Results of the Bedford Place Business Survey

2021-06-30, Chris

The original Shop Local Southampton survey of readers demonstrated a huge show of support for the Bedford Place car-free scheme, with 96.2% of 500 responders having a positive opinion of it. Unfortunately, soon after we published the results, the council decided to announce that the scheme was to close in mid-July after its own survey of businesses on Bedford Place showed a small margin in favour of the action.

Shop Local Southampton carried out its own survey of businesses and the results are very interesting. Of the Bedford Place businesses inside the current car-free zone, 5 of 6 approved of the scheme remaining at all times. Looking at the wider Bedford Place, businesses were split precisely 50/50 on whether to re-open the road to cars during the day (comparing the red and orange sections of the graphs with the blue) - though there was a large majority (73% discounting neutral responses) in favour of a car-free scheme in the evenings and weekends.
Note: In the graphs below, 'Approve' refers to a business approving of the car-free scheme continuing full time.

When adding Carlton Place businesses to the results, there is a large degree of support for maintaining the car-free zone at all times.

Whether supporting or opposing the scheme, I had some great conversations with business owners in the area. On either side of the debate there is a strong desire for Bedford Place to become a destination area, and I'm sure there is room for mutual agreement. Most of those I talked with on both sides of the debate expressed widespread support for other measures such as:
- Traffic calming (e.g. raised platforms to reduce speed, single lane areas)
- Enforcement of a reduced speed limit (20mph zone)
- Additional seating / road narrowing (e.g. for restaurants outside of the current scheme, and using spare capacity in Upper Banister Street Car Park)
- Investment in the scheme area and expanding the reach of improvements to the rest of Bedford Place, e.g. with street art

The raw data of responses can be found in the table below. I did try to reach every business in Bedford Place and Carlton Place, but unfortunately in some cases the owner wasn't available and we weren't able to communicate remotely. My apologies if we didn't get to speak this time.

ResponseBedford Place (Scheme Only)Bedford Place (All)Bedford Place & Carlton Place
Evenings & Weekends Only077
Total Attempted85170
Total Answered63750

Where do we go from here? It is clear from the original Shop Local Southampton member survey that there is widespread support for the Bedford Place scheme. Other surveys have shown majority support amongst local residents. Even within Bedford Place businesses, there is strong support for the scheme continuing in some form, though they are split on opening during the day. I didn't find majority support for ending the car-free zone amongst any group of businesses.

If the road is to re-open to cars during the day, we should not wait a year to implement an evening / weekend car-free scheme - we should look to automated barriers immediately, or delay any changes, so that businesses can continue to benefit from the extra space in the critical summer months. We should also look to other road calming measures to avoid a return of dangerously fast cars to the area, to add more space for visitors and residents to roam safely, and to improve the overall aesthetic of Bedford Place.

Thanks to everyone that has engaged so far, from those who responded to the original survey, to the hundreds of detailed comments and ideas for Bedford Place and our city, and to businesses and councillors on all sides of the debate. Bedford Place presents us with a real opportunity for Southampton to have its very own boutique shopping, eating and drinking district. Let's make something great happen!

Sergeant Pepper Brings the Sauce Home

2021-06-26, Chris

Something that continues to amaze me is the full range of local products you can now buy in Southampton. Bitterne Park Stores is an exemplar of this, selling everything from local art to local honey, locally roasted coffee to locally produced rum. Now, thanks to Sergeant Pepper, we can experience authentic Barbadian sauce made right here in Southampton, and quite frankly it's so good it demands its own blog post.

The three sauces available are:
- BBQ Blaze
- Caribbean Curry
- Original

My favourite is the Caribbean Curry. You can tell, because my the time I took the photo above a lot had already gone. I add some of the sauce as a base for a curry along side coconut milk and the usual vegetables and spices, but it also goes really well as a dipping side to another Caribbean favourite - mac and cheese.

The BBQ Blaze is honestly so hot that it will last you a long time. In terms of heat, the Original sits in the middle but still packs a punch.

You can buy the sauces via the Bitterne Box Company delivery service or in store.

