Sir Stuart Rose (ex-Chairman of Marks & Spencer) might have been a successful businessman but he wouldn't make a good diplomat. His performance at the Ipswich Beacon Town conference received plenty of local publicity which was probably the main aim. But if you exaggerate to get people listening, you run the risk of being taken literally.
He is reported as saying, "It is the most depressing place I have ever seen. Standing in the town centre with the empty shops, it is a barren wasteland." As someone who shops in the town centre several times every week, I think Sir Stuart must only visit Ipswich on non-market days in the late afternoon, because it's never like that in the mornings and early afternoons. The danger is that the only people who might think he's right are those who don't come to town already and so they'll conclude "I'm right after all." Yet those are the very people you need to attract into town.
As for clearing the Cornhill for cafe tables and special events, how many days in the year would that valuable space be used, compared with the four days a week all the year round of the market? And markets do bring visitors and vitality to town centres. They might attract shoppers with, on average, thin purses or wallets, when Ipswich badly needs to attract more people with fat purses or wallets. But a successful town centre needs both kinds of purses and wallets. John Norman has written on this subject elsewhere in the Newsletter, but I can't resist having my say. Have your say in the next Newsletter?
I'm writing this as the Christmas lights are creating a talking point. Whether or not you liked the lights and particularly the 'tree', this all represented good publicity because people want to come and see for themselves. The whole lighting project clearly showed an overall design in silver (with some gold) which I thought was stylish - more Regent Street than Las Vegas!
On pages 4 and 5, this issue of the Newsletter contains two obituaries, sad to say. Peter Underwood and Jack Chapman were great assets to The Ipswich Society and deserve all the praise accorded to them by the Society. Those who knew them personally will also remember them with gratitude and affection.