Category Archives: achievements and progress

Things we have achieved and progress of items in the process

Market Rasen Town Tidy Up – Well Done!

Recently around the town centre you may have noticed there have been some fantastic changes. Not only have shops been sprucing up out front with a lick of paint thanks to help from those at JK Building Maintenance but there are new planters at the train station and, with the help of the community payback scheme, the telephone box in the marketplace has been painted and the bench has been replaced. The Advocate Arms has also installed a new sign outside their building.

The new facelift in Market Rasen is a very welcome sight as one of the promises made by MR BIG to the Portas Pilot Scheme was that the town centre would be tidied up.

Darren Lince, Property and Commercial Volunteer Director, who is leading the Town Tidy Up initiative was extremely happy to see the new changes. “As a local business owner I am delighted that we’re seeing so many other businesses on the High Street further enhancing their properties and this includes Town & Country Carpets, Rhodes and McColl’s. We also have a commitment that when The White Swan is purchased from the administrators (of the Freehold title) that will also be “spruced up”.

When these improvements are combined with the enhancements at The Goldmine, the old Halifax building and the opening of Greens as well as the painting of all the metalwork around the Market Place and many more positive advances it is great to have some positive news to balance the  negative and inaccurate picture of Market Rasen portrayed recently on BBC Look North.

Market Rasen High Street still has plenty of room for improvement, we still have a couple of empty premises and it is still very tough out there for retailers and small businesses, but we are not seeing the decline that many High Streets have suffered. In fact our High Street looks and feels so much better than it did twelve months ago.

The challenge to WLDC, The Town Council, Mr Big and local businesses is to make further improvements and enhancements to try to keep more local shoppers in town and attract more spending visitors and businesses to Market Rasen, to further enhance the retail and service experience and ultimately to make the High Street sustainable for the long term future.P1020137 P1020135 P1020134 P1020133

Market Rasen Portas Pilot packed with NEW businesses that the BBC fails to mention

On 29 May Mr Big was contacted by BBC Look North at 11.30am to field a representative to comment on that day’s national statistics around the Pilot. We did this within in the hour, with one of our volunteer directors spending a substantial amount of time with their team giving detail on why we believe the statistics are a mis-representation of the situation in our town.

However it appears we have been swept into a broader agenda as the prime-time show, which often reaches an audience of 500,000 people in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, painted a negative view that simply isn’t true in fact.

After a whole year of hard work and with some amazing achievements under our belts, we would hope that our local media representation would take a more responsible position. Sadly that hasn’t happened so we have to tell our own story.

According to the Guardian’s 29 May article “Market Rasen was the worst performer in terms of shops, with a 3.2 percentage point rise in empty stores between March 2012 and the same month this year, according to information collated by research firm The Local Data Company for the BBC Radio 4 programme You & Yours.”

So putting aside the fact that the Portas Pilot only began at the end of May 2012. Let’s look at the detail.


The ‘closures’ are those stated in Local Data Company Portas 12 BBC You and Yours spread sheet.  (It contains each of the 12 Portas Pilot towns so if any of the other Pilots or their local media would like a copy please get in touch).


Millcraft Bathrooms is not a closure, just a relocation – all under one roof.

Millcraft Bathrooms – not really a closure, in fact a smart recession-beating move to deal with the High Street overheads, Millcraft moved their bathroom showroom into the same premises as their Kitchen shop further up Queen Street. Their old premises was refurbished and opened on 1 May 2012 as Quintessential Beauty, a NEW beauty parlour opened during Market Rasen’s Portas Pilot first year.

NEW_Quintessential_Beauty_opened_May 2012

New Quintessential Beauty that filled the premises vacated by Millcraft Bathroom’s relocation but NOT mentioned in BBC figures.

Arena Café is closed as a café but it is being used for training and workshops by C G Partnership and has hosted several pop up events during the Portas Pilot first year including markets, art exhibitions and crafting workshops. After this valuable research, it will reopen soon as a NEW Learning & Arts Café.

Age Concern UK replaces Oxfam on Market Rasen's High St

Age Concern UK replaced Oxfam on the High St within weeks of its closure

Oxfam sadly did leave Market Rasen, but within weeks this main High Street retail unit has been refurbished and reopened by Age Concern UK. The original Age Concern unit on Union Street is due to open soon as a NEW Crafting Supplies shop selling wool etc to the talented artistic community that we’ve seen emerge during Market Rasen’s Arts Council England funded Arts & Crafts Festival 2013.

Wild One Tours Market Rasen

Wild One Tours replaced China Choice on the High Street on 1 March 2012 so why is China Choice in the figures as a closure?

China Choice – was never open during the Portas Pilot. The refurbished Queen Street premises is now home to Wild One Tours, a fantastic motor cycling accessories retailer, serving our big biking community with branded leathers, helmets, boots and planning tours. Mike Coleman owner of Wild One Tours told us he opened in March 2012. He is in Local Data Company’s statistic as an opening yet China Choice the business he replaced is as a closure. Same shop, same premises so a bit misleading?


Primal Art Tattoo studio’s new larger premises replaced Urban Dollz. The old shop is shown in the same photo.

Urban Dollz was an end of line discounted fashion retail that was replaced by Primal Art Tattoo Studio moving two doors down to a larger premises. Likewise the Tattoo Parlour appears on the stats as both closure and opening. We would class that as a relocation. The original smaller premises is vacant and in need of refurbishment.


Is a dentist’s a shop? Whether it is or it isn’t we still have 2 on our High Street despite the data saying we’ve had 2 closures and no new dentists opening. And that’s on the high street alone. We have a great NHS dentist that is expanding into some of our Town Council offices.

There are 2 dentists on the BBC You and Yours spreadsheet – J Jacobs and Advanced Dental. Whether or not you wish to class these as ‘stores’ is debatable. As they feature in the stats that are being used against us, let’s include them. We have been told that Jacobs is still in business as Wolds Dental Studio and we’re happy to report a NEW High Street dental practice called You Smile. Sadly not mentioned in the data but sure to be bringing useful additional footfall to people popping into Market Rasen for a check up and taking advantage of any of Market Rasen’s 6+ FREE car parks.



