Bedford’s non-essential shops, plus hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons and gyms, are throwing open their doors again today, a month after the latest lockdown restrictions were enforced.
And now, more than ever, it’s time to shop local and support our town centre.
The news that Debenhams will close in the new year is a devastating blow to high streets and town centres across the UK and Bedford is no exception.
However, the strength of Bedford is its independent businesses; resilient, agile and unique.
So many businesses that have had to shut during periods of lockdown have adapted, offered click and collect, free local delivery and collaborated with their neighbours to show strength in numbers.
The businesses on St Cuthbert’s Street are undeniably leading the way in working together to promote their area, with others likely to follow suit.
From branding their street to hosting music events, many of the things they are doing can not only be replicated throughout the Borough, but also in towns and villages throughout the country.
“I wanted to collaborate with the other businesses because I believe in community over competition,” said Rosanna Heasman of refill shop, The Store, on St Cuthbert’s Street.
“A huge part of The Store’s focus is to help build community within our town and to create a space that people want to be part of.
“St Cuthbert’s is really building some local momentum that people are making bee lines to visit, just to experience the indie scene of Bedford.
“We all have our own strengths to add but seeing it all come together made me realise how strong our collective offering really is.”
Bedford Indies branding
The Bedford Independent is proud to champion #BedfordIndies and now they can share the love by using localised branding, created by local graphic designer, Morgan Musselle of MrMogs.
Initially developed for the businesses on St Cuthbert’s Street, the logo stamp is adaptable to other areas and Morgan has offered his services for free.
The hope is that businesses in other locations, including the villages, Kempston, Midland Road, Tavistock Street, St Peter’s Street, will adopt the branding themselves.
“As a local indie businesses we get amazing opportunities to make our hometown even better,” said Morgan.
“We share our successes, so when we make local and buy local, why not hire a local designer too? It just makes sense.”
Any businesses collaborating together and wanting their own #BedfordIndies branding can contact Morgan at email@example.com.
Christmas shopping made easy
The St Cuthbert’s street businesses have got together to create a Christmas hamper full of items produced and sold on their street.
Beerfly, The Store, Vanilla Tree, Bears and Tales and The Flying Cork have come together to offer a one-stop-shop for those looking to Bedford Indies this Christmas.
“I saw a post on the We Are Bedford Facebook group from someone looking for ideas for places to shop to build up a local hamper and thought we could make it easier for people,” said Beerfly’s Tim Edwards.
“It’s great to work together with our friends and neighbours to create a neat little product that allows shoppers to support five different local shops with one product.”
From collaborating with Slide Record Shop on Record Store Day to hosting their summer ‘block party’, the businesses on St Cuthbert’s street have long understood the value of creating events to promote themselves.
This Christmas, they’re joined forces with blender to film a series of music sessions in different venues which will be streamed online over the festive season.
“After a very brief period back in August when it looked like live music was going to return, we’ve endured another lockdown and musicians are still struggling” said blender’s Alan Cooley.
“These sessions keep things moving and we loved the connection to local business. The films show off the shops in a unique way.”
Throughout the summer, Beerfly and blender had collaborated to record a series of lockdown sessions.
“We knew it was time to move the sessions to some new locations and Tim came up with the original idea,” said Alan.
“He championed the project with the other independent retailers on his street and very quickly we had eight businesses involved”.
Blender shot three films on St Cuthbert’s Street, with the first, recorded in The Flying Cork, featuring Luke Tuchscherer and broadcast on 10 December.
On 17 December, The Broadway Twisters bring their rockabilly swamp rock to Vanilla Tree and finally Carlos Linnet and Jonny Mudd come together for a special show at Beerfly that will go out on Christmas Day at 7.30pm.
All the films will show on blender’s new YouTube channel.
“We’ve got a brilliant team together on this. Andrew Marshall is the senior sound engineer at Esquires and along with Josh Tuncel, they have come together to film and record some great sessions.”
Blender have plans to offer this to other groups of shops in the town as they also look to involve more bands from further afield.
Christmas in Bedford
Of course, it’s not just St Cuthbert’s Street that is working hard to create some Christmas magic in Bedford this December.
Cllr Henry Vann, portfolio holder for the town centre concedes that there is no doubt that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on retail nationally, however he points out the Bedford businesses are working together to make this Christmas special.
“We are working with BID and other partners to celebrate the festive season in town this year,” said Henry.
“Activities include a new Christmas trail to find 12 Christmas characters hidden around the town centre, festive window displays, and the Made in Bedford Christmas Artisan Market, to encourage people to shop local and support their town centre in a safe and COVID-secure way.”