Pauline has a Christmas week working with her fellow volunteers

Pauline has a busy Christmas week with her volunteer crew members getting things happening for the town.

Change to our market towns is happening fast but often the consequences go unseen until it’s too late. Sturminster is no different to many market towns in this regard, neither better or worse off. That said is does have some unique challenges all its own. Our banks have closed, the ATM’s in the town are not enough to meet demand, there is nowhere nearby to buy petrol, and all the while the internet is a fierce competitor for our local retailers.

But rather than sit around and wait for the future to bring what it will there are many groups that are rallying to support the Town. Pauline is in one of these groups of volunteers who have got together to do what they can to ensure the Town is economically strong and ready for the challenges it faces. Here she records a remarkable week of effort and progress below;

The Sturminster Newton Literary Festival

The Sturminster Newton Literary Festival planned for 15th June 2019 will celebrate our links with three local authors Hardy, Barnes and Young. We have been meeting for a few months and things are beginning to feel very positive.

1. The idea of a Hardy, Barnes and Young show in the Stour Hall that evening is taking shape thanks to Brian Caddy and Tim Laycock of the Hardy players troupe.
2. We are also beginning to plan events during the day around the town. Anyone interested in poetry readings or simply appearing inVictorian dress of rural folk for the day? Lets make it really feel like a day with a diference.
3. We think we shall be able to publish The Literary Walking Trail around the town in leaflet form like the town walks.
4. We have several offers of help, not least with writing bids for funding and our little group has acquired some very valuable skilled members.
5. After our last meet and within an hour of me telling her about our branding need local design artist, Janet Swiss, had devised the first draft of a logo for the Festival to use…. a simple quill pen.
If we are successful we will add a new date to the Sturminster calendar in addition to the Boogie Woogie and Cheese festivals. It will create a new tourism base for marketing the town and provide both a great day or two out for the local community and tourist alike as well as a persisting reason for visiting the town. Another way to drive our economic fortunes.

A revived Chamber of Commerce

We have a vibrant business community at Butts Pond, an active retailer group in the town centre and soon (we hope) a new set of businesses to support the town based at Rolls Mill. They need a voice if they are to make their full contribution to the economic life of the Town. To that end I have been working with Chris Spackman and Mike Woods trying to put together a revived Chamber of Trade and Commerce for Sturminster Newton and Area. Thanks to the efforts of Jacqui Wragg (remember her?) in getting businesses to join up we already have 50 paid up members and we can already plan a launch event on the evening of the 31st January.

The main aims and purpose of the Chamber of Commerce are to create the circumstances in which member businesses can thrive by:
1. Promoting the interests of its members through the influence of others, especially regulatory bodies such as local government
2. Providing educational advice and guidance that allows its various members to thrive in the circumstances in which they find themselves
3. Acting as a focal point for other organisations to be able to enter into dialog and or negotiation with the collective local business community.
If the businesses can thrive then the rest of the town should benefit in all sorts of ways, not least through increased higher value-added employment.

My council duties did have a part to play in the week

I attended the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board which oversees the work of the County Council. As a board they are planning an enquiry day in January to examine the services provided to children and families with special educational needs – in which parents and carers have key role(s). I sat on the Pan-Dorset Community Safety and Criminal Justice Board which oversees the strategies for combating, amongst other things, domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and modern day slavery. I was also part of a panel considering an appeal against dismissal of a staff member.

Saturday 1st was the Sturminster Newton Christmas Event where my key role was to put the Christmas covers over the car parking meters as we have free parking in town that day.

I think the bad weather leading up to the day put several people off coming into the centre and put off producers for the Anonymous Travelling Market. Again, a sign of the negative impact of changes in our town. However, the Community Chest with its free mince pies and mulled apple juice managed its best day of trading this year! Can I encourage you to shop there? They are trading profitably and will give back those profits to the Town for projects that support all our community efforts. The Craft Market did well and so did most of the shops. We had three choirs supporting us… the William Barnes and the Knighton House School Choirs in Station Road and Eva’s choir in The Exchange. Father Christmas drew the crowds all afternoon and led the lantern parade of children with the lanterns they had made earlier. The day ended with Father Christmas switching on the Christmas Tree lights which he dedicated to our super late Town Crier Kevin Knapp. Children were also encouraged to follow the Elfin Trail around town looking for specific items in the Christmas Windows. The lovely Christmas Windows will be on display all month around town so come and have a look. Thank you to all those who took part in making this such a good weekend.

I played hookey from the Christmas Event for part of the day when I went up to Pulham to meet residents and eat cake at their coffee morning. I then went on to a meeting of the Dorset Youth Council in Buckland Newton to talk about being a Councillor…. they are in the process of encouraging young people to put their name forward as potential Dorset Members of the National Youth Parliament next year.

The week ended with the Santa Stride organised along the Trailway by Rotary to raise money for the Air Ambulance. I think I have raised around £140 in sponsorship for my pathetic three miles….. must get into training for next year.