Breathing new life into Paignton’s Winner Street

When I first moved to Old Paignton – an area rich with history going back to Anglo-Saxon times and with many beautiful and handsome buildings – I wanted to know more. Attending the Paignton Local History Group (2pm, first Tuesday monthly at the library), reading the Paignton Conservation Plan and tapping into the extensive knowledge of the Paignton Heritage Society, has seen me firmly cast as an advocate for Paignton.

I won’t bore you with my attempts to get members of ‘the great and good’ involved with my passion project – Winner Street – but I’m still banging the drum for this beautiful if a little forlorn and forgotten, part of our lovely town. A lack of engagement on their part means myself and a small band of passionate community-minded local people – traders, artists, makers and just people who love Winner Street – are rolling up our sleeves and taking matters into our own hands.

We may currently be a small band, but we are mighty! We can see how amazing it would be for this to be the Artisan Quarter for visitors and residents. We have a dream that people will step off the train and see a map, zoned into ‘Quarters’ and that Winner Street will be a ‘must visit’ destination. I’ve been convinced since I got here that the area around Church Street and Winner Street is destined to become our version of Brighton Lanes. I know this isn’t a completely bonkers idea because everyone I have spoken to totally gets it. I have been overwhelmed with the love the local people have for what was once the main shopping area in Paignton. They all want to see Winner Street thriving again. We’ve even had people offering to wield a paintbrush and clean windows!

By the time this goes to print we will have had our first ‘vision quest’ at the Palace Theatre; a gathering of people with the energy, vision, and commitment to see Winner Street – this sleeping beauty that needs to be woken from its slumber – become the Artisan Quarter of Paignton Town. A number of artists and makers are looking into sharing a space on Winner Street; to have a shop, studio, and space to deliver creative workshops, based on a cooperative model to share the cost and the ‘manning’ of the space.

And we have some great ideas – what we call ‘quick wins’ – to make the street look beautiful. People would like to see trees along the street to green the space; a sensible number, perhaps just three of four on each side, in pots, so some of us are working with Nina at Gaia Coffee to make it happen. Traders I’ve spoken to are up for doing what Fosse Street in Dartmouth has done; having pots outside their shops with colourful fuchsias (almost indestructible and great for a street mostly in shade), on a wheeled base so they can easily take them in when they lock up.

For the empty shops, the idea is to liaise with the landlords we can get hold of and not only clean up the outside of the property but fill the windows with enormous photos of Winner Street as it was. I’m calling this a ‘Street Museum’ and am working with the Paignton Heritage Society on suitable photos of old Winner Street.

There is an idea to have a children’s ‘Look Up’ trail to spot all the lovely iron sculptures and signs that were installed years ago with funding from English Heritage. And I’m itching to get out the Brasso and see all the lovely doorknobs and letter boxes gleaming. If you walk down Winner Street and get your eye in, as the saying goes, all its architectural beauty starts to pop out. We want to make that very visible by prettying up the street. I have to say that in many ways I love its slightly ‘shabby chic’ look but that won’t get the tills ringing or the empty shops filled. What will see this become a thriving space for new and existing businesses in this quirky quarter, is a street looking attractive and buzzing with people. Winner Street is happening. Be part of it!

Contact: Leah 07703 715235/ e-mail: [email protected]  

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