Why the social scene in Bramhall is thriving
PUBLISHED: 09:03 19 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:03 19 September 2017
this Cheshire village is well connected as Janet Reeder discovers
With a networking site dedicated to bringing people together, a bookshop that takes its customers on outings and a host of great bars and restaurants, you’d have to take drastic measures to become isolated in Bramhall.
In fact, a few years ago, the village was found to be the friendliest in the UK in a Sheffield University study and certainly there is plenty of community spirit about in the buzzing high street.
There are plenty of opportunities to become immersed in the local social scene, one of which is Simply Books on Moss Lane, which over the years has evolved not only as a place to find a good read but also as a venue.
A former charity shop, it is now a thriving cafe and community hub, where you can meet for a coffee, take part in one of several book clubs or even join customers for the annual summer picnic, which this year headed for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Sue Steel and Andrew Cant who bought the bookshop almost 15 years ago are understandably proud of their achievement.
Said Andrew: ‘ The shop makes us something of a destination for Bramhall. A lot of people who come here have heard about us, or they are visitors who have been brought along by a relative which is nice.
Adds Sue: ‘Customer service is the key bit for us. We want more people to come, find us and discover what we do. That’s the way a community survives, if people use the shops.’
The pair certainly create a lively atmosphere when they hold events, often with high profile figures such as Bake Off winner John Whaite who will be launching his new book there in October.
Explains Andrew: ‘It’s buzzy when we have events and the atmosphere is great. Sometimes if we have bigger name we hold our events outside the shop usually in local churches and that way we become involved in the wider community as well.
‘We have several book clubs, host a series of language cafes in Italian and Spanish. We’ve started a baby book club which is doing really well. It’s a great social event for parents too.
A few years ago we started running a community cinema held at the Methodist Hall, Centrepoint, the last Friday of every month and we usually get 100 to 150 people coming to that.’
‘We are always trying to think of the next idea. We can’t stand still and hope people will come to us,’ explains Sue.
‘Obviously the world has changed dramatically since we opened and if people want a cheap book they’ll just go on Amazon but they won’t necessarily know what they’re buying, Between us, we’ve bought every book in the shop so we know exactly what we’ve got.‘
Another person who knows all about bringing people together in Bramhall is Wendy Green, the woman behind the I Love Bramhall website and Moxie Mingle, a business networking group with a difference. It’s a social gathering point for people to informally meet, find potential contacts to work with, share work or stories over a coffee or a glass of wine.
Wendy is also a founder member of the Bramhall Together Trust which organises events such as Bramhall’s Got Talent and Light Up Bramhall.
‘I set up Moxie Mingle five years ago now. I’d moved away from Bramhall, as you do, but got divorced and came back here. I was approached by someone who said to me: “You’re good at organising stuff, we want to get the Bramhall Festival off the ground” and it started from there. In the process of doing that I made lots of business contacts which is how Moxie Mingle began. It’s all about celebrating businesses in the area and offers in one website all the social media groups, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I’m up to almost 10,000 followers on Facebook now.’
As if that didn’t keep her busy Wendy is also involved in is the Big Bramhall Tea party, an annual afternoon party for seniors in the area.
‘When it started we had about 150 attendees and the last time we had 350 – with a few gatecrashers which was funny!’ says Wendy.
‘It’s a really lovely community event and everyone gets involved in helping out, including the schoolchildren at Bramhall High.’
‘I think the thing that makes Bramhall special is that we seem to have a really strong community vibe,’ she continues.
‘All the businesses want to help and support each other. We also have a really interesting cross-section of people living here and it is one of those places where people really do know your name and want to talk to you.
‘You’ve also got everything you need on your doorstep, some really nice stuff - gorgeous clothes shops and fantastic bars and restaurants to go to at night. It’s hard to single them out. Piccolino is great, Ego I’ve discovered recently and was massively impressed by the food, Yardbird is good for lunch, there really is no need to go elsewhere. I hope I help people to realise what is available on their doorstep.
‘It’s so well-connected. A few years ago a survey revealed it was the most well-connected place in the UK. It was a proper university study from the University of Sheffield. It doesn’t surprise me at all. I love it – genuinely.’
Another member of the Bramhall Together Trust is Roger Prydderch of Prydderch Financial Planning Limited off Bramhall Lane South.
‘About three-and-a-half years ago when I opened my business I thought I’d help out as a volunteer and get to know people,’ he says.
‘Part of it was for selfish reasons to get me known and part of it was to do my bit for the community. The Trust is essentially eight people each with a particular job. I’m the chair, we have somebody responsible for publicity, a couple of people run the bar and so on.
‘We don’t get an income but rely on fundraising and sponsorship for the three events we put on through the year, the festival Bramhall’s Got Talent and the Christmas lights switch on.
‘We’ve now made these one day events which has helped us focus more and as a result of that they’ve really improved. Now, as soon as they’ve finished we get people signing up for them straight away.
Bramhall is unique, really. In spite of supermarkets and the internet it is pretty hardy. It is still predominantly independent, small businesses and they are part of the reason why we do the events, to try to bring people to the doorstep.’
Fyona Bassett has her own personal reasons to socialise - she’s a House of Colour and personal style consultant, who is on a mission to make people feel more confident.
Fyona runs regular Colour, Make-Up and Image classes for men and women from her Style Cube in the heart of Bramhall Village.
‘I started doing it in 2009. It’s a fantastic job, not like work at all,’ she says.
‘ People often come to me by word of mouth and for various reasons although my target client is what I call the ‘reluctantly invisible’. I like to work with women who have got to a certain time in their lives, maybe they’ve a special occasion, or have been on a weight loss journey, or their children have grown up and left home and help put them back in focus again. It’s all about giving them confidence.’
Fyona works with both groups and on an individual one-to-one basis, starting out by working out the colours that work for each person and then working out guidelines that people can follow for themselves.
She also works with local businesses on occasional events and on September 27th will be talking trends and colour as part of a fizz evening at local boutique Modiste which will also raise funds for the Macmillan charity.