Warwickshire market town Alcester’s thriving High Street is to receive a £1,000 cash boost after being crowned one of the UK’s best in a national competition. Judges in this year’s Great British High Street competition ranked it among the country’s top 30 high streets.
The town was praised for its bustling Artisan Market, regular street parties and plethora of independent stores. Organisers of the awards named it one of the nation’s ‘Rising Stars’.
Alcester, which beat off competition from a record 230 entrants to land a place in the top 30 list, is believed to be the smallest market town to be named a ‘Rising Star’ in the awards. While it did not make the final 21 High Streets battling for the top honour, town leaders are still overjoyed at national recognition. They hope the national honour will attract further visitors to Alcester and boost local businesses.
High Streets Minister Marcus Jones said: “We had a record amount of high-quality entries to this year’s competition –testament to the pride local people have and brilliant work being done to boost Britain’s high streets.
“The local high street is the life and soul of many towns, villages and cities across the country and these awards are a great opportunity to not only celebrate those that are the best of the best, but also to help others learn their valuable tips for success.”
Commenting on the town’s success Sarah Bassett, bid leader and Chairman of Alcester Chamber of Trade and Commerce added: “We’re immensely proud of being recognised as a High Street on the up and we hope this will be a real boost for Alcester. The work that went into securing the Great British High Street Bid by Alcester Community Trust and Alcester Chamber of Trade and Commerce was vast and this award is testament to the strength and passion of our Community. We’ll use this Rising Star award to spur us on and to win next year’s competition.”
The Great British High Street Competition 2015 – sponsored by Boots, Costa, Post Office, Marks and Spencer and Tesco – is now in its second year and is one of a number of initiatives to help champion high streets as the cornerstones of the community.
Alcester’s first market day took place on the high street in 1274 but by the early 1870s trading had ceased. However after a 143-year wait, the market returned to the town in April when the first Artisan Market took place. Championing local crafts and produce, it is now a thriving high street fixture and runs on the third Sunday of every month. The market offers a very broad range of choice – from goat’s milk soap to hand painted furniture. Each month a stall is donated to a local charity in return for voluntary assistance manning barriers and picking up litter.
The market was the brainchild of the Alcester Community Trust, chaired by Lennox Cumberbatch. They were supported by the Alcester Chamber of Trade & Commerce.
On its launch day in April, more than 5,000 visitors flocked to the market from across the West Midlands. Carl Buxton, landlord of The Turks Head, said: “Sunday is always busy for us but the introduction of the Artisan market has doubled our trade. It allows us to trade outside the front of the pub due to the High Street being closed and gives the whole town a different feel. It’s very much a success story.”
Local councillor Alison Brown said: “Alcester High Street has everything a market town needs. It has great shops, friendly business owners, a great community feel and lots of different events throughout the year.
“The Artisan Market draws in people from lots of different places and regulars return all the time. Who could wish for a better success story? The council congratulates everyone who makes our town special.”