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Tracy Spiers visits Winchcombe

PUBLISHED: 15:12 03 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:24 03 August 2013

Winchcombe's almshouses

Winchcombe's almshouses

Archant

Tracy Spiers experiences community life, Winchcombe style

Winchcombe's Old Town HallWinchcombe's Old Town Hall

An old gramophone starts playing its nostalgic song from beneath the arches of Winchcombe Town Hall. Some people who’ve been looking a little fed up, look at each other, smile and suddenly start dancing. The atmosphere is transformed; their laughter and animated conversations reminiscing younger days on the dance floor, fill the air. It is one simple act, yet within minutes a sense of community is created. It’s part of Celia’s Mini Flea-Market, a new venture in Winchcombe initiated by Celia Perrin every first and third Saturday. A relatively new resident, she was determined to get stuck into community life.

“We love the place. We have seen other towns go down in the recession and we wanted to play our part in ensuring we keep Winchcombe alive. It is a very buoyant community,” admits Celia, who also runs Wychwood Trading Company, which restores furniture and runs chalk-painting workshops.

“This mini-market has already generated a lot of interest. I put the gramophone on periodically and have sold some records as a result. I put it on to cheer up a group of people and I couldn’t believe it when they got up and danced. It was great fun.”

This is not the only sound unique to this town. As I approach Winchcombe, with its superb selection of individual shops, pubs and restaurants, mixture of stone and half-timbered cottages and very own castle; I tune into Radio Winchcombe on 107.1FM. The station has just celebrated its first birthday of broadcasting 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s an excellent promoter and will help events like this month’s Winchcombe Country Show (www.winchcombeshow.org.uk) on August 26.

Tracy Spiers with Martin Williams from Food FanaticsTracy Spiers with Martin Williams from Food Fanatics

Art is another important feature in Winchcombe life. Jane Smoczynski, owner of Winds of Change Gallery is hosting Midsummer Madness, July 13–August 10, featuring the work of potter Mary-Rose Young, decorative painter Katie B Morgan and mosaic artist Erica Bibbings. Her delightful gallery is always worth popping into any time of the year.

And award-winning botanical artist Helen Campbell has just started running one-day or two-day informative and relaxed art courses for those wishing to learn to paint bold botanical fruit and flowers from her home studio in Winchcombe, with its stunning countryside views. (www.helencampbellart.co.uk)

“There is always something going on in Winchcombe. It has got a really wonderful community spirit. It is a town but it has a village feel and there are a lot of people gravitating towards the town and those who are new are all keen to get involved in the community,” says Jane.

While I’m in town, I chat to some more volunteers who have set up stalls outside Winchcombe Methodist Church to raise money for church funds and local charities. They hold a Saturday morning market once a month. Retired minister, Rev Kathy Rhodes tells me the town’s social groups are thriving and she praises her community, which “is very warm and has a real heart.”

WinchcombeWinchcombe

While I talk to Angela Theobald, who owns Emporium, a treasure trove of gifts, kitchen and home ware, children’s toys and books, with husband David; a customer comes in to thank her for the extra trouble she has taken, and hands her a bottle of wine.

Martin Williams, owner of Food Fanatics and member of Winchcombe Business Forum, believes the town’s USP is its self-sufficiency in terms of its high calibre of independent and individual shops.

“You will notice not one shop is empty. For the size of the town, there is a lot here. It’s down to the fact everyone living and working here is so positive. There are a lot of strong people wanting to give back and that is what makes it so vibrant,” he exclaims.

This is town-with-village-heart is where customers and shop owners have a special rapport. It is now permeating through the air – whether on 107.1FM or from a faithful gramophone. I go home listening to Radio Winchcombe until I lose signal, then find myself humming Flanagan And Allen’s Underneath the Arches… I wonder why?

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