Life In: Urmston, Manchester, by Carla

We invited Carla Speight, a photographer, writer and PR to tell us about some Cool Locals in her neck of the woods. Carla chose businesses trying to create a ‘new normal’ in the leafy suburb of Urmston in Manchester. Over to Carla. Editorial note: this was written after #lockdown1 finished and sadly we are now, in November 2020, in national #lockdown2:

Local Economy Heroes

Two business owners in Urmston have come together to arrange a pop-up market aimed at bringing attention to the independent businesses in the local area. Mark Rackham, of the Barking Dog Pub and Gemma Marshal, of Gem’s Delicious Treats, have come up with the idea of hosting a weekly pop-up market. It’s designed to inspire the residents in the area to shop local and to continue to support local business. It’s held on the soon to be constructed M41 Market site on Railway Road and has already received a great response from the community, as Gemma pointed out. “Saturday was a huge success and it was super to see so many people enjoying the event. We really hope more people will come out and show their support over the next three weeks.”

Mark explained that this weekly event has a clear safety plan with a focus on building up the local economy again. “We followed Government guidelines closely in the development of the market and are confident that the format works well to ensure everyone can enjoy the event fully without any concerns about overcrowding or personal space. We really hope that these events enable local traders to get back up and running again in a safe and well-managed open-air environment.” They have worked closely with Trafford Council to ensure the entire event is Covid compliant and safe for all visitors and staff. The numbers in and out are carefully monitored to ensure that the event is able to enjoy the event safely. The event is already a hit with locals and the organisers are hoping it will encourage the Urmston community to return to local business in the future. More details can be found on their Facebook page.

Dancing the Lockdown Away

Lockdown has been tricky for many to feel like they could connect with others from a distance. This has had detrimental effects on the mental health of so many people all over the UK. But throughout the lockdown we have seen some wonderful people doing thoughtful and amazing things to inspire people to keep going. Karen Green of Urmston’s K & K Dance Academy has been one of the inspirations that we could all learn from.
Throughout the whole of the lockdown, Karen couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. Her love of dance and years of experience meant that she couldn’t just leave her dancing shoes in the cupboard. In fact, she encouraged her entire street to dust off their Sunday best and take to their front gardens at 2pm every week for a dance lesson. This proved a hit with her neighbours and on social media too.

Alongside the growing popularity of dancing on your doorstep, Karen has embraced technology and turned to teaching her students online. Despite the lockdown rules, Karen refused to allow this to stop her students from accessing their lessons and has used Zoom to keep their lessons going and keep their spirits up. She’s also been actively encouraging beginners to join in and learn to dance too. For more information about what Karen and the K & K Dance Academy are doing, and to view the truly uplifting videos of dancing on your doorstep, go to the K & K Facebook page. Do also check out this video.

It’s Important to Talk

Early on in the first lockdown, Sarah Steinhöfel from the Smart Bear, knew how vital something as simple as a conversation with like-minded people, could be to help ease mental health issues. Sarah is the owner of the Hive Mind Company, and she hosts a Facebook group dedicated to local independent business owners, and her weekly online chats have been a lifesaver for those who have had their livelihoods taken off them by the government rules.

Each week Sarah has created a theme and set up online sessions to tackle specific issues business owners have faced with the ever-changing lockdown rules. Her efforts have helped several Urmston-based business owners overcome the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that has been imposed on them with the economic uncertainty they face. Alongside her weekly chats, she has created monthly catch-ups that have provided a further opportunity for the Hive Mind Group members to get together and discuss worries. Plus she regularly posts motivational images and opportunities for the members to promote themselves or engage with the theme of the posts in the group.

Despite continuing to work, Sarah has taken time to encourage the wellbeing of local business owners and motivate them to embrace the time they have in lockdown. She’s helped them to not only come up with innovative ways of adapting their businesses but also encouraged her members to take the time to look after their own wellbeing too.
Find out more about Sarah’s inspirational work on The Hive Mind Company Facebook page here.