Results - Open Letter to Southampton City Council re Bedford Place and Transport Proposals

2021-06-05, Chris

Firstly, I'd like to express a huge thanks to everyone who responded to our Bedford Place and Southampton Transport Survey - a massive 500 of you over just a few days. 92% of you who responded are residents, and the remaining 8% visitors - 17% of you additionally work for or own a local business. All responses required a log in to combat duplicate entries, so I feel confident in the accuracy of the opinions collected.

Overall I must say - wow. We have received input spanning the full spectrum of opinion, political views and backgrounds. The comments you have written are well thought out and full of practical ideas and constructive input. I have never experienced such passion from our membership on a particular issue before, and presenting the results to you all and to the council leadership is humbling.

I would also like to express my thanks to Daniel Fitzhenry, leader of Southampton City Council, who has been approachable throughout and is keen to hear your input on these matters as part of their review into the Bedford Place scheme and wider city projects,

So, on with the results from the opinion gauging portion of the survey:

- Do you think Southampton should encourage alternatives to car travel (e.g. for pollution, congestion or fitness)?
[1 = strongly object, 5 = strongly support]

A resounding 95% of you agree or strongly agree that Southampton should encourage alternatives to car travel.

- What is your opinion of the Bedford Place car free scheme and its impact on Bedford Place as a destination?
[1 = strongly object, 5 = strongly support]

Support for the Bedford Place scheme and its impact on the area as a destination is incredibly strong, with 96.2% of respondees answering positively.

- What is your opinion on proposals to reduce cross-city car travel by diverting cars to the ring road and encouraging active travel and public transport?
[1 = strongly object, 5 = strongly support]

There was still very strong overall support for reducing cross-city car travel, though at 91.8% agreeing or strongly agreeing it was still the most mixed response to a question in the survey. Interestingly, this means the Bedford Place scheme has support even amongst the minority who are more neutral or opposed to reducing cross-city car travel.

Now, on to your comments
Once again you have blown me away - collectively you wrote over 20,000 words. To the members of Southampton City Council - I know this may seem slightly daunting but people have put a lot of thought into what they want to say, I hope you are able to give the time to read over them.

To make it easier to read I decided to categorise them to the best of my ability (it took a while - please let me know if I have misrepresented your view, for which you have my apologies). I have removed sensitive personal information, and only 3 comments were not publishable for various reasons. The time put into the comments makes this the most important and impactful part of the survey:

Comments Supporting the Bedford Place Scheme (151)
Comments with Mixed Views on the Bedford Place Scheme (2)
Comments Opposing the Bedford Place Scheme (5)

Comments Supporting other Green Initiatives (e.g. City Centre Transformation Plan) (93)
Comments with Mixed Views on Green Initiatives (4)
Comments Opposing Green Initiatives (1)

Miscellaneous Comments (4)

Though it is an great privilege to represent all of the views given, the overall message of Shop Local readers is undeniably one of overwhelming support for green initiatives, keeping and building on Bedford Place as a car-free hub, and finding alternative, safer and cleaner transport solutions for our future.

I would like to finish by thanking all of you who contributed to or read the results of our survey once again. Shop Local Southampton is here to promote local businesses, artists and groups, but most importantly it's here to foster a community and make Southampton a better place for us all. I promise to work with the council and to represent the views of our members to the best of my ability.

Many Thanks,
Chris Zardis and the Members of Shop Local Southampton

Galleries & Studios of Southampton (part 2)

2021-06-04, Sarah

For part 1 of Sarah's exploration of the Galleries & Studios of Southampton, click here.

6. Art’el at Bitterne Park Stores

A new addition following a successful pop-up shop in the same building over the Christmas period, Art’el offers a small but carefully curated selection of local arts and crafts in a corner of the new Bitterne Park Stores. Run by Helen Trimarco Ransome, a local glass artist and multi-talented craftsperson, Art’el displays three artists’ work each month in a corner tucked amongst the fresh fruit and veg. The shop itself only opened in February this year, and offerings to date have included hand drawn mandalas by Harriet Stewart, glass art, Powertex sculpture, one-of-a-kind bags and textiles from Sue Badcrumble and (dare I say it) a handful of my own paintings. All artists live in Southampton, many within walking distance of the shop itself - and combined with the wide selection of local fruit, veg, groceries and drinks that BP Stores provides, the shop is a truly local offering.