Where Little Orchard and many other businesses have tried and failed. Always a tricky retail space to fill. Tucked behind a side shopping street, up for sale, but near a FREE car park. Have you got any good ideas? We’d love to hear them.

Little Orchard is sited as a closure but most of the people we spoke to couldn’t remember it being open at the beginning of the Pilot year. It was based in a tricky ‘retail space’ tucked on the back of the community hub. During the last year this challenging premises has opened and closed as a fruit and veg shop, ex-catalogue stock shop and pet supplies. (None of these feature on the statistics as openings.) The building is for sale with planning permission for houses on the car park outside so remains vacant. If anyone is interested, it would suit a retailer selling large commodity goods that need easy access to customer vehicles. It’s NOT a location that would attract browsing footfall.

Town Team inside Little Miberry's

Mr Big Apprentice and Town Centre Manager take a peek inside LIttle Milberry’s which replaced Sofia’s Boutique after the Georgian shop was renovated.

Sofia’s Boutique was a dress shop that sadly closed but since then, the stunning Georgian building has been renovated top to bottom, including the two stories above. Now home to a new childrenswear retailer Little Milberry’s which features as an opening in the BBC’s figures.



Steve Hine owner of Indulgence very much open for business as usual in his new location near the Lincolnshire Coop Car Park on Market Place Walk

Indulgence is a lovely little shop selling fragranced gifts, oil lamps, hand poured candles, bath and beauty products plus bags, scarves etc. Steve and Carol, who run the shop, love Market Rasen so much that they have moved 3 times in order to find the right premises to maximise its potential. They were kind enough to sell I LOVE MKT RSN merchandise online for us. So Steve was naturally concerned to be sited as a closure and only one opening! He left 31 Queen St on 1 May 2011 to move into 10a Queen St on 20 March 2012. Steve then opened in Market Place Walk on 2 April 2013 and is settling in nicely to his new location. Indulgence was very much open for business this weekend taking advantage of proximity to the Market Place by giving visitors to the Lions’ Annual Gardeners’ Fayre flyers.

Indulgence replaced Varlows at 10a Queen Street and Footprints on Market Place Walk, neither of which feature in the figures at all. Although Peter Scott shoe shop is mentioned as a closure (it was the previous incarnation of Footprints and definitely NOT open during the Pilot). 10a Queen Street is a lovely large retail space and has been very close to signing a number of fashion retailers as it has a great upstairs space too. Let’s hope the recent Market Rasen bashing hasn’t put them off.

The Rasen Farm Shop was a fruit and veg shop originally located at 6a Queen Street but forced to relocate to 14 Queen Street when the roof fell in.  Sadly Kelly decided to come out of retail altogether and so Mr Big, using Portas Pilot funds, decided to fill a pivotal gap on the High Street with a fruit and veg shop that would mean people could buy meal solutions from our great local butchers Lancasters and fish from the market without having to resort to shopping in the supermarkets.

Rasen Farm Shop BEFORE

The original fruit and veg shop that sadly closed on our High Street. Photographed here when Jayne Cartwright came to help advise on the new shop fit for Greens.

Plus it was the perfect opportunity to give the artisan producers (who have helped make Market Rasen Britain’s Best Small Speciality Market of the Year 2013) a route to retail as we pledged in our original Portas Pilot bid. Thanks to lots of hard graft by so many people, including great shop fit advice from Jayne Cartwright, the charity retail guru, NEW Greens of Lincolnshire opened in December 2012 at 14 Queen Street.

Mary visits Greens of Lincolnshire Market Rasen Feb 2013

Mary’s visit to Market Rasen in February 2013 included a volunteer inspiring visit to Greens of Lincolnshire. Odd that the shop isn’t on the figures as an opening?

The shop makes its own exciting journey into private ownership from 1 June 2013 to Maria Pemberton who started her West Wold Deli on our very first Pop Up Market on 14 May 2012. Maria has moved from market to retail in 12 months of the Portas Pilot, supported by Mr Big and the people of Market Rasen. She is to retain employees and has even created a new paid role for a fantastic volunteer who enters paid employment for the very first time.


Meet the team. L – R. Pam retained manager, Brett volunteer who began his first paid employment on 1 June 2013 and Maria Pemberton the new owner of Greens of Lincolnshire having progressed from her first retail outing on our Pop Up Market in May 2012 to retail shop owner, supported by Mr Big and fantastic loyal customers and artisan suppliers.

Despite featuring ‘as best practice’ in Mary Portas’ inspiring visit to Market Rasen in February 2012, and scoring 9/10 in Mary’s Telegraph column, Greens of Lincolnshire does not feature as an opening in the Local Company Data/BBC You and Yours stats at all. What a kick in the teeth for us to see the display we created and painted as volunteers being used as a backdrop for inaccurate graphics about Market Rasen’s empties. Gutted is an understatement.

P.G’s Nuts on Union Street sadly closed during the pilot. It subsequently reopened as a charity shop claiming to raise funds for Friends of St Andrew’s Hospice (despite being open for just a matter of weeks it features on the BBC spreadsheet).  Once the charity denied any official involvement it folded fairly quickly to be replaced by Odds’an’Sods, selling value toys for Christmas.


Was P.G’s Nuts then ‘charity’ shop, then Odds an Sods a toy retailer opening pre-Christmas. This one premises shows as a closure but only records 1 of the 2 openings during this period. Why?

We’ve had an email this week from a lady who has a womenswear shop in Brigg, “I have in fact found a suitable property in Market Rasen, its the one on Union Street, its used to be the old Nuts shop I believe.” She thinks this is the perfect space for her to open a second shop. Let’s hope so!


Blue River Jewellery SHop window

Blue River Jewellery relocated from one end of Queen Street to the other in June 2011

Blue River Jewellery (another double entry as closure and opening) is another lovely little indie shop where you can buy jewellery making supplies as well as beautiful rings, bracelets, necklaces etc and have repairs carried out by Wendy herself, who in fact relocated from 21 Queen Street to 6a Queen Street following its complete refurbishment.

Jacques Home Hardware

Thanks to the Market Rasen Mail for this photo showing the Jacques family getting ready the weekend before their rebranding in September.

