The passion and determination of locals gets things done in Congleton
PUBLISHED: 19:43 11 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:20 20 February 2013
The passion and determination of locals gets things done in this town
We are lucky to have a county filled with passionate people. This is no truer than in Congleton. Not only has it recently just retained its title of Best Kept Town at the Cheshire Community Pride Awards, it is also a place with a throng of individuals and community groups working to make the town the best it can be.
At the heart of this are plans to improve some of the towns public spaces. There are 12 key projects that will be completed over the next few years. The first is the development of Festival Square which will include repaving, planting beds and improvements to pedestrianised areas to open the space up.
It is hoped the area will be used more by locals and for open-air community events. Other projects, which all form part of the Congleton Public Realm Strategy, include improvements to Rood Hill and Mountbatten Way.
Jackie MacArthur, town centre manager, said: So much work has been done over the past few years to constantly improve Congleton. This is the next step. We have a lovely town but do not want to rest on our laurels.
Now, it is about encouraging people to venture a bit further through the town. All of these projects will encourage a better flow through the town.
With Festival Square, we want it to be a space that is LIFEused much more for many different things. There are exciting plans ahead.
One important local group is Congleton Community Projects. This group is responsible for founding and organising several popular events, including the Congleton Food and Drink Festival, and also provides help to many local organisations.
The group, founded almost 20 years ago by businesswomen Jane Allen and Jo King, is now headed by a manager, Jo Money. The 60-year-old is in the throes of planning the Christmas lights switch-on and Grand Lantern Parade to be held on November 23rd.
Jo said: This is a really successful event and the people of Congleton really support it. The town is brimming with activity.
The businesses open late and there is such a fantastic atmosphere. It is one of the highlights of the year.
There are plans for a new Congleton Arts Festival to be held next July, with Congleton Community Projects playing a large role in it. Although in its infancy, it aims to showcase local peoples talents. An eco festival is planned for the same weekend.
Artists at the Electric Picture House an old cinema converted into several studios are already planning their involvement in both events. The building provides a home for an artists co-operative - everyone from painters to glass artists and sculptors. Many of the group were based in Victoria Mill but decided to strike out on their own. They have cleared out and renovated the building and built the studio space. They intend to renovate derelict land behind the building into a beautiful garden.
Petra Lea, one of the artists in the co-operative said: An arts festival will be great for Congleton because it will bring peoples attention to the many artists we have here in the town.
It was a massive project for us to get this place up and running. It had been a cannabis factory but had been empty for a while. There was no electricity. We have worked hard to make it a great space. Artists from all over the world have and want to exhibit here. We have lots of events planned and we cant wait to do more.
Another busy organisation is the Congleton Sustainability Group. As well as working to help Congleton achieve Transition Town status it got it in 2010 they have arranged several schemes to help the community.
These include Congleton Apple Juice and Congleton Pear Juice, both made using fruit collected locally. They helped establish Congleton Cycle Network.
They are now working on a new pilot scheme. The idea is to encourage residents to live more with the environment in mind and to reduce their carbon footprint.
A new group contributing much to the town is Congleton Food4Free. The group was established to encourage, inspire and educate residents about how food can be grown communally and attractively but also to show how to grow more of their own food.
Blueberries have already been planted in several parts of Congleton. Soon they will be planted in the grounds of all nine primary schools and it is hoped a blueberry trail will be established around the town.
The group has planted Chinese raspberries and strawberries in some locations and members want to plant up other areas to attract bees.
Olga Whitmore, founder of the group, said: We started thinking about it because of our Beartown name. Bears love berries so why shouldnt Congleton? We want to show people how easy it is to grow fruit and take another step towards self-sufficiency.
We have also found that those areas that have been planted up are now treated with more respect. It makes people think of them as a cared-for, loved environment. It encourages even more community spirit and pride in the place we live in.
Patti Pinto is an integral figure in the community. As well as her involvement in Congleton Sustainability Group and Congleton Food4Free, she is an eco schools co-ordinator and an environmental educator.
In this role, she has helped in the project to establish orchards in all the areas schools.
The largest is at St Marys Catholic Primary where there is also a fruit and vegetable garden, woodland, wildlife pond, wildlife meadow and outdoor classroom.
The 56-year-old, a former toxicologist for AstraZeneca, has also established a community orchard at Astbury Mere with ranger Matthew Axford.
She said: Its important to work with young people because they are the ones who will grow up and hopefully live in a sustainable way.
So many people have worked so hard, not only with the Astbury Mere orchard, but all of the inspiring projects that are going on in the town. Im very proud to be a part of many of them and I hope that Im helping to improve things for Congletons future.
Congleton Choral Society has been helping to bring a happy sound to the townsince 1971. This talented group of 70singers have performed at many prestigious local events and are now planningtheir autumn concert.
It will be a performance of Handels Messiah at Congleton Town Hall on November 10th. Nick Sharman, chairman, said: We love performing in the community concerts and we get a lot of support. I love being a part of the society and have been a member for 25 years.
We are very proud to have been going in the town for such a long time. Its very rewarding for all of us.