Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A bit of Chesterfield Christmas sparkle sent around the world

The nights may be long but Chesterfield has its usual sparkle thanks to the fabulous Christmas lights. 

They almost make Christmas shopping pleasurable for those of us that don’t like it.

For those of you that do then the town has so much to offer – from high street chains to independent retailers that offer something a little bit different and out of the ordinary. And thanks to the Internet some of Chesterfield’s home grown products will be appearing under trees and on tables this Christmas as well, all helping spread the word about what our town has to offer.

The high street is facing its toughest battle ever. However, the internet is integral to its survival. UK retailing delivers nearly 10% of all its sales online and an increasing proportion of this comes from mobile devices.  We  want to keep Chesterfield booming and top of the charts for least vacant shops, so earlier this year Destination Chesterfield ran a free Digital High Street course to give the town’s independent retailers a helping hand to get online and maximise their sales this Christmas.

Thanks to the internet, we are seeing Northern Tea Merchants’ tea and coffee travelling as far afield as Scandinavia and Russia, jewellery retailer Adorn has customers in Canada, Scotland and the Netherlands and our very own home grown ceramist Clare Gage is selling her products through the well-known online retailer Not on the High Street.com as well as locally at Created Gallery on Chatsworth Road.

Chesterfield’s contribution to your Christmas doesn’t stop at gifts, the town and its food and drink producers can even cater for your big nights out and in. As we saw recently at the Food and Drink Awards we have some fabulous eateries in the town which, quite literally, cater for every taste. Maybe you’ll be enjoying a bottle of Brampton Brewery’s finest with your Christmas meal or one of Global Brands’ myriad of products in a local bar with friends?

Whatever or wherever you choose to eat, drink and shop, I would like everyone to consider purchasing it locally this Christmas and helping our economy thrive in 2015 and beyond. Chesterfield has so much to offer and the proof, as they say, is very much in the eating (and drinking) this Christmas.  

Friday, 17 October 2014

We continue to make great things in Chesterfield

I read recently that the Bristol-based children’s suitcase maker Trunki has reported a pre-tax loss of £1.5m for 2013 following competition from Chinese rivals. This is really sad news but the story couldn’t be more different in our town.

The manufacturing sector here is thriving and companies believe there to be little or no threat from China for two key reasons – poor quality, unreliable output and increased domestic demand for goods amongst the Chinese population.

Chesterfield’s Enterprise Zone at Markham Vale plays an important role in helping Sheffield City Region (SCR) achieve its vision of developing a Modern Manufacturing and Technology Growth Area.

As well as attracting manufacturing and engineering companies to invest here and create jobs, it is equally important to ensure there is a ready workforce. Events like Made in Chesterfield (10 – 14 November) help secure the future of the sector and get more youngsters turned onto a career in manufacturing, raising awareness of the employment opportunities within it as well as the number of varied and exciting roles.

And this is exactly what we have achieved with the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards. Chesterfield College students take an active and hands on role at the awards evening. After the success of last year’s awards evening at the College – all superbly catered and served by the students, it came as no surprise that tickets for the 2014 awards sold out weeks before the event – and we increased numbers by 50%.

Like the Food and Drink Awards, Made in Chesterfield brings together employers and students. Companies have embraced the week, delivering hands on activities and site visits for so many youngsters.

I am confident that Made in Chesterfield will change many perceptions about the manufacturing sector, particularly the view that it’s dirty and grimy. Just walk into MSE Hiller’s workshop and your opinion will change instantly.

Embodying Made in Chesterfield is the new sculpture at the Coach Station. The sculpture is the work of Fanke Sissons’ apprentices and students from Parkside School. It is truly magnificent. Look closely and you will see that it encapsulates what young people feel is representative of Chesterfield today; Nature, Manufacturing, and Community.

I encourage you to visit the coach station and view this work of art. Not only will it enhanced yet another major gateway to the town, but it represents a true partnership between education and the manufacturing and engineering sectors – one which I hope will continue to provide employment opportunities for many generations to come.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Summer in Chesterfield