Priceless Home Hardware appears as a closure and Jacques Home Hardware as an opening. The address is the same. So yes, it’s a rebrand. Rob Jacques launched the rebranding of his long established and successful independent hardware business over a fun weekend on 7/8 September 2012. He is also the owner of a small shop unit that housed ‘Curtain Creations’ on George Street. This doesn’t feature on the stats but talking to Rob over the weekend, it is available to rent and would make a fantastic start up retail unit at a very affordable price as it’s not on the main High Street.

Wrap and Roll Sandwich Bar didn’t manage to compete with one of Lincolnshire’s most established bakeries Starbucks and another relative newcomer Cooplands. Happily though the premises has been fully refurbished by NEW Lovelle Estate Agency – now the forth estate agency in Market Rasen. Not bad for a small rural market town that’s on its uppers, eh?

Lovelle Estate Agency 4th Estate Agent in Market Rasen

Business can’t be that bad for a rural market town that can accommodate 4 Estate Agents. Lovelle’s opened in September 2011 but yet again they don’t get a mention in Local Data Company stats.

Likewise the final ‘closure’ on the list is First Choice Travel Shop, based in great High Street premises opposite the Market Place owned by the Lincolnshire Cooperative. Nationally First Choice folded but the premises was quickly replaced by Bowens Travel. Sadly the same thing happened and the group went bust also during the Pilot, but not mentioned in the figures. Happily for Market Rasen, in March this year, following a brief stint as a Pop up Art Gallery during our Arts Council England funded Arts & Crafts festival, this shop reopened it as a NEW Lincolnshire Co-operative Travel shop bringing fresh faces on to the High Street for services.

Lincs Coop Travel Shop

Thanks to Market Rasen Mail for this great picture showing the benefits of an organisation like the Lincolnshire Coop opening its Travel Shop, creating 4 jobs and supporting young people in our community.


So in addition to the ‘openings’ which were in reality relocations and rebranding not covered above, let’s say hello to Market Rasen’s new indie retailers the BBC and Local Data Company failed to mention:


New equestrian shop opened in October 2012 but sadly not reflected on the figures the BBC are using to rubbish the hard work of the people in the Portas Pilot towns.

NEW Bay Trading opened 29 October 2012 in the old Blue River shop at 21 Queen Street, we welcome a second retail outlet from Louth based Bay Team Products filling that gap on our High Street for equestrian products, much needed in our rural economy.


Isn’t it great when a new retailer spots a niche that will suit the community? Equestrian products on the high street in a horse racing town. What could be better?

NEW Quintessential Beauty opened 1 May 2012 in the old Millcraft Bathrooms that relocated to kitchens.(Pictured above under facts on the space it replaced). Quintessential joins other hair and beauty retailers Touches Tanning, Style Studio, Total Beauty and Spring Beauty all trying new and innovative ways to attract and serve their clientele from a catchment area of 33,000 people.

NEW Bathroom Desires opened 1 March 2013 in the long term vacant Taal Indian restaurant – a key entrance to the town.  Perfectly located near Peter Rhodes Electrical and Rhodes Fitted Kitchen, to provide a mini department store for homeowners looking to refurbish their properties. Ian Mcready has a lifetime’s experience in sourcing beautiful bathrooms ‘without the expensive flannel’.


Bathroom Desires owner Ian saw BBC Look North film outside his shop last week and recorded the teatime show in the hope of spotting his shop, especially as it replaced a derelict eyesore featured in the original Portas Pilot bid video. Sadly no TV clip or mention in the Local Data Company / BBC You and Yours figures for Bathroom Desires, despite opening in Market Rasen on 1 March 2013.

NEW Lovelle Estate Agency opened 29 September 2012 to become the forth estate agent in town joining established agents Perkins George Mawer, Walters and John Taylors. With 66 new homes being built by Chestnut Homes within walking distance of the High Street there are clearly plenty of people who believe Market Rasen is worth investment. A quick call to Chestnut Homes revealed that within a day of Hunter’s Place in Market Rasen being on the website they had received 30 enquiries.

hunters place market rasen

2, 3 and 4 bedroom homes and 2 bed apartments being built within walking distance of the High Street. 30 enquiries received on the first day. Isn’t it great to know people want to live at this fabulous gateway to the Lincolnshire Wolds and contribute to the success of our community?

NEW Tradelight a trade lighting company who purchased the old Travis Perkins site on Oxford Street when they relocated and refurbished and old tractor sales depot on Walesby Road.

NEW Big Corner Shop opened by Mr Big in the Grade II listed Old Halifax building which has stood derelict until it was bought and renovated by Lindum Construction. The adjacent side to the shop is taken by Bridge McFarland Solicitors  (if we’re counting dentists as shops then surely professional services count too). The Big Corner Shop opened on a Pilot model selling wares from fledgling retailers on a 3 month trial to cover costs. It provides a route to market for 30+ retailers and is now changing to a model where 2 of the 3 rooms are dedicated paid retailer space with the 3rd providing volunteer run selling space for a fee + commission. Above the shop are 4 offices, housing a variety of professional services business employing staff and housing the Mr Big Town Centre Manager and Apprentice.

When Mary met the Big Corner Shop team

BBC Look North interviewed Sarah Lamballe in the Big Corner Shop, shown here when Mary met the team but failed to mention its broader achievements. Mary praised the Big Corner shop, home to 30+ fledgling retailers, opened with Portas Pilot funds. Another NEW business that opened just after Christmas in Market Rasen but not reflected in the statistics that say we’ve ‘failed’. Why?



Sweet Beginnings opens in June in Market Rasen

Opening any day now, Sharon from Sweet Beginnings gets ready to fill a long term vacant with a contemporary photography studio for mums to be and under 5s.

Sweet Beginnings Photography opening imminently at 31 Queen Street brings a contemporary family photography studio onto the High Street. Having met Sharon and Paul on Saturday as they put the finishing touches to a refurbished interior, they had already started networking with other Market Rasen businesses on cross selling opportunities. Just the sort of dynamic approach we need.

haron_Paul_ Sweet_Beginnings_in_Market_rasen

Photographer Sharon, shown here with husband Paul on Saturday, got busy and popped along the High Street, to introduce herself to other traders and hand out flyers during the Lions’ Gardeners’ Fayre and Spring Market. Good work!

