Category Archives: Letters

Recent letters and communication to Businesses in the Market Rasen area

Market Rasen Portas Pilot – What’s Happened & What’s Going to Happen Next

Our Open Letter to our MR BIG business members, and already read and commented on by Grant Shapps MP:

Dear MR BIG business colleague,

It’s been a busy few weeks since our Extraordinary Pop Up Market, not least of all because of the news that we won our place as one of the first 12 Portas Pilot Towns to receive money for High Street Regeneration.

It’s taken a little while for us to understand from the Government, what winning these monies means in practice – as it will certainly be a high profile affair, under the scrutiny of the national media.

Now that we have a bit more information, here’s an update of what’s been happening, along with meetings and actions planned as we look ahead.

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Grant Shapps has been in touch, as have members of his Portas Pilot team. They have advised us of the following:

o We will have specific experts to help us action the plan that secured our winning place.

o Our monies will be available soon and will be paid to West Lindsey District Council (who is our accountable body). We will draw the cash down from there. (Note: our winnings are ring-fenced for MR BIG, they cannot be spent or allocated by WLDC).

The meeting when we decided to go for Portas!

o People from the government are coming to visit us on the 18th of June and we will be told the exact rules about how we spend our Portas Pilot cash – but we believe we will have to closely adhere to the plan we put forward in our bid.

The people from Mary Portas’ TV production company have already paid us a visit. They have advised us of the following:

o They love Market Rasen and think we’ve got a fantastic story to tell. BUT it’s unlikely that we will be one of the main featured Towns in the TV series that is going to be made. (It’s important that we are all clear that the TV series is a bolt-on to the official Portas Pilot, which is a government initiative).

o The reason that we are unlikely to be one of the main Towns on TV, is simply because the amount of road noise through Market Rasen makes filming difficult.

o We are still likely to be visited by Mary Portas at some point and will have the opportunity to share our ideas with Mary.

The core group that led the Portas Pilot bid has been busy, getting important structure and process in place. These were promises we made in the bid, in order to qualify for the funds. Now we have been confirmed as a winner, we have had to fulfill these promises.


o In order to receive and administer the funds we have won, we have to create a formal ‘Community Interest Company.’ This is a ‘not for profit’ organization that will work for the benefit of Market Rasen. It will continue to be called Market Rasen Business Improvement Group.

The big ideas on the table that formed our bid

o This allows us to have a bank account and ensures that an official structure is in place to make sure that these funds are used responsibly, transparently and in a way that is accountable to members.

o Every business member of MR BIG today (and in the future), is invited to become a member of the Community Interest Company (CIC). Membership costs £2 and buys each member a single share in the company (and a right to vote on important issues at public meetings).

o The CIC must elect a Company Board. These are unpaid, volunteer roles, but have a defined purpose and responsibilities. We are proposing a Board of 10-12 members, ideally to include some of the people who have driven the bid so far, plus some others to ensure a good representation of member businesses and sectors.

o The Directors of the Company will continue to follow the vision developed by our members in the Open Meetings we held earlier this year. In short, Market Rasen Business Improvement Group exists to 1) Improve the look and feel of our town centre 2) Take steps to increase customer footfall in town, for the benefit of Market Rasen businesses. (Please note the Town Transformation Plan and Action Plan document we developed together are available on this blog, just click those links, and in our town library as hard copies).

o We are proposing to hold two Open Meetings in close succession. The first at 7.00pm on Monday the 18th June at Holy Rood Schoolroom, will be a briefing session to cover the points in this email and hold a Q&A session so that all members are up to speed. The second will be 7.00pm on Tuesday 26th June, same venue and this will be a session where members elect their Board. (We will send more information on the process for this in the next couple of days and hold an informal briefing session.)

MR BIG also met with the Town Council last week, to put forward a proposal to run 10 BIG markets over the course of the year ahead. The meeting was positive and we expect to hear the definitive outcome in the next day or two. We hope that these events will build on the success of the Extraordinary Pop Up Market and draw in shoppers locally and regionally, to boost footfall for traders in our town.

