A year before I moved to Scarborough i was undertaking serious research on what was happening here- admittedly predominantly from an Art perspective , but also with my business head on. It was great to see that so many artists and galleries were based here but what excited me more was the launch of Totally Locally– I loved the concept of encouraging local people to support local independent businesses.
Fast forward a year and I arrive here just in time for the launch of the Totally Locally Pop Up shop in the Stephen Joseph Theatre which for the time I was there served me very well in terms of sales but also in meeting new business people, a number of whom have become close friends.
I have always supported local traders and I was sitting reflecting the other day where this came from – why was I not the type to go to a big brand supermarket and do the big shop? Partly of course it is about quality and not wanting to buy fruit which has been in cold store for a year or more, or meat packaged in polystyrene trays. But my musings took me back 30 years to 1984/85 when I was married to a miner and we went through a year of severe austerity- willingly I should add as I was firmly behind their rationale to strike and history proved that the cause was just.
What we experienced during the Strike was the most amazing collaboration of communities, Trade Unions around the world, Local authorities, and independent local and international businesses. If a shipment of clothing came in from German Trade Unionists we would take one car and fill it up for the whole street. Conversations went along the line of “OO I think Pat would like this and these are perfect for the twins” – not my twins but the ones down the road. Butchers would throw in a few sausages free with the ubiquitous mince meat we bought ( I swear I could have knit a jumper with mince i had to be so creative with it) Hairdressers would cut the children’s hair for £1, Greengrocers would add a few onions and carrots with the spuds you bought. During the school holidays the Local authority would open the kitchen and provide a packed lunch for all the kids and Lyons Bakery would supply the soup kitchens with Mr Kipling apple pies- I still don’t like them but like my ex husband who didn’t like cabbage we learned to eat them for the duration.
So what might you ask has this got to do with Scarborough and Totally Locally? In these times of austerity with Bedroom tax and tomorrow’s budget imminent, threatening more attacks on the poorest , I guess the point I am trying to make is that once we recovered and had wages again we never forgot all those who helped us- we weren’t brand loyal we were locally loyal– we went back to our butchers, greengrocers, hairdressers etc- and 30 years on there are thriving businesses in the villages.
I am thrilled with the free community action and skills swap which Jayne and Phillip Coyne have initiated and as an individual have donated something to that cause. Some trades people may perceive this as a threat . From experience I suggest you donate that left over paint or almost out of date food. Those in need of it will remember your generosity when the tide turns for them.
Social Enterprises were not around 30 years ago but they are giving opportunities for like minded groups of people to work collectively for the common good and to create income for those involved. As a sole trader I am unable to apply for Lottery Funding or charitable grants and all the other Scarborough artists are in the same position. However, were we to come together and create a social enterprise we could seek Lottery or charitable funding to bring our skills into the communities, and with that bring the benefits of art and creativity to those who can’t afford the prices we have to charge as individuals. Had I not moved to Scarborough I would have been involved in such a Social Enterprise which in fact is very successful. Those who work for it now have disposable income to -you guessed it… spend in their local independent shops, cafes and pubs.
And before I draw this little epistle to a close let’s be thankful for all those who support us as independent businesses regardless of who supplies their income.
As a business I am in the process of giving back to the community where I live and work but you dear readers won’t get to know about that . I’m doing it to give back to the community I live in, thankful for all those businesses and individuals who gave so freely to me and my family when we were in need. And one day when the tables have turned for them they may come and support my business. And if they don’t I am still left with the knowledge that I tried to improve people’s lives.