The sun shone through for the Leamington Food and Drink Festival as a fitting finale to the town’s scorching ‘Summer of Fun’.
Blue skies on the closing day of the weekend showcase of food and drink, now in its 11th year, saw the Royal Pump Room Gardens bursting with foodies and flavour.
The festival lived up to its reputation as one of the country’s best autumn food festivals with a spoilt-for-choice range of exhibitors dishing up tastes from near and far, from local beer, cider and wine to global cannoli, jerk chicken and churros.
A feast of local chefs showed off their culinary skills with demonstrations in the Live Kitchen over the two days – but it was time for the best amateur cooks to shine on Sunday with the the return of Home Cook of the Year.
A record number of entries to the competition, run by Aubrey Allen with festival organisers BID Leamington, made it tough to pick three finalists to go head-to-head in a three-course cook-off in front of crowds at the festival.
And the decisions didn’t get any easier when Sean Hughes, Tim Robbins and Trudie Udell stepped up to the plate to wow the judging panel of Russell Allen, managing director of Aubrey Allen, Clive Fretwell, executive chef at Brasserie Blanc, and Sophie Hyam, Home Cook Winner 2017.
It was Tim, a University Hospital Coventry doctor from Leamington, who was crowned this year’s champion.
Congratulating all three finalists, Sophie said: “The competition was amazing and there were so many different dishes with great flavours and combinations, but Clive, myself and Russell all agreed that the overall winner was Tim.”
Tim said: “I’m a little bit shocked! I was not expecting it by any means but I’m really delighted. It’s been such great fun and I would encourage anyone to enter next year.”
Alison Shaw, project manager at BID Leamington, said: “With the diversity of exhibitors this year, it really has lived up to its reputation as one of the best food festivals around.
“Many of the exhibitors sold out on the first day and had to replenish their supplies overnight which is a great sign of how well it’s gone.
“New for this year was us offering a free drink to anyone travelling to the festival by train and there was a great take-up which was really pleasing.
“It’s topped off what has been a memorable ‘Summer of Fun’ with Leamington Peace Festival, Leamington Carnival, Art in the Park and Warwickshire Pride, and our thanks to all of the volunteers who have helped make them all such a resounding success.”
Much is still to be done before a robust strategy is put in place to cover the temporary loss of one of Leamington town centre’s busiest car parks.
This is the view of BID Leamington, in response to an update from Warwick District Council on its strategy to create enough parking spaces to be in place for the 20-month period of when the 468-space Covent Garden carpark closes to be replaced by a new car park, apartments and local Local Authority headquarters on the site.
The report, which was approved by the Council Executive, follows a very well attended public meeting which was held on the 19th of June. Approximately 150 people, around 60 of which were business owners filled the Spa Centre to question Council Officers on the scheme. Among other things the questions focused on five key questions relating to car park displacement, loss of footfall, timing and future provision set out in the graphic below.
Following the 2.5 hour long meeting it was agreed that further engagement directly with the business community was urgently needed, as there were many questions that remained unanswered. It was also agreed that specialist car parking expertise is engaged to review plans.
One month on, BID Leamington are pleased to see that a number of our suggestions have been agreed in the July 25th, Executive Report. This includes funding towards a communications plan and the engagement of specialist expertise to review the WDC’s car park displacement plans.
The review, being undertaken by a specialist parking consultancy which we helped select, started this week and will look at the impact of the closure of Covent Garden Car Park, what is proposed and recommend further measures to minimise disruption and re-balance footfall in the north of the town centre. We anticipate further recommendations may need to go forward to Officers and Members following this work.
Engagement with Warwick District Council is also ongoing. We have further meetings planned in early August, with a focus on addressing the concerns of businesses in Warwick Street who will be among those impacted by the loss of footfall when the car park closes. There are also calls for a follow-up ‘business meeting’ open to all local businesses to take place when WDC plans are clearer.
We are mindful that the proposed closure date of Covent Garden Car Park of January 2019 is less than six months away and there is still a lot to do. Much of the proposed ‘additional car parking’ needs planning permission to be built or in the case of Station Approach will not be ready until late 2019, so we are seeking reassurances that the Covent Garden Car Park will not be closed until an adequate plan is ready to be delivered.
The importance of this has also been confirmed by recent ‘Institute of Place Management’ (IPM) research which identifies ‘accessibility’ as among the top two criteria impacting high street vitality, the other being ‘footfall’. This means we need to welcome and deliver investment that puts these issues and local business interests at the heart of the conversation.
Image: Covent Garden Car Park Meeting – 19th June, 2018. Key Numbers & Questions.
Prepared by BID Leamington, using figures set out in the Covent Garden Car Park Planning Application (as Approved on 9 Jan 2018) Ref: W17-1700.
A clothing repairs and alterations business has sewn up 20 years of independent trading in Leamington.