40 business people, 40 ideas, one winning bid

We have also been working with West Lindsey District Council to see if we can secure additional funding to support some of the plans in our bid. Initial meetings have been extremely positive and we should know the outcome in the next few weeks.
Hopefully, you’ll all have seen some of the positive publicity our Portas Pilot Win has created. We’ve been the focus of national, regional and local media interest, all reporting positive stories about our town. A handful of our members with media experience have been fielding these enquiries and have been directing visiting media out and along the High Street to talk to traders about their experiences. Our status as a Portas Pilot winner means that the media will continue to take an interest in our progress over the months ahead with positive stories that help to put Market Rasen on the map for all the right reasons.
Please remember our winning bid was the outcome of the ideas and concerns of 40+ BIG members, progressed by around 15 handraisers who matched our thinking to specific recommendations within the Portas recommendations to government. The ideas we proposed were strong enough to secure our place as winners – it’s important that we show strength and focus in implementing those ideas. So now’s the time to get involved and take an active role in making things happen.

To that end, if you fancy taking a Board Role on the CIC and want to find out more about what’s involved, we’ll be holding an informal briefing session on the evening of the Monday 11th June. At present, CIC board membership is only open to members from the Market Rasen business community. If you are a Market Rasen business yet to register with us, please do so online here: Business Registration Form

Please can you let us know if you intend to come by using our online contact form. The meeting will be held at 7pm Holy Rood Schoolroom.

Kind regards


Journalists wishing to talk to a member of Market Rasen’s town team are requested to call:

Sara Scott 07912 644968
Sarah Lamballe 07974 194888

Our Portas Pilot Journey so Far:

Filming our Portas Pilot Video

Our Portas Pilot video on YouTube

The fine detail of the bid – our Town Transformation Plans – published online

Mary Portas Tweets praise for our Portas Pilot video

Our Extraordinary Pop up Market on May 14th, proving what can be done in four weeks with no funding, but plenty of great ideas and heaps of hard work. Also commended by Mary Portas on Twitter:

Our WIN announcement, made at midnight on May 25th 2012:

Our Celebration Party:

The back story of the Market Rasen Business Improvement Group (MR BIG) started January 2012


REGISTER your interest in what we are doing as a local business, market trader, individual or community group. Follow these links to

Register as a Market Rasen Business

Register as a Market Trader

Register as a local organisation or community group

Register as an individual

SUBSCRIBE to our blog posts on email to always get the latest news first. Click here to Subscribe to Market Rasen BIG by Email.

GET IN TOUCH send us a message using our online contact form.

SHARE THIS POST as much as you can on Facebook, Twitter or by email, using the handy buttons at the top and bottom of the page.

Click these clinks to FIND AND CONNECT with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or go to the Visit Market Rasen website to learn more about the town.

HAVE YOUR SAY – leave a comment at the bottom of this post to add your views or questions.

Thank you to all who made our Extraordinary #PortasPilot Pop Up Market a roaring success

The Extraordinary Pop Up Market from the tower of St Thomas’ Church. Can Market Rasen be a  ‘Model’ Market Town? (photo and tiltshift effect by Push Creativity, not for commercial re-use)

BREAKING NEWS: Mary Portas has commented on this blog post already via Twitter:

Mary Portas commenting on this post on Twitter, 18th May 2012

“Hear ye, hear ye” (as our Town Crier would say) can we thank everyone who helped to make Monday’s Extraordinary Pop Up Market such a huge success. It was fun, colourful, exciting and inspiring, grabbed media attention and showed what Market Rasen can achieve by working together as one BIG community.

Hats off to all our wonderful community groups for interesting stalls; Lindsey Trail & Poachers Harness Club, Wolds Countryside Service, Wolds Walking Festival, Walkers Are Welcome, Rotary and Lions (for sharing expertise), Rase Heritage Society and Station Adoption Group, Rasen Jubilee Committee and Rasen Hub. And to the Town Council for giving the market place and stalls free of charge.

BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s William Wright chats to Mr BIG’s Sara Scott, as part of their live Drive Time broadcast at the event. BBC Look North also came to our market for a special news report on our bid to be a Portas Pilot town. (photo by Sarah Lamballe as @copycreator during Lincolnshire’s first ever Instameet)

Take a bow you awesome stallholders; Smudged (for big posters too), Mill Nursery, Cottage Garden Flower Co, Lincolnshire Tree Services, Blue River Jewellery, Wolds Target Accessories, Style Studio, Dave Jefferson and Rhodes Fitted Kitchens. Talented crafters Voo Dollys, Seb van Breukelen, Carol Parker, Donna Under the Stairs, Chez Moi and Fairtrade Point of Contact.

Incredibly busy from 3pm to 7pm, catching the after school and after work footfall (photo by Push Creativity)

Incredibly busy from 3pm to 7pm, catching the after school and after work footfall (photo by Push Creativity)

Thanks also to lovely local food businesses who made it so tasty; Country Markets, Sunnyside Up, Ffeisty’s Emporium (for a celebration cake and  cup cakes – all gluten free – for our Instagram meet too), Cupcakes by Claire, Jenny’s Jams, Chapman’s Fish Cakes, Oak Tree Farm, Goat Wood Dairy, Gourmet Spice Co, Garnett’s Ice Cream and Crepe Lucette.

