Closed Shops

Closed sign on shop A report today, by the Local Data Company, tells us that one in five shops in the North are now empty.

I’m not surprised –  3 of the 10 towns with the highest vacancy rates:

  • Burslem 29.4%
  • Hanley 27.7%
  • Hartlepool 27.3%
  • West Bromwich 27.1%
  • Droylsden 26.8%
  • Morecambe 26.8%
  • Stoke 26.6%
  • Bootle 26.4%
  • Walsall 26.2%
  • Stockport 25.9%

are part of Stoke-on-Trent. This city has a wonderful heritage, but the traditional employers (coal mining, pottery, steel and making tyres) have more or less diasapeared. As a result the city is the 16th most deprived local authority area in England, with 29.9% of Stoke-on-Trent’s children classified as living in poverty.

Looking through the worst ten towns list, most are in the north. The survey shows one in five shops in the North are now empty, compared with one in 10 in the South, and social deprivation is part of the problem.

What’s the answer?

With more consumers shopping on-line and the growth of supermarkets some of this is inevitable. However there are things that can be done. The village of Saltaire in Yorkshire had a large mill that closed down. But now Salts Mill is a thriving tourist attraction with a gallery of David Hockney’s pictures. Saltaire village is a World Heritage Site, and as a result Saltaire has lots of thriving local independent shops (see here).

Burslem (which is top of the closed shop list with almost one in three shops closed) needs a bit of love and promotion. It’s got a wonderful Victorian park, fine statues of Sir Henry Doulton and Josiah Wedgwood, the wonderful Wedgwood Institute and how many other towns can boast three town halls? Fans of Arnold Bennett will love the Bursley Trail.

A big problem is poorer education in poorer areas. People in poor areas tend to eat less well and shop in supermarkets rather than local independents because they are perceived as more expensive. Do our children know their vegetables – and how to cook them to make cheap nutritious meals? No wonder greengrocers are disappearing and we’re all geting fatter!

I hope that those who are in a position to influence things will take note, and not adopt a “Let them eat cake” attitude – we all know what happened to the rich in the French revolution!

Farmers’ markets, and artisan markets, can help draw people to an area. The town I live in (Nantwich) has regular street entertainment and festivals etc and the town appears to be flourishing. Thankfully people’s shopping habits are changing, and many are abandoning the big shop at out of town supermarkets – which sucks money out of the area.

Lastly the onus is on you to help support local shops. Sometimes the supermarkets may be a few pence cheaper (but they’re good at conning you) and do you want your high street to look like this (taken in Anfield):

Retail shops closed down

Go on a diet – and lose ££££s!

diet

At this time of the year everyone seems to be on a diet! The word diet originally comes from the Greek word diaita, meaning “way of living”, but now many people seem to be in a permanent cycle of dieting and overeating!

There’s a long history of dieting.  One of the first dieticians was the English doctor George Cheyne who, in 1724 wrote An Essay of Health and Long Life. Then there was the Vinegar and Water Diet, made popular by Lord Byron in the 1820s.

However in Victorian times being obese was a way of showing you were financially successful, just think of all the corpulent characters like Mr Bumble in Dicken’s novels.  The picture below (from Wellcome Images) is an advert for the effectiveness of J. Morison’s pills (the aim of these dodgy medicines was to put on weight)

An obese man exhibiting a placard

Apparently according to this site, James Morrison (the quack doctor behind these pills) appealed to the general public because of the missionary like zeal in which he opposed “orthodox” medicine!

You’d think today, with all the information about nutrition, we’d know better.  However our waist bands are expanding:

Belly_of_an_obese_teenage_boy

and even kids are getting diseases like Type 2 diabetes (which traditionally affected just elderley people).

A whole industry has sprung up to give us quick fix pills and silly diets.  There’s that much confusion that people have forgotten the basics – the more you eat the more weight you’ll put on, and exercise helps you lose weight:

The relationship between calories, exercise and diet

The food industry haven’t helped, introducing sugar (and even worse fructose) into foods which don’t need it and over processing everything. Wholefoods help you to feel full, but most people don’t eat much.  Tasty vegetables, like turnips and swede, are out of fashion – but contain around 90% water (and there’s no calories in water).

So, as I sit down to a bowl of delicious homemade vegetable soup, I’m not worried about putting on pounds.  Remember a diet is for life – and not just after Christmas!

Loaves for Lammas

Over this weekend Real Bread bakers and traditional millers around the country are taking up the Real Bread Campaign’s call to help Britain to rediscover the joys of the real thing by baking and buying Local Loaves for Lammas.

August 1 is Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the wheat harvest, and on this day in the past it was customary to bake a loaf made from the new wheat crop.

Good Food Shops loves traditional bakers (see here) and is delighted to support the Real Bread Campaign, associated events are listed here.

Web: www.sustainweb.org/realbread