Craft Supplies shop will fill the space left by Age Concern moving up space left by Oxfam.

Craft Shop coming soon

Soon to be a Craft Supplies – perfect for all the talented artists and crafters we met here during Market Rasen’s Arts & Craft Festival in Feb-Mar 2013 funded by the Arts Council as we were a Portas Pilot.


King Street was left vacant by Lincolnshire County Council relocating Social Services out of town. This lovely old building has been bought by Lindum Construction, refurbished as offices and is now home to 4 professional services businesses adding to the lunch time and after work economy.

13 - TAKEN - Now Nicholson's Accountants and Lindum Group

13 – TAKEN – Now Nicholson’s Accountants and Lindum Group plus other professional services businesses.


There are currently 4 vacant main High Street premises due to the very recent closure of Scoops and the relocation of Indulgence and The Ironing Board to more affordable premises, in addition to the old Tattoo Studio.


The closure of Scoops sees our main High Street vacants rise to 4. This could be a great location, next to the pedestrian crossing and on the same side as busy local businesses like Market Rasen Pet Centre, Forget Me Not Florists and Greens of Lincolnshire. What creative ideas do you have for it? We’d love to hear them.

We attempt to keep a record of our empties on this blog and will update this as often as we can to fill gaps that are not just about High Street retail but about any business or organisation that wants to set up in a Market Rasen postcode. You will be assured of a warm welcome and as much support as the town can give you. We’d love to see the Square Bar, owned by Lincolnshire Coop on the Market Place filled with something truly innovative and engaging for the community. Any ideas?

Square Bar on the Market Place. What could it be?

Square Bar on the Market Place. What could it be?

The challenges continue to be huge especially when already stretched volunteer directors are now having to deal with fall out from supporters and volunteers who can’t understand why we would be would be involved in reporting that has done our town down.

Our personal learnings from a year of hard slog on the High Street has been that halting decline and promoting growth may appear to be about retail premises and footfall on the surface.  But the reality is that in order to create an environment for growth, you have to create confidence.  That is our task here at MR BIG and the irresponsible reporting last week in the press, local TV, national radio and online media has undoubtedly been a set back we could well do without.

If you are someone who has contributed to this particular round of Portas bashing, think about how damaging it is and how it creates hard work for over stretched town teams. Ask yourself what you are doing to help. What are you spending on your local High Street each week?

If anyone in the media (thanks Market Rasen Mail for being the first to get in touch) is interested in reporting the facts and meeting some of the NEW businesses here in Market Rasen that didn’t make it on Local Data Company’s figures, then please contact us to discover why they believe that our lovely Lincolnshire market town is worth their investment.

Whilst other Pilot towns have struggled with red-tape, we have forged ahead to make positive change. So much so that our good work has been recognised with an award in the last month that sees us as one of only 7 High Street recognised for innovation.

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, so if all you want to do is knock this town and its hard working people, we’d kindly ask you to stay away. Market Rasen is going places with or without your help.

The source of Market Rasen Guide’s up to the minute data is walking up and down the high street, talking to shop owners between 29 May and 4 June. Time we’d really rather have spent on delivering our 4 big ideas, preparing for Indie Retail Month in July and working on High Street X-Fund projects.

Market Rasen High Street has the X Factor



Around Christmas time last year, we drew up a bid and submitted it to government, explaining some of the great things we’ve achieved in Market Rasen and outlining some further ideas we would like to implement to continue our journey to re-invigorate the High Street.


We were one of 55 towns who applied (and submitted videos) and only 7 towns were given the award.  In the words of our representative from Government – we are a truly exceptional town.  We asked for £79K, But we were awarded £101,057. . .and it’s taken us a little while to find out why, which is why we’ve not been super-quick to announce the details of the win.  We wanted to get our facts straight.


So here they are.



Our bid was formed from the ideas laid down in our town transformation plan, written with the input of traders and business people back in February 2012.  It builds on the four promises laid down in our Portas bid:  Town Tidy Up, Markets, Shopping and Marketing and Promotion to drive footfall.


This bid includes a host of activites, they include:



Town Tidy Up


‘Operation Ice Cream’ which will create a fund to help shop owners and businesses repaint their shop frontages


  • Gardening initiatives, including community groups and schools to improve unloved areas of the town 


  • Love Your Street – a scheme to encourage groups to ‘adopt’ and care for areas of our town


  • Shop Window Award to develop Visual Merchandising skills for retailers




  • Management fund to ensure we can continue to host BIG monthly markets and to continue to fund our Town Centre Manager for a 2nd year


  • Funds to try new and different markets formats to keep things fresh and exciting


  • Work with local councils and transport providers to provide market day buses and trains from Lincoln and Grimsby.


Shopping Sustainability


  • Community cafe with gallery space and family friendly facilities and visitor information. 


  • Personal shopping service and outreach for vulnerable people and people without access to transport. 


  • Develop overnight accommodation provision and ensure our visitors have a VIP experience


  • Formal support package for start-up businesses




  • Improving the visitor experience through signage and information.


  • Shop Local campaign


  • Regional tourist promotions to create a branded offer to visitors, showcasing our towns assets including Racecourse, outdoor activities as a Lincolnshire Wolds Town, Biker events, Food Tourism etc.


  • Promote Market Rasen and surrounding villages regionally as cultural destination for arts and crafts


As you can see, there’s a lot to do here and the money we’ve won is allocated in small portions against each of these activities, so we need to think carefully about what projects we undertake in what order.  



There is no deadline on when we spend the money and we’ve still got approximately 50% of our Portas funds left – so there are plenty of projects on the go already.


We were keen to understand why the Government had awarded us an extra £22K.  The answer is that these funds are there to help us make our projects sustainable – so to pay for the people resources required to keep things moving, but also to help us spread news of our projects by networking with other town teams.  They are not to be allocated to new and additional projects to those outlined in our bid.


