Friday, 16 December 2011

Thought for the Day: Listen Up Mary

As a girl with frizzy curly hair who's' always yearned for a chic, elegant bob I'm a bit jealous of Mary Portas' hair.  Although her approach is not everyone's cup of tea, I  like her directness and was particularly taken with her series where she made over a charity shop, transforming it from useless junk heap that almost certainly would have smelt of damp and stale urine  to a lovely place that looked like it just oozed the potential treasures to tempt on each visit.  For those of you who live in, or are holidaying in South Devon, pop into the Oxfam shop in Totnes.  It's right out of this mould and is a joy to behold.

I see Mary has written a report about rejuvenating the High Street   I'm getting some of her ideas like making it easier for people to set up stalls, advocating measures to stop landlords and banks keeping properties empty and making the environment safe and attractive.  But when I heard her talking on the radio she used the examples of town centre gyms and creches.  Hmmm!  I'm not so sure that these features are what would reel me in  but each to their own.  However, I've produced my own wish list based what I like here in Devon and further afield.

  • Lovely stalls selling a vast range of stuff.  Locally grown veg,  a good fish van, worldwide delicacies,  street food, second hand goods, crafts..... I'm thinking of those wonderful  packed markets that I visit in Brittany and the panier market in Tavistock that I've newly discovered.
  • A range of retail units including high street names, independents with both new and secondhand goods.  Surely something could be done with financial incentives to ensure that towns attract a mix of traders.
  • Art installations - preferably those that change frequently.  Like the brilliant pigs (and lions) that have, in the past been displayed around the streets of Bath, that became a draw themselves encouraging visitors to the city.
  • Places of worship and contemplation.
  • Imaginative uses of greenery and flowers which might include kitsch municipal planting, sensory gardens, green spaces to sit and relax,  hidden oases of calm.....
  • Street entertainment and regular events during both day and evening hours. 
  • Wonderful comprehensive libraries, art and community centres and museums providing community events and courses, free internet etc, etc.  Around Devon, the Flavel Centre in Dartmouth and the Watermark in Ivybridge are good examples.
  • A mixture of places to eat  and drink that appeal to all tastes and budgets. That includes decent old style 'caffs'.  Jackson's behind the fishmongers of the same name in Newton Abbot is a brilliant example.
  • A decent post office, advice and support centres, local police stations, GPs surgeries and other primary care providers.  Who was the numpty who decided that all the mental health teams in Newton Abbot should be based on an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere?
  • Water features which incorporate features in which children can paddle and play.   And why not put playgrounds in the midst of pedestrianised areas?
  • Living accommodation (preferably with balconies) above shops so that urban spaces don't empty after dark. 
  • Town trails, cycling routes and self guided walking tours.
  • Day care centres, schools and residential homes right in the thick of things so that all the community have access to these spaces.
Does anywhere come near my idyll? I'd be interested to know!


  1. That sounds so ideal and fun! =)

  2. I adore Dartmouth. All the little shops and the gallerys. I wish a gallery or a shop would let people have their wedding receptions in their space over there. It would be my dream.

    A trip down the dart, see the castle, and maybe some seals. bob back along, alight the boat and then into an art gallery for some drinks and some nibbles. What a do that would be.

    Totnes is where I would love to live. Unfortunately we are priced out of the housing in Devon. I grew up their, have unbelievable memories from there. More people need to go to Devon on holidays. more little shops could stay open and inject some money and life back down there. Cornwall is uber expensive for a holiday now.

    It would also help if they did markets on different days in different towns in the are. Newton on a saturday, I dunno say friday in Brixham, buy your fish from the dock side, sunday if people want to buy in say Torquay or Paignton. in the pedestianised zones.

    Yes you really have got my mind racing now.

    Excellent post.

    Now off to read some of your older posts!