Everything can seem so much better when the sun is shining can’t it? And as much as the six week school break is welcomed by children, being a parent myself, I know it can be a headache for parents. How do you keep the youngsters entertained throughout the holidays, avoid the repeated cries of ‘I’m bored’ and not require a bank loan to do it?
A holiday away is not an option for everyone which is why finding activities (preferably free) to do on your doorstep is so important. Our Summer in Chesterfield campaign is designed to do just that – showcase everything that is happening in and around Chesterfield during the summer months. And there is so much to do – both free and paid for. 
It could be a simple picnic in glorious Queen’s Park or a visit to Chesterfield Museum and Art Gallery where, from 9 – 16 August, it’s World War 1 Week at the Museum. Venture further afield into the beautiful Peak District, which we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep, and we have Chatsworth Country Fair from 29 – 31 August.
Summer activities’ aside, it’s so important that our town caters for all ages, particularly young people and families, in its offering.  They are the future workers and residents of Chesterfield and will help maintain the ongoing success of the town by helping attract new investors who will see a ready and waiting quality workforce alongside the variety of commercial property we offer and great transport links.
I welcomed news recently of £174m of government funding being awarded to the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to support local projects. As well as creating jobs, importantly this money will help to protect existing jobs and build homes in Chesterfield over the next five years.

This money means real change for Chesterfield. It will help us attract new businesses to the area, help young people to get the skills they need to get on, and ensure we have the workforce locally that we need to prosper.

By investing now to create long term job and housing opportunities for young people and their families, I hope that once they have finished in our education system they will choose to enjoy summer (and winter, spring and autumn) in Chesterfield for many years to come.

To find out more about the events happening in and around Chesterfield this summer, follow Chesterfield UK on Facebook or visit www.chesterfield.co.uk/fortcoming-events

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Food and Drinks Awards Return

The Food and Drink Awards are upon us once again. Nominations are now open and I urge everyone to do so. Your support at this critical phase of the process is vital to the success of these awards.

The next time you’re picking up freshly made bread from the bakery, enjoying a coffee with the kids, a glass of wine with the girls or fine dining with family, remember to nominate that establishment. We’ve made it as easy as possible to nominate online and it literally takes seconds to do.

You can even nominate food and drink establishments up to 10 miles outside the boundary of Chesterfield in the Out of Town category. Dronfield, Bolsover, Barlow, Baslow, Alfreton, Wingerworth are all areas that fall within this radius and I know from personal experience that there are some excellent restaurants, pubs and cafes in these areas.

This year everyone can get involved with the nomination and shortlisting process as we’ve introduced a new Family Friendly category. Having had young children once myself, I know that not every restaurant is conducive to a family-friendly dining experience but we’re really keen to discover the ones that are, and who better to judge these but families? We’re on the look-out for two families to help us do this. If you’re a young family and want to get involved then please do get in touch.

These awards are all about discovering the very best that Chesterfield has to offer as well as raising the bar to further improve the town’s offering.

TV chef Ainsley Harriott, who last year hosted the awards said himself that they had created a new standard in food, and I wholeheartedly agree. Chesterfield has never had such a variety and wealth of places to eat. It is a pleasure to be able to dine out in the town. There is truly something to suit every taste.

Thanks, in part to the superb hosting skills of Ainsley Harriott, last year’s awards ceremony is still talked about. I am delighted therefore that he has agreed to host the awards this year. The awards aren’t until October so before then, I would say to every eatery hoping for a nomination…..Ready, Steady, Cook!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Community key to future town success

Many visitors to Chesterfield tell us that one of the key attributes of the town is its friendliness and sense of community, and the community spirit certainly came to the fore recently to ensure our very first Retail Awards are a success.

To our shock, delight and amazement more than 1,000 nominations have been received for nearly 250 retailers. This is a phenomenal result and I am delighted to say that the Destination Chesterfield team and I have had to put in many extra hours sorting through the nominations and shortlisting retailers for the awards.

What is abundantly clear from the Retail Awards nomination process is that there are very many loved shops and their owners and managers are as equally passionate about providing a superb retail experience. With passion like this, it is no wonder that Chesterfield’s town centre continues to thrive where others are failing.

We should not underestimate Chesterfield’s retail offering. For a small town we are punching above our weight and leading the way for not only towns but cities who are keen to learn from us and replicate our success.

One of our key strengths, I believe, is that we never rest on our laurels. We are constantly innovating and working out ways we can further improve and attract even more people to our fabulous town. 

Statistics may show that online retail is the future but we firmly believe it can operate alongside, and strengthen, our high street offering and bring Chesterfield to the attention of people even further afield. I know already that some retailers in town have customers in Canada, the Netherlands and Scotland thanks to their online presence.