In the couple of weeks since the X Fund win was announced in the national media, I’ve been approached by a handful of concerned townspeople, who were worried or unclear about the purpose and remit of MR BIG.  First, a number of people expressed concern about the idea of having a ‘community cafe’ as part of our plans and that it would encroach on other eateries in town. To be clear – there is a limited budget of £10K against this activity and the focus will be on creating a family-friendly environment that fulfils a number of different functions for residents and visitors. The location and format of this initiative is not agreed and the opportunity will be tendered out at a date tbc for local businesses or groups to ‘bid’ to take this activity forward.  



Secondly, I’ve been asked on many occasions for MR BIG to extend the scope of works to tackle a host of different issues the town faces.  Again, we want to be clear that as a business improvement group there is a limit and focus to our remit that is around regenerating our High Street and businesses within Market Rasen.  Activities that encourage business growth will continue to be our primary focus.  Whilst these may have benefits to the overall community as a whole, our Group is not a catch-all for every issue our town faces.   


Our Board takes time and care to ensure that we remain true to the vision we set right at the outset at the beginning of 2012 – which was to make Market Rasen a more inviting place to be and to drive the footfall on the High Street that will benefit local businesses so that they, in turn can invest in our town.



In light of recent feedback from our members, we will be looking to meet with them more regularly and informally over the months ahead, so we can continue to canvass the views, opinions and ideas that have been critical to our success thus far.



Sara Scott – Chair MR BIG



Mr Big Trader and Business Newsletter – April Round Up

Thank you to those of you who were able to make it to the meeting last Monday. Although turnout was low, it was a positive and interactive meeting. We were able to learn a lot about how you think MR BIG is doing and where you think we need to put our energy over the next few months to make things even better.

Firstly, we heard you say that we need to advertise our events and meetings more: not just via email and social media but in flyers and posters that we hand out to you in person. We will get on with this straight away.

We know we need to do more to update you with more frequent newsletters: again, with a hard copy, posted up publicly and available in the Library to complement our wide-reaching social media. We will be getting a newsletter together in the next few weeks.

You would like to see more of MR BIG in person, on the High Street and around town. The Town Team will endeavour to visit all the High Street shops and businesses more frequently: just a quick hello is sometimes all that’s needed. Thank you for suggesting this.

Pop into see Nicola at the Big Corner Shop on Fridays or arrange an appointment with a director

Pop into see Nicola at the Big Corner Shop, 27a The Market Place at the Friday morning ‘open surgery’.

Remember that we do still have an open ‘surgery’ on a Friday morning: call into the Big Corner Shop and ask for Nicola the Town Centre Manager. You can also make an appointment to talk to one of the Directors. Just let us know.

Membership benefits are important and we are reviewing what we offer to MR BIG members. Feedback from you is that you would like a website with members’ businesses and shops listed; and more training and Business to Business networking events. We will get a B 2 B event organised and invite you along; we are happy to organise and facilitate these events so that you can share expertise and ideas; we can book motivational and expert speakers too.

There are a couple of quick wins which we will sort out: we will organise a Mystery Shopper programme for the towns businesses and shops – but only if you want to take part: it’s not obligatory. We’re hoping to have some funding from the Government to pay for this in the next couple of months. Additionally, we’ll get some temporary signs for our free car parks organised for MR BIG market days; we’ll talk to Highways about a longer-term answer to the poor car park signage, including ‘brown’ signs at the two main junctions with the A46.

The appearance of the town is really important to you: as it is to MR BIG. We have done what we can so far with the budget we have and have contracted Community Payback once a month until the end of the year. Our budget for Town Tidy Up is £4,000 for the duration of the Portas Project: this equates to roughly £7.30 for every commercial property in the town centre. The Community Payback contract will cost around £2000 for a year. We have written to West Lindsey District Council for financial support and are waiting to hear from them.

We are not able to justify using public money to re-paint and improve buildings which are in private ownership. However, we can explore negotiating discounts for labour and materials. We’d really like to do more and to help businesses paint and improve their buildings. We have written to owners and landlords of buildings which need attention and we should have some feedback from this exercise soon. Realistically we will have to wait to see the outcome of our X Fund bid (we should hear about mid-May) to see if we will have more funds which could then be allocated to a programme of painting and general tidying up. We will of course let you know as soon as we hear.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please contact the Town Team on 01673 84 94 40 or email to get in touch.

Magic comes to Market Rasen’s BIG May Market – Sat 4th

Market Rasen’s BIG Magical Market for May is only a couple of days away! So to get you in the magical mood we’re having a Pop Up Cinema experience on the high street, on Friday 3rd May at 4pm, we’ll be screening Tangled FREE for children at 10a Queen Street (previously Indulgence) with a few tuck shop treats to buy – well, it just wouldn’t be the same without popcorn!

Market Rasen gets Magical - Saturday 4th May from 9am

Market Rasen gets Magical – Saturday 4th May from 9am

The Magical Market itself will kick off around 9am in the Market Place and Festival Hall – we’ve got some new banners and arrows to direct visitors along to Festival Hall so they really sample all the delights Market Rasen has to offer.

Each of the 35+ stalls on the market place will have a poster promoting Festival Hall too, we’d love any of our lovely high street independents to run special market day offers too (please tell us what they are on our Facebook page so we can share them for you with all our followers on Twitter too) and if you have any flyers or leaflets please pop them along to the Big Corner Shop so we can share there too. As you can see we’re trying super hard to encourage footfall all around town, with new banners for the auction shed, we want to attract visitors to take advantage of Market Rasen’s free parking.

We’re delighted to add FREE face painting for children to the fun filled drop in circus skills workshops on the Market Place, laid on for us by the talented team at Party Workshops once again, so kids can try their hands at juggling, unicycling and lots more. Most exciting of all is thanks to lovely Louise from Market Rasen’s iconic Queen St sweet shop, Garnett’s, we’ll have the first ice cream van of the season. So that means spring is officially launched at Market Rasen’s Magical May Market with delicious Lincolnshire ice cream from Dennett’s available from around 11am – so there’s plenty of time to have a bacon butty in Ffeisty’s Festival Hall Happy Cafe first, then pop back for a Hog Roast lunch!