Applause for rocking our world to busker Karl Toth and Martyn Gammidge courtesy of Touches at The George – who we thank for hosting our Portas Pilot DVD, business cards and BBQ so well catered by the Rotary Club at short notice.

Blue Boy’s busking was good enough to get some little people dancing! (photo by Cross Cat Designs)

A major attraction at the event was the giant Children’s Think Tank, a mock aquarium created in one of our empty shops, the former Square Bar. Filled with 269 fishes and wishes for the future of the town, one created by every child at the town’s primary school, it attracted scores of families to the market straight from school. With a ‘Fish Trail’ sheet also placed in every child’s bag by the school, families were also directed down the high street to find nine fish in local shops, cafes and pubs, with a prize at the end. An amazing 88 children completed the trail on the day.

The Children’s Think Tank judges had the difficult task of picking six winning fish:  left to right Louise Robinson (Garnetts), Mark Bletcher (Lincolnshire Signs & Solar Control), Sara Scott (MR BIG & brand thing), Paul Fisher (editor of The Market Rasen Mail) and Steve Lambers  (Lincolnshire CoOp)

The tank idea came from MR BIG’s Angela Montague (of Push Creativity) and was made possible by: the children and staff of Market Rasen Church of England Primary School (fishes & wishes and trail sheets),  Lincolnshire CoOp (use of the building and Think Tank prizes), The White Swan (free squash on the trail), Garnett’s Sweets (Fish Trail prizes) plus Lincolnshire Signs & Solar Control and Green Dolphin (window preparation). High street traders on the Fish Trail were; Priceless, Blue River Jewellery, Indulgence, Market Rasen Pet Centre, The Gift Horse, Rasen DIY and Jossals. MR BIG volunteers were Vidge, Zoe, Alison, Caroline, Rita and David who created this massive art installation. Also big thanks to another high street name,  Forget Me Not Florists, for the fun Marshalls’ yellow ribbons.

town crier

Lincolnshire’s most fabulous Town Crier, Karen Crow, matched the Georgian market square perfectly. (Photo by Push Creativity)

Thanks also to Beverley Farrow of Touches, whose salon became BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s studio for the afternoon, Darren Lince of The Advocate Arms and Jackie Smith of Beltec (who also made the canopies for the market stalls) for seamless operations and to Sara, Sarah and Kerry Hallsworth for admin. A pat on the back to professional marketers Angela Montague of Push Creativity, Sara Scott of Brand Thing and Sarah of Sarah Lamballe Copywriting for the design, artwork, PR and social media publicity that continues to captured everyone’s imagination.

Well done to Angela for successfully pulling off Lincolnshire’s first ever Instameet that saw snappers from as far afield as Grimsby to Rutland joining our official photographer Ashley Taylor in capturing great images of the town (view all Instagram images tagged #PopGoesRasen with this link).

Left to right Ashley Taylor, Angela Montague, Emma Lingard, Sarah Lamballe and Jack Webb at Lincolnshire’s first Instameet.  Within 48 hours, our  10 Instagram photographers had uploaded 130 images.

Cheers to the few, but hugely valued, BIG Sweep Up volunteers who turned up to clean the Market Place on Sunday and to WLDC for providing bags

Our Sunday BIG tidy up team led by MR BIG’s Beverly Farrow (left), showed the market square just needs a little bit of TLC to make it beautiful too!

Thanks also to The Foyer residents, town councillors and volunteers who helped put stalls up and down.

Young people from The Market Rasen Foyer helped take all the stalls down. They told William Wright how much they’d enjoyed it and how they’d love more opportunities to get involved in projects in the town.

Finally thanks of all to the people of Market Rasen for coming out in force to support our first ever MR BIG market. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

Our beautiful cobbles, used as they were intended to be, by people and market stalls! (photo Push Creativity)

To see more photographs, especially those of the stalls, click here to view the #PopGoesRasen tag on Instagram.


REGISTER your interest in what we are doing as an business, individual or community group. Follow these links to

Register as a Market Rasen Business

Register as a local organisation or community group

Register as an individual

SUBSCRIBE to our blog posts on email to always get the latest news first. Click here to Subscribe to Market Rasen BIG by Email.

GET IN TOUCH send us a message using our online contact form.

