
‘Our wines are sourced from smaller vineyards we have visited, so we are confident when we recommend them to our customers,’ says Edward who will also match wines to dinner party menus.
‘We also provide tasting events but one aspect of our business that has really ballooned is offering advice on wines and spirits as investments. Official figures state that £10,000 spent on fine whisky over the last ten years would have seen an increase of 582%: ports and champagnes are gaining ground and best of all, you don’t need to spend a fortune to get started,’ explains Morgan who spends his spare time restoring and judging vintage cars.
‘The only thing that could make my job better is to tour the vineyards in one of those!’
James Broad, 23 and Haydn Morris, 25, are another pair of friends who decided that going into business together would be a great idea.
‘Why not! We grew up in Plumley together and we know exactly when to speak our mind and, just as importantly, when to remain silent,’ laughs James who, with Haydn, have founded Intique, a brand new way of selling antique and vintage furnishings.
It provides an online platform that allows dealers to form their own digital shop front, developing a personal relationship with clients by dealing with them directly.
‘It’s a mixture of old fashioned shopping – knowing who you’re dealing with – and cutting edge technology and, between us, we had great knowledge of both. I began as a porter in a local auction house, before taking to the rostrum and Hayden is a whizz kid with digital design. He has a Master’s degree in Robotics and worked with Ferrari and Lamborghini,’ explains James who is delighted that dealers from Penzance to Edinburgh have joined Intique, creating a real buzz around it in its first year of trading.
Intique isn’t the only Knutsford business to attract interest from all over the UK. Less than a mile away, in her delightful bespoke Plumley studio, is Sue Morley, who runs Creative Stitchers and who has won international prizes for her dressmaking.
‘Well, I have been sewing since I was a girl – I come from a long line of seamstresses – but the BBC programme ‘The Sewing Bee’ has made sewing the new baking,’ laughs Sue, who, as a professional sewer, can’t take part on the show but is bravely dealing with her disappointment at not meeting host, Patrick Grant, by hoping that one of her clients might.
‘It’s very possible, although I also run classes for complete newbies as well,’ says Sue.
Skill taught cover everything from simple dressmaking to Roman blinds. Two of the most popular are the Chanel Jacket Class and Clone a Bra!
‘Off the peg Chanel jackets cost a fortune and bespoke ones are rare and prohibitively costly, only the fortunate few can afford them but here we make our own and, yes, they get lots of envious glances.
‘Mind you, anything will always look better if you wear a good bra but, too often, when women succeed in finding the holy grail of a great bra, they wear it until it reluctantly gives up the ghost. So, they bring it along, we apply forensics – take it apart, see what makes it tick and help them to clone it in as many colours as they like. Cheshire ladies love these workshops – it’s no wonder we’re among the best dressed in the country,’ smiles Sue.
The Tatton Singers are always smartly dressed: dinner jackets for the chaps and a pop of blue over formal black for the ladies.
‘Well, we have to have an outfit that suits everyone and, as our singers range from 18 to 70, it fits the bill perfectly, explains Rosemary Beeson, Secretary for the 75 strong choir which includes dentists, lawyers, teachers, doctors and housewives. ‘Anyone really who wants to sing, although we do have friendly, relaxed auditions.’
The choir – with its professional orchestras and soloists – is a regular fixture at Cheshire venues, including Tatton Hall, East Cheshire Hospice and, of course, the Knutsford Town Carol Service.
‘We also have four concerts a year, March, June, November and December and of course, our regular singing days – our next one is in May – when we’re joined by singers from other choirs. It really is huge fun, both for us and the audience. Yes, sore throats can be an occupational hazard but we’re a hardy lot; honey and lemon and maybe a little extra something can help but the show always goes on,’ smiles Rosemary.
Wendy Arshamian would agree with that. Wendy runs The Fuchsia School of Dance, a lovely, happy, space which runs classes mainly in ballet and tap; named after the graceful ‘ballerina’ variety of fuchsia.
‘Dance is a wonderful thing to do and we’ve made sure that the space is perfect for us to teach and for students to enjoy,’ says Wendy who, with her highly qualified staff, was once a member of the Iranian National Ballet Company and who, as a Royal Academy of Dance Examiner, has travelled all over the world.
‘Our students – some of whom have gone on to become professional dancers – don’t have to take exams though; we want everyone to enjoy the experience, even our baby ballet dancers who bring us so much joy. It’s hard not to smile when teaching them and so we always do,’ says Wendy, who believes that dance instils confidence, poise and, as the French say, a certain je ne sais quoi; qualities that Knutsford – with its narrow pavements – has in spades!