Last month’s Grand National market was a great success and we’re hoping that the sun will shine on the magical delights we have in store for you in May, including a fancy dress competition open to all shop keepers, stall holders and children!

Great montage of Instagram images from our Big April Grand National Market

Great montage of Instagram images from our Big April Grand National Market

Delicious eats and treats abound with local favourites Propa Pies, Parvins, Jenny’s Jams, Goatwood Dairy Cheese, Green Dog Deli, Love from Italy, Scrubby’s Crisps, Lymn Bank Cheese, West Wold Deli, Greenfield Bakery and many many more so remember to bring your I Love Market Rasen shopping bags to fill them up with scrumptious local fayre to enjoy all bank holiday weekend.


Saturday 6th April Mr Big Grand National Market

Gallop into Market Rasen this Saturday to experience Britain’s Best Small Speciality Market for yourself. Hopefully the sun will be shining as you taste and shop your way around our historic Georgian market town, sampling all your favourite food and drink, gifts and goodies stalls in the Market Place with many more fabulous treats, sweets, arts and crafts in the Festival Hall too.

Come along to Market Rasen's award winning market - April's theme is The Grand National

Come along to Market Rasen’s award winning market this Saturday 6th April. As a racecourse town what else would the theme be but The Grand National!

We are also delighted to welcome the AMAZING Party workshop back, so all the family can try their hands FREE at circus skills in the Market Place. Plus we’re incredibly grateful to our friends at Market Rasen Racecourse for the loan of some racing “props” , so that you can get up close and personal with horse racing paraphernalia like silks, and saddles and bridles to get in the Grand National mood. We’re even fortunate to have a bookmakers near to the Aston Arms on the Market Place so you don’t even have to miss out on placing your bets for the big race!

Keep your eyes peeled for Lincs Young Farmers who will be around and about with details of Market Rasen’s next race meeting on Sunday 14 April – grab a leaflet and you can receive admission into Tattersalls Enclosure for just £10 – normally £14! And of course, children under 18 are admitted free  to our racecourse – another great reason to come back to Market Rasen next weekend too!

With 36 stalls expected in the Market Place and 20 in the Festival Hall ranging from popular favourites like Redhill Farm, Chapman’s Fishcakes, Jenny’s Jams, Parvins and Tom Woods to newcomers like Greenfield Bakers it promised to be a bumper field so be sure to come early and don’t forget to clip clop up and down the high street too – to shop with Market Rasen’s independent traders, cafes, tearooms, pubs and restaurant with plenty of FREE parking – click the link for a map.

Just a few of the IG snaps gathered to date at Market Rasen's award winning markets

Just a few of the IG snaps gathered to date at Market Rasen’s award winning markets

Once again we’d like to invite local Instagrammers to come to Market Rasen, take and share photos of our market, although it’s not an official Instameet you’re very welcome to use the hashtags so we can use share in your photographic storytelling of our BIG events. We’ll be using #BIGAprilMarket please feel free to contribute!

Pitch for prime Portas Pilot retail – Greens of Lincolnshire is on the market

Awarded 9/10 and declared “absolutely brilliant” by Mary Portas in her Saturday Telegraph
, two weeks ago, Greens of Lincolnshire, Market Rasen’s highly acclaimed fresh and local fruit and veg shop, is now being offered as a business opportunity to whoever can show the leadership and vision to guarantee its success.

Mary Portas in Greens of Lincolnshire

Mary Portas sampling the fresh local produce in Greens of Lincolnshire, during her visit to the town in February 2013

Launched last December with funds from Market Rasen’s winning Portas Pilot bid to plug a gap on the high street, Greens is already so much more than just a fruit and veg shop. Described by the Queen of Shops as “chic and appetising”, this prime spot on Queen Street is beautifully merchandised with baskets of locally sourced fresh produce and the best of Lincolnshire artisan foods. Jams and chutneys, sauces, herbs, pickles, oils and spices are displayed to stunning effect on shabby chic dressers and crates, with local cheeses, salads, soups and quiches filling the chiller and fresh daily breads, cakes and quiches, all delivered by a loyal, established supplier base.

9 out of 10 for Greens of Lincolnshire

Mary Portas Queen of Shops gives Greens of Lincolnshire 9 out of 10 in her column in Saturday Telegraph Magazine

In addition to excellent footfall, Greens has a successful box scheme delivering weekly £10 and £15 fruit and veg boxes for an additional fee for customers who can’t make it on to the high street. Already a Select Lincolnshire member and destination store, there is huge potential to develop this business and expand the overall offer.

“One of they key promises in our original town transformation plan was sustainable shopping,” explains MR BIG Chair, Sara Scott.

“So whilst we’ve been happy to get Greens on its feet as a must-have part of our High Street offer, it’s time for our team to move on and look at more innovative ways to fill empty premises with vital services that drive footfall for other retailers and create opportunities in our community.”

Richard Hallsworth, BIG Finance Director also commented “We are particularly interested in passing this over to a Social enterprise, run for the community, by the community.  But we are also happy to receive interest from private parties with the passion to ensure the success of this vital retail anchor on our high street.”

Sara adds ” Yes we are breaking the mould. But this isn’t a money making initiative. We set up Greens to fill a gap on the high street and to create a home for local artisan produce. We want the shop to be a success – but our team was never intended to become shopkeepers. So Greens is on the market – the ‘sale’ may enable us to recoup some of the Portas monies invested – which in turn would enable us to continue to target other much needed transformative projects on the high street. The big picture being to drive the additional footfall that spells success for all Rasen’s retailers and businesses.

“As per our EOI notice – we’re keen to see Greens pass to another social enterprise and we’d flex terms to make this as easy and achieveable as possible.  But we’re mindful of the fact that this might not be realistic – and so happy to consider interest from commercially minded people, on commercial terms.

“The biggest consideration for us will be whether or not the interested parties or groups have the vision and determination to see Greens succeed for the long term.  We want Lincolnshire people to be able to buy the finest Lincolnshire produce direct from the High Street.”