SHARE THIS POST as much as you can on Facebook, Twitter or by email, using the handy buttons at the top and bottom of the page.

Click these clinks to FIND AND CONNECT with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or go to the Visit Market Rasen website to learn more about the town.

HAVE YOUR SAY – leave a comment at the bottom of this post to add your views or questions.

Next BIG Meeting Monday April 2nd

All registered businesses are invited (you can now register on this blog)

MR BIG’s next meeting will be on Monday 2nd April at 7pm, Holy Rood Schoolroom. All registered business owners will be invited.

Not registered? You can now register online, just click this link to our online form

Full details: Holy Rood Schoolroom, King Street, Market Rasen, LN8 3BB. Ample parking to the rear. Tea & coffee will be provided. Please bring any leaflets and business cards to swap. This will be our third meeting since the start of the group.

What Next?

STAY INFORMED, get all our latest posts on email, follow this link to Subscribe to Market Rasen BIG by Email, It’s free and easy to cancel if you change your mind.

SHARE THIS POST as much as you can on Facebook, Twitter or by email, using the handy buttons at the top and bottom of the page.

Click these clinks to FIND AND CONNECT with us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. Or go to the Visit Market Rasen website to learn more about the town.

HAVE YOUR SAY – leave a comment at the bottom of this post to add your views or questions.

1st Open Meeting of Businesses 22.2.12

Attendees: 39 people representing

The Advocate Arms
The Chase
Beechwood Guest House
Touches Beauty Salon
Medical Know How Ltd
The White Swan
Wild One Tours
Babbit Web Design
The George
Handy Cabs
Forget Me Not
Something Special
Sunnyside Up
Brand Thing
Lincolnshire Landscapes
Waveney Cottage
Rasen Hardware
Market Rasen Pet Centre
PBFS Pest Control
Rasen Farm Shop
C G Partnership
Lincolnshire Tree Services
Push Creativity

RPC Containers
K & B Herbs

Full Notes of Meeting:

Richard Hallsworth from Nicholsons welcomes everyone.
Sets out objectives to be business focused, open and honest, considerate and fair.

Contact form to fill out.
Agenda and visual presentation to guide us through the evening but very informal – invitation to speak up or question at any time – all about getting everyone’s input.

Why are we here tonight? Well nothing to do with Neighbourhood Plan or Community Group. But did come out of those initial community meetings worried that might not work quickly enough to save the town. Brief introduction from the team on who they are and why they are involved – all about helping with passion to regenerate the town, NOT about funding, all about using collective skills to create a vibrant town. (NB. Although Mark is Head of Economic Regeneration at WLDC – he is involved with this group as a volunteer, as a resident of Market Rasen and passionate advocate of Market Towns).


  • Footfall down
  • Not attracting local shoppers
  • Empty premises
  • Poor/lack of signage for our free parking
  • Worse economic climate since 1929
  • Loss of consumer confidence
  • Media doesn’t help with negative reports, has an impact on what we do.
  • Banks not supportive
  • No longer a central help resources like Business Link
  • Culture of convenience against the town centre issue

Objective 1 – increase shopper traffic
What can we do?
Encourage 1 in 5 of 5000 population in town to spend £10 a week on the high street = £520,000 into the economy.

Tony Blanchard mentions elderly can’t carry or walk around the independents so go to super market where they use a trolley for support.

Objective 2 – make our town more inviting
Mark Sturgess took up the presentation at this point to saying that tonight is all about showing potential and taking small steps. A couple of Sundays ago, a small grouped walked around the town photographing the worst bits of the town. They also looked at good bits too, wished now that he had photographed them to show we have some good buildings etc.

Bit of background about the area:

  • 5,000 in town but we are in rural hinterland pulling in potential 33,000 (figure taken from Tesco’s research on deciding to build here). We should and could be a honey pot as we have great form as a town.
  • The ONLY AONB in East Midlands.
  • Some anti social behaviour but that is really about lack of youth activity.

Mark refers to the recent reporting on the 4.2 million which shows where the money was spent. It is fair to say mistakes were made and the ambitions for the town at the end of that process were not fully realised. Hopefully we can move forward on that now and see it through.

Takeaways not great looking – they serve a purpose but during the day, they are not a nice façade for shoppers – are they putting people off? Entering the town from the east, the Red Lion a good example of what can be achieved with a bit of investment. At the other end of town – the overgrown Railway bridge, boarded up Taal,  the Gold Mine give a very different picture. General dilapidation.

Planning is force for good. Planning should be about saying yes and doing it in the right way to support the investing of money in the town.