Online retail is the focus of the first phase of business support which is being offered through our Incubation Street campaign. Thanks to funding from the Portas Pilot Town Team Funding and our own Chesterfield Champions we’re providing a helping hand to independent retailers to get online this year and spread the Chesterfield message even further.

The response to the Retail Awards and the regular courses we run to help businesses, delivers a level of practical, community and financial support that I have not encountered anywhere else. It this that really does prove that, together, we do make a positive difference to our town.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The history of Chesterfield is every bit as important as its future

I am always amazed that the town still has surprises to reveal to me. Most recently it has been the discovery of the organisation that puts the Blue Plaques on many of our historic buildings. – Chesterfield and District Civic Society.

The latest plaque was unveiled at Chesterfield Market Hall, a fitting culmination of the investment and refurbishment that was completed there last year. Like the Market Hall, there are many buildings in Chesterfield that we probably drive or walk past every day. They blend into the fabric of the town but actually held create our town’s landscape as we know it today.

Chesterfield is steeped in history. We are well-known for our crooked spire but how many of us know it for being the resting place of the ‘Father of the Railways’ - George Stephenson?

The history of Chesterfield is every bit as important as its future and we are working hard to ensure a sustainable one for the town and everyone who lives here. That’s why it’s important to create opportunity for companies to invest here. Companies that choose to invest here bring jobs with them and employment opportunities for the next generation.

An excellent example of this is Chesterfield’s food and drink industry. In recent years the wealth and variety of eating and drinking establishments has increased. Where once we might have travelled out of town to a good restaurant, we now have a multitude on our doorstep.

I am delighted, therefore, to announce that the Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards – which recognise this thriving sector - will be taking place both this year and next having secured sponsorship from Chesterfield College until 2015.

Last year the College was the headline sponsor of the inaugural awards and took a very active role in the awards ceremony. Not only was the ceremony hosted at the college’s Heartspace building, but the students catered for the event.

The award ceremony gives Chesterfield College Hospitality and Catering students an opportunity to be involved in a real professional and prestigious event, which supports the development of their commercial and industry relevant skills. The awards also provide fantastic opportunities for Chesterfield College students to showcase their high level professional skills and experience different aspects of the industry and to also be involved in the planning, preparation and delivery of a high profile regional event where employers have the opportunity to meet future employees.

Watch this space. In the same way Chesterfield College may produce the next Michelin starred chef, the town’s developments of today like Chesterfield Waterside and Casa Hotel could be the blue plaque bearers of the future.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Celebrating our retail scene

Did you know that Destination Chesterfield has been around for three and a half years in March?

During this time I am proud and delighted to have been part of the team that has helped spread the message of our town’s success and make it a place businesses want to invest in and people want to live.

We have experienced some great achievements during this time, however it’s important to take time to reflect on this success; where we’ve come from and where we are going to. That’s why the Celebrate Chesterfield events are so important. We held our latest one on 19th March and 200 members of the local business community gathered at the Proact Stadium to hear from myself the Destination Chesterfield team.

Whilst we might have done the talking , we are in no doubt that it is the engagement of the local community – businesses, schools and residents – that has been instrumental in the tremendous success of Destination Chesterfield since the campaign began in 2010.

Today we have more than 140 Chesterfield Champions and the support for the campaign is stronger than ever, many taking the time to get actively involved either speaking at or sponsoring Destination Chesterfield events.

Our brand new Retail Awards are no exception. Launched at the Celebrate Chesterfield event, the awards capitalise on the town’s ongoing success as one of the UK’s top 10 best performing centres with the least vacant shops.

They aim to seek out, recognise, celebrate and promote Chesterfield’s retailers as well as highlighting their commitment and importance to the town and the local economy. Our town has a thriving retail economy which is envied nationally.

Where other town centres are faced with high vacancy rates, Chesterfield is bucking the trend and attracting high street names such as Debenhams and ToysRus as well as independent retailers, giving us an excellent mix of shops, helping us attract visitors to our town and investors to the area who are keen to capitalise on our retail success. Only last month it was announced that the national department store Boyes would be opening in Chesterfield.

The success of these awards however is down to you. Shops and stores can only win if they are nominated by you, their customers.

Making a nomination is free and the nomination period is open from 1st April – 30th April with the winner being announced at a grand awards ceremony at the Assembly Rooms on 18th June.

If you’re reading this following a recent shopping trip and you want to recognise the store for their excellent customer service or brilliant disabled access, then nominate now by simply filling in the form or online at www.chesterfield.co.uk/retailawards.