A little bird tells me that Art’el is exploring options to exhibit in other spaces, including (hopefully) a rerun of their fantastic popup shop around Christmas. Keep an eye on Shop Local for announcements.

There is one step to enter Bitterne Park Stores, and due to its small size the shop is not wheelchair accessible - although staff are more than happy to bring goods out for any customer who can’t access the shop itself. Art’el’s corner is on the ground floor. A short flight of steps leads to a second room of groceries at the back of the shop.

  1. The Bridge Gallery

Nestled amongst the independent shops and cafes of Bedford Place, the Bridge Gallery is a family-run framing shop that also offers a wide selection of original artworks and prints. The space is bigger than it looks, as there is also a first floor gallery which is available to rent for artists wishing to display their work. The staff are friendly, and great at helping with the tricky decision of which frame looks best! The shop also offers a restoration service.

The ground floor of the building is fully accessible. The first floor gallery is accessed via stairs with a handrail. Please contact the venue if you have any queries.

  1. Harbour Lights Cinema

Now re-opened, Harbour Lights has a gem of a gallery that is often overlooked by cinema-goers. Tucked behind the second set of stairs, to the right of the bar, the light, modern space is available to hire by local artists for solo shows. The venue displays a wide variety of artworks and - a bonus for the artist - charges a flat fee for hire rather than commission. As an artist-led space you can expect a huge variety of work, with the display changing each month. A great spot to browse before or after a film - with a helping of the excellent cake from the coffee shop of course! 

Fully accessible with lift and accessible toilet.

  1. The Art House

(Almost) last but certainly not least, the Art House is a hub of community activity. Staffed mainly by volunteers, the quirky venue combines a gallery, vegetarian café, shop and gallery with a range of events and workshops. Exhibitions range from solo shows by local artists to themed shows and large group exhibitions showcasing work from new and emerging artists across the city and the wider area. Enjoy a vegetarian mezze or a cup of herbal tea whilst perusing the art on the walls, or explore the shop selling upcycled clothing and crafts. In fairer times the venue hosts a range of events from language cafes to music, spoken word to crafts - so there is truly something for everyone.

The ground floor is fully accessible with accessible toilet. The first floor is accessed via wide stairs with a handrail. Please contact the venue if you have any queries.

  1. Hampshire Open Studios

Still not quite got your art fix? Hampshire Open Studios has a solution. Every summer, hundreds of artists and craftspeople across Southampton and Hampshire open their doors to the public. From individual artists working from their homes, to large studios such as the Arches hosting many creatives under one roof, this is an incredible opportunity to meet the makers and see the artists at work.

If you've never been to the Arches Studios, the catacomb of hidden rooms and passageways underneath Central Bridge is quite the sight and worth the trip alone. The event usually runs in August, with some studios open daily throughout the event whilst others might throw open their doors for just a day or two. The easiest way to keep up to date is to join their mailing list - and keep an eye out for the brochure published in advance of the event, which features a handy map and plenty of pictures to help you plan who you want to visit. Art-crawl of Southampton, anyone?

Please contact individual venues for accessibility requirements.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully that’s given you a taste of the many fabulous art venues we have on offer in the city. I’d like to give a quick shout-out to a couple of my other favourites:
- The Keepers Artist Collective, who for a while had a floor of the empty Duke’s Keep, and later a shop on East Street - featuring upcycler extraordinaire Sylvie Leost of Not Just Trash along with willow artist Jacqueline Rolls, and Leo Deville’s beautiful pottery creations
- Helen Trimarco Ransome - as well as being an incredible glass artist has also been responsible for a number of art events and community art pro.

Of course, there are plenty more artists I would have loved to have mentioned, but I had to draw the line somewhere! The difficulty in whittling down this list itself demonstrates just how much art there is to explore once you scratch the surface of Southampton.