If you live in Crediton, or are visiting the shops, you will have probably noticed a new look to the town square. Twelve picnic tables with parasols were installed in early July, to provide a safe space for people to take a break, meet friends and catch up. Share in the Square was a Town Team initiative, to help raise morale and bring vitality back to the town centre. But its impact has far exceeded expectations, as Town Team Chair Rosemary Stephenson explains.
It was such a simple idea - to put some picnic tables in the town square to enable people to meet safely outdoors. But its impact has been way beyond our expectations, delighting local residents and visitors to the town as well as boosting footfall in our shops and cafes.
The tables were chosen and placed carefully to be large enough for a family to share and to allow the appropriate distance between people. Anyone could use them free of charge, bringing their own food and drinks, if required, or buying takeaway refreshments from the cafes and pub on the square.
To liven things up further we asked the Arts Centre to organise some entertainment, initially at the weekends, but this was soon extended to Fridays as well. Local musicians eagerly volunteered to perform and other events followed.
The response has been amazing, with people using the tables to relax in the sunshine with a coffee, meet friends for a catch up or for full scale family picnics.
‘This is the best thing to happen in Crediton’, commented one enthusiastic resident. ‘The tables have really brought the town back to life’ said another. ‘This has been a life-saver’.
Highlights of the entertainment programme included:
- Talented local musicians and bands playing a range of folk, classical and jazz music, including Pete Mathews, Ian Edgar, Phil Birch, the Moonshine Serenaders, Etchechuria, Dave Treadaway, the Triffles, Julian Wild, Tony Miller, the Briars, Pete Mason, Treehouse, The Saga Louts, Andrew Vaccari and Mark Mason, Anita Munson and Lisa Rowe, Spin 2, Moon Jazz House Band, Dave & Caroline Gooding, Alhambra, Whittall and Cookson, Yellabellies and the Colebrooke Singers.
- Gramophone Rebellion - Exeter-based Richard Clarke delighting people with his 78 rpm records from the 1920s, 30s and 40s played on his 1928 wind-up gramophone player.
- Poetic Licence - an original and witty show organised by local writer Ysella Sims with an impressive line-up of performance poets from across Devon, including Robert Graham, Jackie Juno, Tim King, Peter Cowlam and Shelley Szender.
- Piano in the Square - a truly unique event organised by Paul Vincent, when a grand piano was moved from the Congregational Church into the Town Square, just for one day, for an open air concert by local pianists of all ages.
- Fearless Jack - the retelling of an Italian folk tale by local actors, directed by the Arts Centre’s Peter Hamilton and featuring a giant puppet.
- Comedy Suits - stand-up and sketches from a bunch of local comedians.
These events have not only put a smile on people’s faces at a difficult time; they have given musicians and performers a much-needed opportunity to practice their skills in front of an audience.
Jack Robson, from Crediton Arts Centre, who coordinated the entertainment, summed up his feelings:
‘I have been amazed and delighted at the support from our incredible local artistic community. From the very first week we did this, local musicians have come forward to play for free and make their contribution to our community. Being able to put on more unusual events such as Poetic Licence, Comedy Suits, Gramophone Rebellion and Piano in the Square has been a real bonus, and local people seem to have really appreciated everything we have done. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of the Square businesses, and the patience of people who live there, amid the disruption this has caused them at weekends. It goes to show what a strong community we have in Crediton. The Arts Centre has been pleased to be able to put all of this creative energy out there, and to show that we are determined to survive and thrive in these unusual and challenging times.’
Huge thanks must go to all those volunteers who made Share in the Square happen, particularly Rod Brookes Hocking of Crediton Town Team for leading the project, the Rotary Club for providing stewards in the early weeks and Jack Robson for coordinating the events as well as providing technical support.
Thanks must also go to the Town and District Councils for their financial support.
The tables will be removed in mid-October, in order to protect them over winter and allow Mid Devon District Council to do vital repairs to the surface of the square.
But, rest assured, they will definitely be back in the spring, with a new programme of outdoor events to entertain you.