The Local Milk Man Brings More Than Milk and Orange Juice

Urmston-based Creamline was established in 1945. For several years they have employed the local milkman, who traditionally brings milk and orange juice. Over recent years they noticed that the older community residents would benefit from a few essentials such as eggs, milk, etc, and have been introducing and expanding this service for a while.
The lockdown has created so many more vulnerable people, there have been 2.2 million people restricted to shielding in their homes. They probably didn’t expect the local milkman to become a lifeline, but Creamline has ensured that this community wasn’t left without.
Creamline’s expanded range, beyond the daily essentials of milk, orange juice, bread, eggs, etc, is called the Best of Local. They offer locally sourced delights from butchers, bakers, deli’s, greengrocer, and fishmongers; a far cry from what we are used to. This range of products has not only helped the clinically vulnerable, but it has also helped support the local economy too. Their daily essentials range has also been expanded to include baby essentials, home and garden products, cupboard essentials, and drinks and snacks. It’s safe to say that your local milkman has embraced the lockdown and become an essential lifeline to many. For more information on the products available from Creamline visit their website.

Shocal Suppports Local

A locally designed delivery App, Shocal, set up in 2019, has seen an unprecedented rise in demand by both local businesses and residents of the Urmston community. When toilet rolls vanished from the shelves of the supermarkets, Shocal could deliver them within the hour. The panic buying saga that stripped the shops of bare essentials meant that the demand for the innovative shopping experience provided by Shocal grew quickly.
The app was created by Urmston-based neighbours, Max Thorley, a web developer for the NHS, and Ashley Warrington, an independent florist. They wanted to help independent business to compete with delivery giants and their ever-increasing commission rates. The ethos for their App is that there’s fair pay for delivery drivers and minimal commission paid to them, to enable small businesses to thrive in the Urmston community. Dentist to the stars, Lance Knight came on board to help make the idea of Shocal become a reality. Little did they know, his experience in scaling up business, became a vital lifeline that the Shocal app would be grateful for a year later.
The pandemic has forced many businesses to cease trading, and left their futures uncertain. Shocal has worked hard to save a huge number of businesses from going under. Lance explained, “We pay our drivers double what the big boys do. All the people that work for us now were laid off or self-employed and had no work. They’ve all now got enough money to feed and clothe their family and keep a roof over their head. We charge less than half the commission that the big players do. Supermarkets have such buying power that they dictate the buying price for farmers rather than the other way around. We’re not looking at bleeding a retailer dry. We’re doing the opposite. The whole reason that we set this up is to promote and boost their businesses.”

The most notable difference in the Shocal app is that it has the function available to order from multiple retailers in one delivery. If you fancy one kind of food for dinner and your partner or the kids want something else, along side a bottle of wine from one place and craft beer from another, you are able to do that all in one delivery.

Apps like Shocal have made it easy for residents of Urmston to self-isolate, with its many businesses available, this App leaves you with very little reason to leave the house. The drivers are all covid safe, wearing masks and gloves and delivering socially distanced. You can also order for your loved ones who are vulnerable, and their personable approach offers the opportunity to send deliveries and check up on loved ones.
To join the Shocal movement, you can order from their website and find links to download the app there too.

Life In: Leicester Square is Alright

By Darren Weale, Founder, Cool Local, Bromley, 25th August 2020

Life In is a new Cool Local series of blog posts about local life and cool things around the UK.

Leicester Square is  Alright. No, with this being written after a visit for a day in August 2020, things generally aren’t alright. The Brexit turmoil, the pandemic turmoil, the exams turmoil, and somewhat sidelined environmental turmoil. Let’s face it, there is a lot of unsettling stuff going on, with the pandemic having the most profound immediate impact across society. So much so that the term the ‘new normal’ has been coined for how society is re-configuring itself day to day.

I had to meet someone in Leicester Square this week. Owing to the nature of my work, I had successfully avoided trips to central London since lockdown began in March. The ‘mask on the train’, the social distance people avoidance, the seeing the busy places and the happy people lifeless and dull, as I feel is happening all too often, put me off.

This week’s trip, though, was surprisingly encouraging. A train trip to Charing Cross with a mask blowing my own warm breath up my face wasn’t good and I gave up reading to sleep on the journey if I could. I walked the short distance to Leicester Square and felt really nervous around people, as I have been when seeing people maskless in shops or getting carelessly close. Just doing what was normal when it isn’t and fearing the worse was horrid. But what did I encounter? Much of the old normal, in fact, including…

First up, musician Rob Falsini, a man with a very good voice, busking and doing a fine rendition of a U2’s ‘Blood Red Sky’, with a hopeful lyric – ‘We will begin again’. Then he decided to end his set with a Radiohead number, so I moved on before their sheer depressingness ate into my slightly revived mood. It revived a great deal more due to then meeting two homeless people.

