Leominster uses history to create its future
With all the doom and gloom surrounding ailing towns, the death of the high street, and dwindling resources a group of Leominster business owners and residents have taken it on the chin but fought back. Although the brainchild of David Fitzcount, Director of outdoor retailer Survive & Thrive, the event relies on a very small but exceptionally committed small team. Using Leominster’s rich medieval history, they have carved out an event which capitalises on it and now attracts several thousand people a year from nothing.
The Leominster Medieval Pageant attracts local visitors from the town and surrounding areas, the Welsh Marches region and from much further afield, including the North and the South Coast. The Pageant has been developed as a free entry community event which is both fun and educational for the whole family. All funds are raised by the organisers themselves. Despite the ups and downs of creating and delivering such an event on very limited resources, each year there is a different medieval theme. Fresh scenarios for a tournament and skirmish are developed alongside living history, music and dance. A large craft and artisan fayre accompanies the event, designed to showcase local makers and producers. Some of the stallholders have been with the Pageant since its inception seven events ago.
Realising that it is no good keep complaining about the negatives, it was time to strike back. As well as attracting visitors and strengthening pride in the town, the idea was to demonstrate to others that well run events throughout the year could enhance the attractiveness of the town as a destination and showcase it as a town of independent retailers. If others were to create their own popular events it could also be good news. You can’t rely on officialdom to do this you have to make it happen yourselves. Sure there will be plenty of detractors and those that drag their feet or create obstacles but if you want a vibrant town you have to muscle through these.
In commercial speak the town has to brand itself and history must be an important part of Leominster’s brand. Historically Leominster was an important town. For much of the medieval period it was a thriving commercial centre. Step back to then and you would have encountered many international buyers for Leominster’s fine wool, textiles for Kings, Popes and the aristocracy, agricultural products and leather goods. Being a Marcher town and important communications centre it was the scene of battles and intrigue.
The good news is that the Pageant is well established and visitors seem to enjoy the mix of activities on offer: there is something for everyone. Increasingly local businesses and some major grocery retailers have chipped in with goods in kind to help make the Pageant happen. Hopefully the momentum will grow and visitors to the town and locals alike will realise they have a great heritage but they all have to contribute to keeping the dream alive. Shops and businesses, residents and visitors, customers and suppliers, local organisations and councils all need to work together to create a stake in the future. Sometimes an eye on the past can also make it happen too.
©Copyright David Fitzcount, Survive & Thrive Ltd
enjoy Leominster Medieval Pageant next on 6th April 2019