Make no mistake, you are instrumental in the success of the 2014 Chesterfield Retail Awards.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Award winning start to the year for Chesterfield

It can be easy to forget, but a little recognition can go a long way and really does make a difference. For three years Destination Chesterfield and the Borough Council have worked hard to shout about everything that is great about the town, encouraging businesses and people to live, work and invest here. It really is a joint effort.

We were delighted therefore when our efforts were officially recognised recently at the inaugural UK Placemaking Awards, where the Chesterfield Borough Council’s regeneration team was named as Placemaking Team of the Year. Some of the support team involved in achieving this significant result for the Town attended the Awards Ceremony  in London in order to accept the award.

The awards recognise the projects, plans and people that are making places better through planning, regeneration, urban design, economic development or community renewal.

From the out-set Destination Chesterfield has been a team effort involving not just the campaign's marketing team and the Councils Regeneration team, but also the business community and the many Champions who actively support the campaign. Without their commitment we would not have made the measurable impact we have. The Placemaker award is a pat on the back for everyone who has actively participated in the Destination Chesterfield marketing campaign.

The awards and national recognition for Chesterfield didn’t stop there. Less than 24 hours later Chesterfield’s Market Hall was officially named as the UK’s best small indoor market. Since the Market Hall re-opened after its £4 million refurbishment it’s fair to say that opinion has been divided on the new look.

However, the results speak for themselves. Since re-opening market traders have reported doing good business, with significant increases in turn over, and the office space  above the markets will shortly be fully occupied. The council is also actively marketing promotional and retail space at the heart of the retail area near to the cafe.

Just look at other successful  towns and cities  and you will discover that it is the ones that are constantly evolving and investing who thrive- Our Market Hall is an excellent example of both. It is developments such as this and the forthcoming Chesterfield Waterside project that are putting the town on the map and bringing it to the attention of investors who, in turn, are creating opportunity for residents as well as future generations.

Only two months in to 2014, we have already celebrated success. If we are to maintain this good news throughout the year and beyond we must not lose sight of the fact that making our town a success is a team effort - the Placemaker award is testament to that.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Looking foward to 2014

Firstly - Happy New Year to all readers!

Chesterfield could not have asked for a stronger economic foundation on which to enter 2014. The Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce’s (DNCC) Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 was released at the beginning of this year showing that the recovery that began in Q2 of 2013 had accelerated in Q3 to enable the area to finish off the year strongly.

In fact, figures from DNCC show that more than two thirds of businesses operating in Chesterfield expect turnover to improve over the next 12 months. George Cowcher, DNCC Chief Executive tempered this by saying: "Much work still needs to be done to ensure the recovery experienced is sustainable." I couldn't agree more. Chesterfield, however, should be confident it has laid the foundations for continued success and we will continue to see evidence of this throughout 2014.

In the first quarter of the year, the diggers will finally roll on to the Chesterfield Waterside site to begin construction of the first phase of new homes. In 2013, Chesterfield was one of the first areas to report a housing boom and it looks likely this will continue with a number of developments planned throughout the town.

In fact Barratt Homes, which is building 68 new properties on the former Chesterfield Football Club site on Saltergate, is one of the major contributors to the £300,000 Hornsbridge roundabout artwork –‘Growth’ – which will be appearing at the main gateway into Chesterfield from the M1 later this year.

There are many reasons to visit Chesterfield, not least out thriving restaurant and retails sectors. After the success of the inaugural Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards in October 2013, I am delighted to announce that the Destination Chesterfield board has approved the presentation of the awards again in 2014. We have also decided to launch the new Retail Awards-as with all awards, you have to be ‘in it to win it’ and we’ll tell you more about the competition process nearer the time.

Our aim is for 2014 to be the town’s most successful year yet both at home and away. That’s why we will be celebrating everything that comes from Chesterfield, whether it is food, arts and crafts or engineering equipment; we have a lot to offer, and many businesses based here are actually supplying goods throughout the world. Destination Chesterfield intends to celebrate this fact with our Made in Chesterfield campaign to be implemented in the autumn.

One thing that is sure to put the town on the map before then however is the arrival of none other than Sir Tom Jones at the Proact Stadium in June. He’s just one of many big names coming to Chesterfield’s entertainment venues in 2014, so if you’re not lucky enough to secure tickets for Tom, there is plenty more which is sure to be happening!!

As Tom Jones once asked: “What’s new pussy cat?” I can tell you with confidence there’s an awful lot new for Chesterfield this year.