Vacant buildings – what can we do?
Council can take action, but would prefer – if we can influence owners/talk to the landlords of places like the Square Bar, the Gold Mine – should be really attractive entrances to the town.

This group can be a mechanism for change – looking for quick wins. Community planning group is valid and has its place but too slow for needs of business owners.

Let’s achieve physical improvements now – decent buildings, nice form, work together.

  • No reason why we can’t do a Helmsley, Wetherby (attractive images as part of the presentation) – size doesn’t matter!
  • Wareham – where Mark lived previously, not too dissimilar attracts a lot of summer visitors.
  • Louth attractive Market town (nb Louth has a population of 18,000 so not same) but we are competing for the same people’s business. Look at what Caistor has achieved for potential.

Sara Scott takes over to facilitate the brainstorming. It’s not about what we (the meeting hosts) want to happen. It’s about getting all the business owners involved and creating momentum for change.

Asked to write POST ITS under 12 category headers – areas of discussion like:
‘How can we encourage more local people to shop here’
‘How can we become a regional destination’
‘What can we do about empty shops’
‘How can we encourage start-ups etc.’

Excellent participation. Break for teas and coffee and read notes.
Businesses asked to ‘star’ the most important.
Clear leader is ‘improving the look of the town’
That will be the main focus for next meeting and action plan.

Back to Richard Hallsworth to round up.

  • Ideas on communication
  • How to measure effectiveness
  • Suggestion to call it Market Rasen Business Improvement Group (MR BIG)
  • Low on formality big on results
  • Get on with ideas and get on with doing it.
  • Formality around the structure for legals but want to get things done

Quick round up on things that we have started
We have got a social media hand out to explain Twitter, Facebook, Market Rasen Guide, for free listings and website link, also got a blog updating with summary and collate ideas. Instagram account with brilliant pictures.
Please add comments via the blog if you have an after thought.

Any questions?
Issues with landlords – what muscle do we have?
Most important thing to communicate to landlords as a group.

The landlord’s code  mentioned for people to be treated fairly.
Perhaps this is an area for a workshop onn how we can work together – on how to deal legally with landlords

Darren Lince – talks of objections by Town Council to his restoration of Gordon Arms  – now the Advocate Arms – also that the Town Council objected  to extension of number of rooms – when this is bringing affluent visitors into the town, this feels backward and personal to him. General agreement.

Need to pull together as a community. And buy from each other. Sarah Lamballe talks about spending different – not more, just using the same budget with different traders around town. Also about the traders evolving products and services to meet the needs of those who live in Rasen but work in Grimsby and Lincoln, so leave before shops open and return when they are shut.

Ken Bridger said Tesco are contributing £50,000 to do a walk way into town, need to work with them. General agreement that we need to engage with all the big businesses.

Thank everyone for coming. Very engaging, things will happen.
Huge thanks to Sheila for teas and coffee.

Several volunteers come forward and many more have said they wish to be part of a working group as we’re collating the Business Contact Info forms now. If you missed the meeting but want to get involved, please email us through out contact page, just click this link.

Next meeting – 5th March 7pm at Holy Rood Schoolroom, King Street.

Hello Market Rasen Business owners! Open meeting 20th Feb, 7pm.

We spend time presenting and displaying our goods and services to create a pleasurable experience within our shops, pubs, cafes, accommodation and restaurants. All town centre businesses rely on footfall and over the last few years this has decreased. Now we can stand by and watch the town fall about around us or we can join together to try and find solutions.
If you were driving through Market Rasen, what would make you stop? Would you really park up, have a wander through the High Street, potter around the shops, and grab something to eat?
Market Rasen has lots of empty shops, can we not use the window space to promote upcoming events or have artwork painted by the local schools to give colour and interest to banish the gloom? Or pick one day a week to open late so the large population who work out of town can shop with us?
Many of you are talking about what to do, so shall we ALL get together and tackle the basic issues:
1.Tidy up the main street, contact landlords of empty shops, provide information and signage
2.Enhance our town with flowers, baskets, troughs from one end to the other.
3.Work together to promote the town with one voice

We all have skills of communication, display and management; can we not use our skills collectively and create a pleasurable surrounding for our businesses?
Many groups spend time organising this event and that but, if the venue is not up to scratch why would visitors come back to shop, eat and stay when the event is over?
A meeting of Business owners only is scheduled for 7pm on Monday, 20th February at Holy Rood Schoolroom, on King Street, opposite The Red Lion (ample car parking to the rear).

We hope you can find the time to attend and bring along your ideas and thoughts.