We started as an organization in 1993 – at the time, there was only a handful of traders involved. They included the following - Kate McLean from Jazz now Love Juice; Bryan Barlow from the then Chorlton Bookshop, now Beech Road Café; Muriel Kirwin of Richard & Muriel’s Fruit and Veg Shop, now Sherlock Holmes; Bob at the Deli, now Bar San Juan; Gwyn Jones from Troubadour Gallery, now Trouble At Mill. John Reid from The Beech, Peter Kellett of Richardson’s Bakery, Mark Williams from Truth and myself, Mary Paul from Magic Balloons, Dreemway Ltd were also there at the outset, and those businesses are still trading today. What is just as impressive, is that now, we have at least half of the traders on Beech Road active in the Association, which is brilliant.
Our main aim is to support local businesses and maintain a vibrant place to shop, eat, drink and live. We also organize events to fundraise investment that goes back into Beech Road and Beech Road Park.
We first started organizing Beech Road Festival over 15 years ago and initially we donated any profits to Francis House, then after 2-3 years it was suggested that we use the money to buy play equipment for Beech Road Park, as at the time, there was none! It was decided that swings and a proper football goal were badly needed. That first year, we paid for two banks of swings and the council match-funded the kickwall. In succeeding years we paid for the springy animals and wetpour (for ‘soft’ landing) and a complete new fence around the playground keeping it dog-free. This took a couple of years. Subsequently, the Traders paid for picnic benches and bins, wide gates to the park, bat boxes, new drainage and painting of all the railings. For the past few years, we have given any proceeds to The Friends of Beech Road Park to save up and put towards replacing equipment. More recently we have changed the format of the Festival (special mention goes to the amazing David Smylie who arranged live music from local bands) to a Family Fun Day – in 2011, the combination of social media and wonderful weather meant we had an overwhelming response and took the event in a direction that wasn’t welcome. But our Family Fun Day is now a date worth putting in your calendar – with an emphasis on creating a wonderful event aimed specifically at families, to celebrate Beech Road, support our local traders whilst helping to raise money to improve local amenities.
As well as the Family Fun Day, we also arrange the Christmas lights on Beech Road – which at first we paid for entirely. Then the Christmas Tree and Christmas lights around Chorlton Green were added, helping to make the switch-on a special part of Christmas in the local area. Now, Manchester City Council pay up to half of the cost of the Christmas decorations along Beech Road and on/around the Green, but the Traders all contribute to pay the rest.
Another highlight worth mentioning is how the Traders raised £5,000 to buy a boat for a town in Sri Lanka following the Tsunami. £2000 alone was raised by Steve Cross and Daynie Singh in a single day – Steve sat in a bath of rotten vegetables outside of his shop, and Daynie dressed as a baby whilst cutting hair at De Novo. In the evening, they visited all the pubs (still dressed as babies) shaking their collection tins. The rest was raised at a social evening with live music at The Irish Club. That evening, the then steward’s daughter had a baby, and in a fitting tribute, the boat was named after the baby – Joseph Connor.
In 1997, the MCC Regeneration Officer alwys came to our meetings and she thought Beech Road was an amazing place. She called it, ‘The jewel in Chorlton’s crown’, and wanted to replicate it everywhere in Manchester!