Jayne Cartwright, Charity Retail Consultant tweets about Mary's Greens article

Jayne Cartwright, Charity Retail Consultant tweets about Mary’s Greens article. She is a great support of Mr Big

Mary Portas says there’s only one way to save our high streets – get involved. So do you have the passion and desire to step up and build on Green’s phenomenal success and help sustain the revitalisation of Market Rasen?

For more information please email MR BIG Town Centre Manager Nicola Marshall

Shortlisted candidates will asked to pitch their business plan and vision to a panel of 3 MR BIG directors.

Expressions of interest deadline 5pm Friday 5th April.

‘Flog it!’ Style Art Sale – Sat 2 March, Market Rasen


‘Big Sky’ by Louise Stebbings will be up for auction on Saturday. Starting at £250.

Hot  on the heels of a visit from Mary Portas and winning a national award  for the monthly market, Market Rasen has another BIG first planned for  this weekend.

Arts Council England funded festival – Plank 2013 – is ending with a bang with a dramatic and nail-biting art auction, with TV film crews in attendance from 2pm on Saturday 2nd of March at Market Rasen’s Methodist Church on Chapel Street (next to the train station).  The art sale  will round off a fun-packed BIG market day starting at 9am in the Market Place, featuring Lincolnshire’s best food, arts and crafts, with  additional attractions in the form of stilt walkers and fire eaters.

Work for sale will include work by local artists Seb Van  B, Richard Chuck, Carol Parker and many of the artists who have enlivened the high street with pieces starting from £20 to £500.  Money raised will go towards next year’s Plank festival in efforts to make this initiative sustainable.

Festival organiser Sarah Lamballe said “Lots of Lincolnshire businesses have told us that they want to invest in local art as part of their cultural and social responsibility. We have some stunning pieces from limited edition prints to large paintings of local landscapes to grace any boardroom wall, and with several film crews it’s a great opportunity to promote themselves too!”

Popular Market Rasen auctioneer Mike Perkins, will be in charge of proceedings at the Methodist Church with viewing from 2pm and the sale starting at 2.30pm. “I was delighted to be asked to host the auction in such a stunning venue which promises to be a great finale to the festival, as well as a welcome get together for the artists and the high street retailers who have hosted their work for the last month,” said Mike, known for his charisma and charm behind the gavel.

Plank 2013 has proved incredibly popular with all workshops during half term fully booked and many people enjoying hands on experience of arts and crafts, music, story telling, paint techniques and illustration in a way they never had access to before.

The sale will start at 2.30pm – please come along and show your support. There’s even the
chance to WIN an original piece of artwork if you print off this VIP invite and bring it with you.

HOT OFF THE PRESS – download our Action List to browse before coming. The sun is shining and it is a wonderful day in Market Rasen for investing in art – some pieces are without reserve List.pdf

Mad March Market


Spring is in the air….. so our March Market will be outdoors.

Go crazy for Lincolnshire’s finest artisan foods, arts and crafts.

Prepare to be amazed by fire eating, stilt walking and other spectacular entertainment.

Go bonkers and get involved by learning to juggle. (Under the auction shed, all day.)

Easter egg hunt for kids from the Big Corner Shop all day.


Rounding off a month-long celebration of local arts, in the Methodist Church from 2:30pm, all welcome.

Find out all our Portas Pilot activity each day, follow us on Facebook, here’s the links:

The Big Corner Shop
Plank 2013 festival

Portas Pilot Update – Market Rasen – February 2013

We’re well over 6 months into our Portas Journey and it’s been a roller-coaster ride, but one we’ve enjoyed.

This document sets out some of our high-lights and challenges, based around the initial promises we made in our bid.

But before we launch into the detail, here are a few insights into our approach and how we feel we’ve managed to achieve a BIG impact in a small space of time:

We did the ground work in consulting our business community. All the ideas in our town
transformation came from grass roots – we simply packaged their ideas into Portas-
friendly points.

We didn’t hang around waiting for a win. We got busy with our town transformation plan
and threw our first ‘pop-up’ market regardless!

Once we heard about our win, we took immediate action to get a constitution in place.
We decided that a CIC format was right for us, so we registered ourselves and got an
elected Board in place.

We developed a strong and positive working relationship with WLDC. Their support has
served us well.

It took us a while to get the funds in place – we didn’t let it stop us and probably did us
a favour. It made us realise that huge amounts can be done without the need for lots of

We embraced Social Media from the outset. Our on-line community has supported us
every step of the way!

We’ve done everything we can to develop good local media relations – recognising that
they would be key to keeping the public up to date along the way.

We recognised that resourcing would be a challenge from the outset, so we budgeted for
staff – a Town Centre Manager and supporting Apprentice.

Our original bid was simple and focused. We’ve had plenty of opportunity and pressure
to broaden our scope, but we’ve been determined to maintain our focus.


We wanted to improve the look and feel of our town to make it a more welcoming, inviting and pleasant place to be.

With just £4K camped in the budget for this project (and with none of this spent to date), it was always going to be challenging to give our town a complete facelift. However the media interest we secured immediately following our win, gave our business and property owners a good reason to take matters into their own hands, painting and maintaining their properties.


  • We agreed a heritage colour palette for painting and decoration with WLDC planning department
  • We lobbied WLDC to fast track repair work on ‘The Goldmine’ – a near derelict building and main town eyesore. It has now been renovated
  • Notices have now been served on a range of premises to try and bring them in to line with town standards
  • Our Market Place was tackled early on by volunteers
  • Our Auction Shed (at the back of the market place) is now contract cleaned
  • We collaborated with our Town Council on plans for the jubilee and Christmas to ensure the town was decorated
  • A recent town walkabout has resulted in a comprehensive ‘hit list’ for targeted improvements

Key Challenges

  • Money is tight for cosmetic improvements
  • A high % of required improvements are other 3rd party responsibilities eg Railtrack, landlords etc

Next Steps

  • Letter writing and lobbying 3rd parties
  • £million X High Street fund bid for ‘operation ice cream’ to create a grant funded pot for independents to improved fronts


Our Gastro market with live food demos by Dominic Franks

We wanted to re-instate a lively and vibrant market at the heart of the Market Rasen visitor and shopping experience

We’ve build our monthly BIG market using common sense and determination. We have excellent administration and trader engagement run via a cloud-based database. Our planning and delivery on the day is first class, thanks to Jackie’s stewardship and we kept our pitch fees low (at £10) throughout 2012 to remove barriers to entry. The result being the growth of our markets from c30 stalls to c70 stalls (at capacity) over two venues.

