From easter eggs to paper mache dustpans

12 03 2011

In our Drawings for Stories exchange last December I met Marion who has sent some descriptions of Lancasters traders and the market. Like many people she remembers a time when you could find all kinds of unusual and specialised things among the traders.

When we came to Lancaster, we only went to independent traders, and I was pleased to see, for example, that Galbraith’s features in one of your pictures.   Gorrills had two shops, and there were about four that sold nothing but birthday cards and Easter eggs. Postlethwaite’s, the baker, was also a favourite destination, in premises now occupied by Gregg’s. An important feature of the Covered Market before the fire was the fish market, but upstairs on the balcony was a treasure trove of interesting things, particularly several traders who sold old postcards (all of which got burnt),  and even the kind of brush you use for sweeping crumbs off tables which, with its paper mache pan, I still have. On King Street there was a wonderful toy shop for some years, as well as one for jewellery and ceramics, both of them owned by  people with links to the university. The Rocking Horse Shop, near to C. E. Barrow, was much loved by everyone.  We still use as many as we can of such traders, including for meat, flowers and even our pharmacy.

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Its the knowledge

19 02 2011

For everything we sell we provide a back up service which isn’t what many people do nower days… but at the current time its very hard…Independent shops are going to be a thing of the past and I think everybody, once they are gone, is going to realise how important they are but its going to be to late.

The third of my posts on the things that local people and traders told me about is on knowledge and skills, with quotes from traders in the Lile Tool Shop, Fabrix, R&P Shaw the Fishmonger.

Whilst I was drawing I tried to work out what were the tools of the trade, and what were the unspoken skills of the independent traders. I surmised that the obvious tools were not necessarily the only or main ones, and that there were many unspoken less obvious tools – things about how people talk to customers, their body language, how they use their hands, their knowledge of the tools, food and produce they sell and their experience.

Its the knowledge, you go to B&Q and you just pick it off the shelf but if you come here you can ask and we’ll tell you about it… you can come here with a description of what you need and we will disappear into the back shop and reappear with one single screw.

There’ll be a shop full of people laughing their heads of cos of something we’ve said to one of the customers…its an important part of business, you’ve got to bring out the sense of humour sometimes.

We had a lovely hardware shop but he has gone. They cant compete with the chains, but you go into those places (chains) and ask for help and they are running away from you, they don’t want you to ask “what size screw?” or “what kind of glue?”..

He’d go, “Just a minute…” and he’d go in the back where he had hundreds of drawers and then he’d come out with it and you’d go, “Thank you so much how much?” and he’d go, “5 pence please”.”





As It Comes, publication

30 11 2010

Very excited to see the project publication just back from the printers, we will have copies at our story and sketch exchange stall the Vintage and Handmade Festive Market at Storey Gallery this weekend. The publication is a record of the project and will soon also be available as a download. Let us know if you’d like a printed copy. It was created and printed using bookleteer.com





A few Brews with the Marsh History Group

28 11 2010

During the project Ive been lucky to meet with and work with the Marsh History Group of local people who meet to remember and record the history of Lancaster and have been involved in books, publications and adding to archives.  I joined them a few times for a chat, a brew, many laughs and a revealing walk around Lancaster  on a very rainy day. We talked about the independent shops, food, saving for christmas, making a little food go a long way, a ‘bone for the dog’, how much more food waste there is with packaged food today and other aspects of local shops everyday life.

In the old shops life was a far far different pace, life was a different pattern.

You could go in and you could smell what kind of shop you were in, with your eyes closed you could tell what kind of shop it was, the cobblers, the grocers, the coffee shop.

When there were more independent shops you went in and you picked what you wanted, and how much you wanted, not all in packs that have to be sold within a certain length of time. And there was more variety, you could pick and choose shops as well.

In those days they spent a lot of their income on food, today they spend less on food and more on other things.

You used to get food on tick…in town it was quite high class and they didn’t give you food on tick in town..





As It Comes Events

5 11 2010

Next week on Wednesday 10th I’ll be hanging large scale works on cloth in the windows of 18 New Street, you’ll be able to see it after 5pm and thereafter till mid/late December.  I’m having a series of works on paper and the drawings of traders at work printed on to cotton poplin which will then be embroidered with cotton before hanging. If you are in Lancaster and want to come to the informal reception in a local pub on the 10th please get in touch with me at alice(at)proboscis.org.uk or call Lucy Green at Mid Penine Arts on 01282 421986

On the 4th December I’ll be leading an informal walk around of parts of Lancaster talking about the issues of local trade, some of Lancaster’s retail history,  the future of high streets and viewing my work – you can reserve a place with Lucy at the number above.





Tools of The Trade

5 11 2010

In all of the shops, market stalls and workshops I notice the tools people use – from computers and tills to specialist handtools. There are some tools that almost everyone has a version of like scissors and sellotape or computers and tills and others that are highly specific. But when you ask traders what the tools of their trade are its not really the physical things that matter its the knowledge, the skills and the ability to talk to customers.  All throughout Ive been making drawings of people at work and in conversation to try and understand more about peoples knowledge and how they use it and pass it on to other generations.

Alice





Is Lancaster a Clone Town or a Home Town?

4 10 2010

The NEF (New Economics Foundation) have published a follow up to their 2005 Clone Town report, entitled Re-imaging the High Street: Escape From Clone Town Britain which makes for fascinating reading. It gives plenty of evidence for the need to support independent traders, something close to my heart as the Coordinator of the Talking Shop project at Mid Pennine Arts.

It highlights the prevalence of Clone Towns on high streets in Britain. A Clone Town is one which has the least variety of shops, and the highest number of chains. Home Towns, conversely, have a much clearer sense of identity, with greater variety in what the shops offer and a high number of independents rather than multiples. Surprisingly Cambridge scored as the worst Clone, with Whitstable in Kent as the highest scoring Home Town.

Lancaster wasn’t on the list, but the methodology was described in the report, so I’m planning to do my own research to find out where Lancaster will score on the Clone-to-Home Town scale. Having spent a fair amount of time there and seeing how many independents there are I’m guessing it will come out fairly high, but we shall see!

One last thought from the report – “the towns most dependent on the biggest chains and out of town stores have proven to be most vulnerable in the economic crisis.” Proof surely that we need to make sure towns keep their independence to ensure their future survival?

Lucy