National Town Centre Independence Day – yes please!
Lynda Brown - 22 November 2012
Don’t you just love it when you go to an event and it fires you up? That’s what happened to me last Saturday when I went to Frome’s first Town Centre Independence Day, and I’ve been buzzing ever since. Like many small towns, Frome (next best thing to a Hovis ad) has been battling against proposals for yet another giant town centre supermarket. The local pressure group, Keep Frome Local, organized the day to bring together 200 like minded campaigners from all over the UK to share their experiences, learn from each other, and discuss the bigger picture.
I’m ashamed to admit that ‘the bigger picture’ is something I hadn’t really thought about. For me, it’s very simple. Supermarkets, along with retail parks (the term is chilling: forget a walk in the park, these days we shop our way to happiness), are public enemies number one. Both rip the heart out of communities and de-skill, de-humanise and de-socialise us in so many ways it's frightening.
But listening made me understand that this, actually, is not what it’s really about. It’s not just about being anti-supermarket – in fact, it’s not necessarily about being anti-supermarket at all – or even preserving town centres the way we preserve ancient buildings. What is important is whether we care enough about our local town centres and communities to want to shape them in a sustainable, diverse, and vibrant way and make them work for us, rather than just make money that flows out of the community and into the global coffers of yet another supermarket or High Street chain. That is about balance: do we want to roll over and become brainwashed consumer nerds, or become citizens?; that is about possibilities: pop up businesses, town centres becoming places where we can go do things as well as buy things; and it’s about resilience, both economically and socially.
Someone asked the question what will be the drivers for this brave new sustainable local world that we all instinctively hunger for? Everyone agrees it has to be a ground up not top down process. The answer, therefore, surely, has to be ourselves? Statistics show that we only need to marginally change our shopping habits away from supermarkets to make a significant difference, which doesn’t seem too much a hardship to me.
It just so happens, I’m writing this in my local café, The Kitchen, in Minchinhampton. Everyone flocks here, and it’s already home from home. It’s not just the friendly service and delicious home made soups and bakes that makes this a natural community hub. Walk through the door and you are immediately enveloped by an infectious (in a good way) human warmth - something Costa wouldn’t have a clue about and a retail park can never sell you. Conclusion? To paraphrase another glib phrase: use it, don’t lose it.
To find out more about the Keep Frome Local campaign email email@example.com; or follow the campaign on Facebook or Twitter
Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.
23 November 2012 13:05
What a great day. I especially enjoyed the session on online campaigning by 38 Degrees. Supermarkets also go hand-in-hand with intensive farming system. Can't have one without the other...Lovely to see you, Lynda, in Frome! (I lived there for ten years in the 1980s...). Indeed a wonderful community-minded town.
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