Stitches is celebrating two decades in the town centre – and is the first to be recognised in a new initiative by BID Leamington to mark retail milestones.
Husband-and-wife Subhash and Arvinda Gohil, known as ‘Mr and Mrs Stitches’, moved up from London around 12 years ago to take over the shop in Park Street which was originally opened by three of her uncles, the Supeda brothers Naran, Kantilal and Naresh.
The business continued to be a family affair with their son Manesh and daughter Minal growing up behind the counter where they learnt the trade from their parents.
It has expanded over the years and they opened a branch in Banbury seven years ago which is now run by Manesh and his wife Shilpa.
Subhash said: “Originally the shop was run by the three brothers who had been in the tailoring business in Leicester for 40 years. They wanted to go into clothing alterations and visited Leamington and saw the opportunity here.
“At first they opened on Regent Street but were only there six months as Kantilal spotted this shop on Park Street. They ran it together as a family for years until Naran and Kantilal decided to retire. Naresh carried it on and then we took it over about 12 years ago to keep it in the family.”
The family prides itself on its quality, expertise, service and speed which it believes has resulted in a growing loyal customer base with some even known to have travelled from as far as London, Slough, Liverpool and Swindon.
Deborah Callaghan, who lives in Leamington, is one of the most long-standing, and regular, local patrons.
She said: “I have been going to Stitches since it first opened. I often re-design my clothes to get the right fit or to recycle old ones into a new style, and Subhash is able to undertake pretty much any challenge and with a professional finish.”
BID Leamington has presented Stitches with a certificate and window sticker to celebrate its anniversary, and now plans to recognise milestone years of other businesses.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “It’s important to celebrate our businesses that have managed to stay on the high street for so long, particularly when competition is tough for both independents and national chains.
“Stitches is proud to have been independently trading in Leamington for 20 years and we are delighted that it is the first to be recognised in this new initiative to support and promote our town centre business community.”
Subhash added: “We would like to thank all our loyal customers for their support over 20 years.
“We look forward to many more years, with our son Manesh helping us to take the family business further forward and perhaps one day his daughter Nivah, who is not yet two, becoming the fourth generation.”
To mark the anniversary, Stitches is offering customers 20 per cent off repairs and alterations with a minimum spend of £20 at the Leamington store between July 18 and 21, and a celebratory glass of champagne.
PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured, from left to right, are Stephanie Kerr with Subhash and Arvinda Gohil, and Shilpa and Manesh Gohil with their daughter Nivah.
June marks the first month of Royal Leamington Spa’s ‘Summer of Fun’. Until September, the town centre will host a feast of yummy, action-packed community events. If you’re ready to experience summer vibes like never before, make sure to put these dates in your diary!
Kicking it all off on June 16th and 17th was the Leamington Peace Festival! One of the UK’s longest running free festivals. It takes place each year on the weekend before the Summer Solstice, filling the Pump Room Gardens, in the heart of Royal Leamington Spa, with a brilliant mix of family friendly activities, free workshops, Peace talks, live music, vibrant local stalls, campaign groups, healing treatments and a wide range of vegetarian food stalls.
In July, Leamington Carnival will meander around the streets of Leamington on Saturday the 14th. With spectacular floats, drummers, energetic dancers, colourful costumes, live bands and much more. This is your chance to be part of this fun community event, celebrating the town’s diversity, creativity and energy whilst supporting local charitable organisations. The Carnival will wind its way to the Royal Pump Room Gardens where the celebrations will continue at the Summer Festival with 50 local stalls, food for all appetites, entertainment and Barkers Amusements Funfair will be there to welcome you!
Make sure you’re ready to get creative in August when Art in the Park returns for its fifth year on 5th and 6th in Jephson Gardens. The theme this year is about ‘Trees’ to celebrate Leamington’s historic Jephson Gardens, a hidden tree paradise and host to a magnificent 4 day ‘Festival of Oaks’ in Victorian times. Enjoy a jam-packed weekend of art, creativity and fun as over 120 local makers, musicians and performers show and display a mix of crafts and arts and to fuel the fun a little more, local eateries will provide a variety of high quality food and drinks for all appetites.
Warwickshire Pride, Saturday 18th August, has continued to go from strength to strength; getting bigger and better each year, while retaining its identity as a grassroots, community Pride event. Warwickshire Pride is now an established festival in Warwickshire’s event calendar, welcoming masses of people each year for a celebration of LGBT+ culture.
Now in its eleventh year the annual Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival will take place over the weekend of September 8th and 9th at the Royal Pump Room Gardens. Visitors will find an exciting variety on offer, with exhibitors displaying culinary skills and cuisines ranging from delicious Caribbean food to gourmet toasties, to Indian street food and Persian delights accompanied with an array of local brews and exotic aperitifs.