The smiles of Mickey (Big Issue seller, left, above, in front of an open cinema) and Chris (right) were beaming their way around the square as they sought buyers for the magazines and for people to be nice to, and one of them was me. Mickey said that they are ‘brothers who look out for each other’ and they were simply a reminder of just how nice people can be, whatever their station in life. It made me reflect on one of the very few upsides of the pandemic, that the government has shaken its magic money tree to accommodate homeless people in a way and with a speed it never managed before, and long may it continue.

I passed a man sharing the word of God, another old Leicester Square favourite, and a French bulldog who was observing ‘Bones’, a puppet performing to music and talking to passers by. As Bones’ puppeteer said, “I built my own theatre. You’ve got to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves.” One song was, thankfully, Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’, a one-song Radiohead antidote. I moved on to another reminder that the Leicester Square/Soho area is a melting pot of the affluent and the poor and dispossessed.

The Catholic Notre Dame De France church was the source of the queue (the longest in the square) of homeless taking food and drink from a small premises between a closed gentleman’s club and an also closed ‘Just Chips’ outlet. It was good to see the help being offered and received in the heart of London, and I stopped for a quick chat with a masked helper.

The Moon Under Water pub was taking its safety seriously, but my first visit to a pub in months felt as uncomfortable as I feared. That part of the new normal – calculating and accepting risk and enjoying things unhindered – is hard. However, the trip ended on a high with a few good things at the end.

The sight of a giant panda entertaining people in Chinatown was welcome, and so too was finding the Wong Kei, a contender for my new favourite Chinese restaurant after the New World nearby closed despite my personal dining support, maintained for over twenty-five years. The Wonky, as my lunch partner referred to it, was formerly described as the rudest restaurant in London. That was pre-2014. I don’t think it has changed that much, but the food is good.

No, the new normal isn’t much fun, but compared to how it might have been, Leicester Square is Alright.

 

Cool at the Croft

We like the Croft Tea Room in St Mary’s Cray in Orpington. It is a small, neat, and tasty place for food and drink. We don’t make empty recommendations. So locally we’ve been to would criticise. The (now closed) Bakery on Orpington High Street for its glacially slow service. The café at Carlton Parade in Orpington whose toast used to be limp, thin and terrible. Not now, from what we saw through a window the other day. The Croft Tea Room does, however, provide good meals and really good home made cakes you can see going in and out of the oven. It is also a much-needed community hub in an area that needs one, and is run as a Community Interest Company with quite a few volunteers, young and old. It’s limited by its small size, it isn’t on a road with massive footfall, but it is a good place, friendly, and, well, good. If you’re within reach, give it a try. Facebook: www.facebook.com/CroftTearoom

Their Trip Advisor reviews make good reading, at time of writing: www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g1637597-d4182449-Reviews-Croft_Tearoom-Bromley_Greater_London_England.html

Cool Bromley and social media on the street

Ebony & Ivory Interiors, who recently opened in Locksbottom

We talk about and share uplifting stories from across the UK, to cheer people up. We’re now also focussing on one location in particular, Bromley in Kent, to identify the active social media users ‘on the street’ – schools and other public bodies, charities, shops, businesses, and others. The idea is that if more people in Bromley are aware of who to connect to locally, they’ll connect more and be aware of what is going on, what to do, and what to see. That will benefit the people who have the social media we’re sharing. Here are some examples of active local social media users we’re sharing, or who we soon will:

  • Businesses – Teepol Products, based in Orpington, manufacturers of cleaning products since 1938
  • Charities – Bromley Borough Foodbank
  • Entertainment – Bromley Youth Music Trust presentations
  • Food and drink – the new rather good (we’ve been there a few times) place to eat in Orpington – A.MANO coffee bar and kitchen
  • Places of worship – Bromley Reform Synagogue
  • Schools – Bishop Justus Church of England School
  • Services – Anderson Veterinary, Orpington and other locations
  • Shops – Pet Perfection in Green Street Green and Petts Wood
  • Social media hubs – Bromley Gossip on Facebook

Where can you read about this?

Our more permanent introduction to what we’re doing in Bromley is here.

Our local ‘on the street’ Bromley page is here.

Our introduction to some of the Bromley social media hubs locally like Orpington Gossip (Facebook, over 37,000 followers) is here.

A number of Bromley events are also appearing on our Calendar, here.