As Bridgwater moves towards the sunlit uplands of increased touristic interest with six hotels, several new cafes and restaurants , various new shops and a major new leisure facility on its way, the Town Council has launched a major initiative to promote the town to residents and incomers alike with the first Town calendar and a brand new set of Town postcards.
Town Council Leader Cllr Brian Smedley explained “The images have been created by local artist Jim Goddard and they promote the towns heritage and history by juxtaposing old photos with new. People are proud of their history but shouldn’t be nervous of change. They should be part of it. We’ve set up a system through the town council where that can happen. This week the Town Development Forum will be looking at the plans for Northgate where a new school is already in place and a major leisure centre is planned. People are welcome to that meeting and be part of that process*. Bridgwater people also have a tremendous love for the history of their town. For the second year running the Bridgwater History Day at the town’s art centre was packed out with some people staying all day to listen to 7 different speakers tell them about the things that have made the town special. Pride in your town is very important if you’re to have confidence in what it does next.”
Improving the Touristic Offer
Cllr Smedley continued “There are 6 new hotels coming to Bridgwater which makes our town a destination for people. We want people to come here and yes of course use the town as a base to explore all the wonders of Somerset but also to find things in the town to do. And by improving the touristic offer we are also improving whats on offer for the locals. If hotels have the confidence to come here then we should welcome that. If top quality restaurateurs choose to come here then that will encourage others.”
“People only need to take a walk along the River Parret to see what we could be offering. The West Quay riverfront with it’s cafes ,bars and restaurants, now supplemented by the newly restored Watergate cafe ‘the White Feathers’ which , through planning encouragement and working with partners such as the Civic Society, has incorporated the key heritage site of the castle into it’s feature. The old River Parrett pub on Salmon Parade, now a quality restaurant. The Mercure hotel on Eastover, soon to be a 112 room hotel with a Marco Pierre White restaurant. And all this on top of the quality eating places we already have such as the Green Olive and Wild Rocket.”
A world awaits
“Bridgwater has 5 twin towns and last week 3 of them celebrated their anniversary’s with us. Mayors and delegates from La Ciotat (France) Homberg (Germany) and Uherske Hradiste (Czech Republic) signed renewals of their 60,25 and 25 year partnership treaties but we also made sure they knew that Bridgwater was a town with it’s face to the wider world. The delegates visited the new Eastover hotel, watched the Carnival – some taking part in the squibbing, and even took a boat ride on the river having lunch at Langport where the town council there are working hard to make use of their waterways. This is something we have a keen eye on here in Bridgwater” said Cllr Smedley
” For us, if a town has a waterfront then we should face on to it and make use of it. The Parret Barrier is a major opportunity for us to make our waterways navigable again and to open up river, docks and canal. This is also one reason that we have made our maritime history a key feature of this years calendar and postcards.”
Civic Pride and Internationalism
Bridgwater Town Council has been actively sponsoring ideas that promote the town. To coincide with Carnival week the ‘Bridgwater Together’ events at the Engine Room, were all about the appreciation of historic and new culture in the town and a new mural by artist Rachel Gundry in Blake Gardens have all been recipients of cash backing.
Cllr Smedley said “Bridgwater Together was a great success and brought together in a Bridgwater Cultural environment new residents of our town from Poland, Portugal, East Timor, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania sharing their cultures and appreciating ours, while finding time to discuss the 100 year impact of the Russian Revolution on all of us through a major art exhibition. And at the same time we are extremely proud to sponsor Rachel Gundry’s new mural that celebrates our town and can now be visible to the queuing traffic as it crosses the Blake bridge.”
Heritage, History and Culture
Cllr Smedley added “When we asked people what they wanted in the town one thing they said was ‘more events’. Bridgwater is an events town for sure – the Carnival, massively popular and world leading, the Fair-the second biggest in the country. On top of this we’ve started the new summer event the Quayside festival which brought people out in force this year and will now become a regular feature. History day last week is also a new and popular event and it’s exactly this kind of mix of culture and heritage, past and present that we think we can put at the centre of Bridgwater’s offer for the future. One feature of the Town Calendar is listing as many future events as possible and we hope therefore in future that this will encourage people to think and plan ahead so we can populate next years calendar with even more things to do to make our town one of the liveliest destinations in Somerset”
The Town Calendars and postcards are on sale from the Town Hall office.
For a report on Bridgwater History Day click here.
*The Town Development Forum meeting will be held on Tuesday 14th November at 7pm at the Town Hall, High Street Bridgwater.