The Home Cook of the Year, organised by Aubrey Allen, also returns to crown Leamington’s finest amateur chef who will be judged on a three course cooking challenge and children will also be able to get their hands dirty by cooking scrumptious dishes at the kid’s cookery school all washed down with local live entertainment to enjoy all weekend.
To find out more visit peacefestival.org.uk/; www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk; www.leamingtoncarnival.org.uk; www.artinpark.co.uk; www.warwickshirepride.co.uk; & www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk. Admission is free.
Today it was announced that Leamington’s House of Fraser store will be among the 31 House of Fraser stores are set to close nationwide.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “We are sad to hear the news of House of Fraser as it has been in the heart of Leamington for some time. This is a decision that has been taken nationally and is affecting stores right across the UK
“Our thoughts are with the staff as we have come to know, there is something wonderful about them and their commitment to serving the customers of the town.
“In recent months, BID Leamington has supported House of Fraser’s efforts to collaborate with independent businesses in the town to showcase the local offer and enhance the shopping experience.
“This type of creative partnership is something we are keen to foster as our independent sector is particularly important and continues to prove itself to be agile and innovative.
“The BID has been recently renewed and an important part of our role is helping to support businesses and guide change so we will also look to reach out to the landlord and other partners to do this.
“After ten years of the BID, we also know that Leamington is a wonderful, creative town with a lot happening and the people of Leamington will help us achieve this.
“The BID Leamington Board will meet next week to look at how we can support this transition and there is a lot of business talent and creativity locally to draw from.
“Our approach has always been to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and work together to ensure the town center thrives.
“It is also more important than ever that as a community, we support the businesses we know and love.”
Businesses have overwhelmingly backed the Business Improvement District (BID) for a third term to continue the partnership’s work in helping to ensure the town centre thrives.
The ‘yes’ vote for BID Leamington means businesses will still be represented on key issues, and the town centre will benefit from more than £1.9 million of investment over the next five years.
The result for BID Leamington was announced today (Wednesday, March 29) following a month-long postal ballot of businesses eligible to vote.
The official result was 79 per cent in favour by number and 85 per cent in favour by combined rateable value.
Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “We very much appreciate the trust placed in us by those who have voted and are pleased that BID Leamington has been given the backing of the businesses to build on our achievements over the last five years.
“The result provides a strong mandate and holds itself in high accord across the industry as well.
“Faced with challenges greater than ever before, the business community has recognised the value of retaining the BID as their collective voice on important issues such as development and parking, and in helping to secure a vibrant and successful town centre.
“We put together a detailed plan setting out our strategy for the next five years and with their endorsement, we will now start work on implementing those measures for the benefit of business and the town as a whole.”
The strategy will focus on addressing key priorities which include attracting footfall, car parking, out-of-town and online competition, ensuring a strong retail economy and balancing a mix of outlets.
It will also build on the BID’s strong digital representation of businesses via the Royal Leamington Spa and Taste Leamington websites, and social media platforms which have 20,000 followers.
Businesses first voted to establish BID Leamington in 2008 and have now twice voted to renew the award-winning partnership, which is recognised as one of the most creative and innovative small BIDS in the UK.
All retail and leisure businesses within a set boundary and with a rateable value of more than £15,000 pay an annual levy for the non-profit making organisation.
The levy and additional income generated by the BID contributes to the Christmas lights, and funds the hanging baskets as well as major events and promotions in the town like the Leamington Food and Drink Festival, Lantern Parade, Car Parking Angels, Pumpkin Path and Love Leam.
Sarah Horne, chair of BID Leamington and owner of Sarah Horne Flowers, said: “We would like to thank the local business community for its continued support.
“We know the business environment is very challenging so having the collective investment, support, representation and knowledge that BID Leamington provides is essential to remain competitive and we are looking forward to delivering on our plans over the next five years.”
A ballot was held on the proposal to renew the Business Improvement District (BID) for Leamington Spa Town Centre for a further 5-year period from 1 July 2018 to 31 June 2023. This is a confidential postal ballot commissioned by the Ballot Holder, Warwick District Council. The BID ballot procedure is conducted in accordance with ‘Local Government Act 2003 Business Improvement Districts (England) Regulations 2004’. For the BID to be successful, of those that vote, over 50 per cent by number and 50 per cent by combined rateable value must vote in favour of the BID. Each business entitled to vote in a Business Improvement District ballot is allowed one vote in respect of each property occupied or (if unoccupied) owned by them in the geographical area of the Business Improvement District.
The ballot was conducted entirely by post on behalf of the Ballot Holder, Chris Elliot, who is the Warwick District Council, Chief Executive, by the Independent Scrutineer, Electoral Reform Services (ERS) of 33 Clarendon Road, London N8 0NW. The official declaration of the result is here. The ERS declaration can be downloaded here. For more information please contact the BID team on 01926 470634 or email email@example.com.