What the locals really think of Malpas
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 January 2016 | UPDATED: 14:01 08 March 2017
A popular choir, a barber with an air of mystery and Czechs at the Castle. Rebekka O'Grady visits Malpas to find out more
No phone number, no website… The only way to actually know about My Father’s Moustache is to walk past it. However, this mysterious barber shop in Malpas has no need for communication as the booking sheet speaks for itself. Since opening in 2011, this traditional barber has always been busy, says owner Jamie Grant. ‘I’m not really computer illiterate, but I’ve never really had to set a website or anything up as there has been no need. At some points we’ve had two hour queues for gentlemen wanting to come in.’
Located on the High Street, the barber opened My Father’s Moustache after seeing an opportunity to run his own one man show. Jamie and his wife, Toni, had just returned from living in Spain and wanted to something different. ‘I’ve always been a barber and have worked within bigger companies so decided to do it on my own. I originally started around the corner before expanding into have three ladies working with me and then moving here.’
The shop is traditional yet stylish. Vanity Fair ‘Spy’ posters line the walls, as well as Jamie’s own collection of over 200 barber blades. Customers can wait on the leather sofa in the ‘gentleman’s lounge’ with a cup of coffee while they read the papers or a magazine. If you’re after a bit of theatre while you’re waiting, of a Saturday you can receive a complimentary shoeshine.
‘A lot of the furniture we have in here is from Spain,’ said Jamie, who after living with in-laws after their move back to the UK, now lives in Cholmondeley with Toni and their two children Atticus, 4, and Catalina, 2. ‘The riding boots and jackets in the window display were given to me by customers to help decorate the shop.’
In an unusual twist, the barber shop originally included an antiques shop in the next room. However as it became too complicated to run, in autumn 2015 Jamie switched it to a ladies salon, The Cutting Room, which is proving to be popular.
So, did his father actually have a moustache? ‘The name has no meaning,’ laughed Jamie. ‘My wife just found the artwork, it made me smile and I stuck with it.’
Another Malpas family that wanted to do it for themselves are the Oakdens. They own Oakdens, a bistro and bar located in the Old Fire Station. ‘The hardest thing when we took over was to rebrand the place into what we wanted, with our ideas,’ said Jack Oakden, 31, who works at Oakdens with his mother, Maureen, and his father and chef, John, 67.
‘In 2015 we closed for two to three weeks to completely redecorate the place. It’s more of an evening destination but still has a relaxed daytime atmosphere where you can just come for a coffee.’
From traditional dishes such as fish and chips through to specials like black pudding and apple sausages, Oakdens British and Mediterranean menu changes all the time to meet with what is seasonal and keep things fresh.
Jack’s siblings, Chloe, 34, Gwen, 33 and Michael, 25, also lend a hand at Oakdens when they’re back home in Malpas, including youngest brother Andrew, 21, who has been busy making biscuit and cakes. ‘It really is a family effort. When my dad, who is an ex-writer for Brookside and Hollyoaks, retired for fourth time and decided he wanted to open his own restaurant we all got involved to help.’
For over 40 years, sweet sounds have been coming out of Malpas thanks to the town’s ladies choir. The choir was initially started in 1970 by the WI, with the group regularly taking part in WI competitions and singing at many events in chapels and churches in the area. Although the WI in Malpas ended in 1995, the choir continued to go from strength to strength and became known as Malpas Ladies Choir.
Made up of a group of 30 ladies and under the direction of accomplished musical director Stephen Roberts, the choir rehearse every Tuesday evening at the High Street Church and regularly perform at local events and festivals around Cheshire.
Some of the original founding members of the choir were still a part of the group until summer 2015, but as many were in their eighties or even nineties the last ones have recently decided to leave.
‘We have all ages and abilities and are a friendly bunch who welcomes new members,’ said Lorna Kettle, a member of the choir and a piano and singing teacher. ‘I became a part of the choir two years ago as I just wanted somewhere to sing. I’ve made a lot of friends; it’s got a lovely local feel.’
The drama and excitement of the theatre has been brought to young people of Malpas through Minerva Arts. The youth theatre project, funded by the Aviva Community Fund, started as a pilot in April 2015 after the town was chosen due to the area’s limited existing access to arts for young people.
‘It is a rural location, meaning that in many cases, young people have to travel considerable distances to access quality extra-curricular provision,’ said Hollie Wimpenny, who helped set up the pilot project and is now the youth theatre leader. The pilot project, which lasted for six weeks, gave the local young people a chance to try out what Minerva is all about.
‘It was hugely successful and enabled young people aged between eight and 13 to develop new performance skills, learn about contemporary performance, increase their confidence and then share what they created with their friends and family.’
Minerva Youth Theatre already runs two successful groups for young people in Chester, and wanted to take that message out to more young people across the Cheshire West and Chester borough.
From the Malpas pilot success, a permanent group started in the town in September. The group meet every Thursday evening from 6pm till 8pm at Malpas Young Person Centre during term-time. ‘The youth theatre has been going from strength to strength since it started and I am very excited to see what the young people will come up with next.’