We recently won a NABMA award for being Britain’s best small speciality market – thanks to an excellent mix of artisan food, art & crafts.

We have run a variety of market day promotions, run competitions and encouraged attractions along the High Street to encourage footfall for our retailers on market days.

We have surveyed shoppers, measured traffic and know that takings are up on market dates.

Despite this being our obvious success to date we still face challenges:

  • Complaints from a hard core of High Street traders about competition on market days and focus of activity in the Market Place
  • Requests for a protectionist approach to limit the number of specific types of trader on market day
  • Work with our Town Council to encourage a much needed halo effect into our regular weekly market has been frustratingly slow
  • A January price rise (to £20 per pitch) has put our market into profit for the first time

Key Challenges

  • Logistics – the erection and dismantle – is a massive and time consuming job
  • Keeping the themes fresh
  • Engaging volunteers
  • Driving footfall from a bigger catchment

Next Steps

  • 10 x 2013 dates
  • Sourcing a trailer and paid-for logistics team
  • Continue to theme & promote every event


Our 1st Portas Pilot shop, Greens of Lincolnshire

We wanted to create a retail incubator unit to give market traders and entrepreneurs a route onto the High St.  We promised to provide businesses with training and development to support the journey.

  • Delivering this promise has been the most demanding part of our project to date.  Food and non-food retail have different challenges, but both are core to our offer.  We have opened two shops on our High St.
  • The first is ‘Greens’ – a micro farm shop and much needed anchor shop to improve our shopper offer.  The second is ‘The BIG Corner Shop’ – a more traditional pop-up for our artists and makers.  This is being operated on a 3m pilot basis and provides MR BIG with a much needed ‘hub’ in the community.
  • At present, these stores employ 4 part-time workers.  It is early days, but if these outlets can turn a profit, they offer a much needed opportunity to generate cash and build sustainability into our plans.
  • The operational demands of running two small retail businesses are huge and difficult to support amongst a team of volunteer directors, all of whom have their own businesses or careers. Both shops have been warmly received.  Greens shows real promise for becoming a successful cash engine for our scheme. Just two weeks into trading in the Big Corner Shop, it is too early to judge how this will work – but the shop is already serving to unite a vibrant community of local artists and makers.
  • We have recently completed a 3 session series of business basics training for members, with more in the pipeline.

Mary Portas in our 2nd retail space, The Big Corner Shop

Key Challenges

  • Time for leadership, management and problem solving
  • Organising and managing a high quality volunteer workforce
Next Steps

  • Developing the Greens veg-box scheme
  • Pop-up opportunity at the race course
  • Assess success of BCS 3m trial
  • More training, development and networking for members and traders


We wanted to provide marketing support that would encourage High Street footfall from local, regional and national visitors.

twitter profile


  • Effective Social media and an on-going campaign of traditional media relations have formed the cornerstone of our marketing strategy and been key to our success.
  • Our database also allows us to communicate quickly and effectively with our members and supporters.
  • We have a rolling programme of marketing to support our markets AND we’ve used a successful campaign of Market Rasen merchandise to promote pride in our town
  • We were lucky enough to begin our journey with three career marketing professionals on our board. This will shortly be depleted to one. This will undoubtedly impact the volume of our communications – but we have all the vital platforms in place, so we are actively training our volunteers and staff to continue the good work.
  • With tangible improvements now visible along our High Street, it is our intention to develop and launch a Market Rasen ‘brand’, in time for the 2013 visitor season. To this end, we are engaged with the University of Lincoln and have 5 teams of students working on various campaigns to take our message to the broader market.
  • Additionally we won £10K from Heritage Lottery to create a virtual town guide/application.
  • Effective PR has been essential in spreading the word about our achievements. We are mindful of the opportunities on the horizon as we approach the Portas anniversary in May, but also concerned that we will have to be even more inventive to secure coverage thereafter!

Key Challenges

  • However much we do to communicate – it simply isn’t enough
  • Vocal critics and problems with our Social Media ownership/access have hobbled our team in recent months

Next Steps

  • More markets promotions (with paid-for media)
  • Branding, shop local, town information provision and virtual tour are all in the pipeline

Summary – The good, the bad and the ugly

We’ve had an amazing journey so far and it’s incredibly rewarding to see a visible difference on our High Street, new shops opening, a vibrant marketing and a new air of confidence in our town.

We get fabulous feedback from the public, from our market traders and from our High Street supporters.

But being a successful Town Team comes at a cost.

We have the ideas and determination that could lead to long-term sustainability for our activities, but we also have some very serious challenges to overcome:

  • A handful of volunteers are trying to reverse a trend of neglect and mismanagement that was left unchecked for a number of years. It is exhausting and many of our volunteers have seen this take its toll on their personal and professional lives. This is not sustainable – and getting additional and new volunteers with the requisite skills is a big challenge
  • We face criticism and negativity from a handful of opponents. Unfortunately they are extremely vocal, loud and in some cases, personal. This erodes enthusiasm and goodwill
  • The more we initiate, the higher our profile, the higher the expectation and workload. We have paid for resources, but demand is quickly outstripping supply. We continue to remain focused, but worry that this won’t be enough to sustain the momentum we have created
  • Collaboration and cross-party working is challenging. Understanding respective roles and responsibilities can be difficult. Bureaucracy and red-tape is frustrating. Our style is somewhat maverick and our approach is commercial, consequently our ‘fit’ with some of our community’s more established committees and bodies can be uncomfortable.
  • There is no ‘blueprint’ for success. We are embracing the spirit of the pilot to try new ideas. The Portas funds have been essential in giving us the opportunity to do so, without pressure for successful ‘outcomes’. On the whole, the things we are trying are working. But we are mindful that we are one of a very lucky few that have the luxury of a funding pot to help bring ideas to life.

Follow our journey as it happens, in social media: