Town Centre Shop Changes – 2013

Changes in 2013

Press on Changes in 2013 for a bigger pdf version. Not a brilliant map and not to scale but it serves this yearly purpose.

Green is a shop that was vacant at the start of the year which is now occupied.
Yellow means a change of ownership.
Red is a vacant shop premises that was occupied at the start of the year.

Change in 2007 ( 6 green, 5 yellow, 10 red ) – Net Loss 4
Change in 2008 ( 10 green, 8 yellow, 13 red ) – Net Loss 3
Change in 2009 ( 9 green, 6 yellow, 6 red ) – Net Gain 3
Change in 2010 ( 9 green, 6 yellow, 5 red ) – Net Gain 3
Change in 2011 ( 2 green, 8 yellow, 5 red ) – Net Loss 3
Change in 2012 ( 6 green, 1 yellow, 7 red ) – Net Loss 1
Change in 2013 ( 7 green, 8 yellow, 6 red ) – Net Gain 1

The Narrows (Wetherspoons) opened on the High Street in the Old Post Office. QC closed.

Art and Stuff is now where Skinny Hippo was. The Olives has replaced Kitsons.

New Look moved and took one of the new larger units down Bury Street. Costa expanded by knocking through into the empty Jessops premises. Hatton Goldsmiths downsized and took one of the Bury Street kiosks. Phone Box took the other kiosk.

Philosphy moved to the Market Place, and was replaced by Simon’s News who had vacated ER Goffs, now undergoing a refurbishment.

Salinas came back – more as a Coffee / Snack place than the restaurant it had been before.

Belinda’s Jewellery Box opened where there had not been shop recently on East St Helen Street. Sean Antony should follow soon.

On West St Helen Street it was goodbye to Faulkner Photography and Paul Viney Photography who continue to operate but without a town centre studio. Withy King (moved to Vineyard Chambers), Lansborough Estate (moved to Ock Street), and Natural Health (moved to Coxeter House). AAH Printer Solutions moved from Coxeter House. Chaba Thai moved in where The Thai Orchid used to be.

83 thoughts on “Town Centre Shop Changes – 2013

  1. newcomer

    And yes, folks:

    The (edited) Town Council need more of YOUR money for their VANITY projects. to pay the consultants for what was, palpably, a bad idea in the first place. I really don’t know what goes on the the minds of these fools and nincompoops.

    There are times that you think you’ve ended up in the Mad House. God preserve us. This is the time of year when the inadequate like to bury news.. Happy New Year … we know who not to vote for next year … (edited)

    Why do we end up with such (edited) people running the … everything.

  2. GJ


    I follow the blog on a daily basis and generally agree with your comments. It is good to challenge the decisions made by our elected representatives.

    However I think you detract from the issues you are making with the tone and personal nature of your comments. Perhaps a more moderate statement of your views will maintain the support you have.

    Anyway, keep commenting in whatever style you choose, it’s always worth reading.

  3. newcomer


    So would I. I think a cinema in Abingon, in the right place, would be an immense asset, but the numpties in charge of the Guildhall idea don’t have a clue … they’re talking about live broadcasts from The Royal Opera House … they’re not going to get first-weekend-of-release-new-James-Bond etc.on a regular basis.

    You need professionals to run a cinema, not the amateurs at the council. It is possible, but the council won’t listen. They’ve been dumped with The Guildhall and they (edited) WILL HAVE THEIR WAY … (edited).

  4. Iain

    Backstreeter – perhaps you would request newcomer to refrain from these personal attacks. I have always sought to answer his questions and indeed have offered to meet him to discuss his concerns personally, but i don’t think it’s reasonable that he addresses me, or anyone else, in such a way.

  5. Rachel - the other one

    Newcomer, as I’ve said before, if you put your name out there instead of hiding behind a name that makes you look like you know nothing about the town, that might help.

    I know Iain and backstreeter and many others who comment on this blog and we always have fruitful discussions whenever we find ourselves in the same room IRL. What do you do to add to life in this community?

    Your opinions on a cinema should be directed toward the proper channels but if you talk to many people in the town you will hear that many of us would support a cinema and if you cast your net a bit wider online you would catch the chatter about how small cinemas are very popular.

    Making personal attacks on elected representatives at town and nation level does not make you look big or clever and you really should consider putting a sock in it.

  6. steve king

    Although I make no excuse for Newcomers strong wording, I can’t help but sympathise with his obvious frustration.
    Currently we have a population of around 33k, another 5k on the army barracks and another 10k in villages within 4 miles,almost 50k. How does the T.C/Ian, think by building a cinima with just 100 seats is going to satisfy the needs of our ever growing community?
    For sure we need a “Guild Hall” type of place and renovating the existing building makes sense, but there the folly should end, the T.C are just not capable of running a complex which includes, coffee shops etc, it will be an enormous drain on their resources and after all that’s exactly the reason the Vale were so eager to off load it.
    Of course we need a cinema, perhaps a bowling alley too? but in the right place and owned/run by private enterprise.
    Here’s a thought, we have a precinct that’s only 2/3rds full, like it or not it will take a miracle to improve on the current occupancy level (despite Scottish Widows constant spoofing) so why not relocate some of the excisting businesses thus?
    Move £ shop into one of the new units along with Super Drug too, move Lloyds to the old New Look shop, demolish the old Woolies site and replace it with a purpose built cinema, perhaps a bowling alley, a few restaurants (Cafe Rouge etc) at the same time remove the humungous tree outside Samuals and create a pleaseing and useful open centre, (even an amphi-theatre too) but of course this would need the three main bodies, the T.C, the vale and Scottish Widow all working together, and I doubt that will ever happen?

  7. steve king

    Oh and T.C staff please don’t think i’m having a pop at you, far from it, Sandra Hill, Steve Rich, Mariane, Nigel et, all do a fantastic job, irrespective of which party they have to work with, but I do think taking on all this would be a bridge to far, even for them !

  8. newcomer

    Ah, at last, Steve, that is rare and uncommon sense.

    The Guildhall transaction has always looked like the passing of a poisoned chalice to me. A large part of me feels sorry for Iain who’s ended up with responsibility for this liability. There really is a time to stop digging and making the hole bigger.

    The idea expressed in the latter part of your contribution is similar to that I’ve expressed here in the past, initially with regard to the larger units in Bury Street being converted into a cinema and latterly to develop The Charter as a multiplex rather than another supermarket. It’s absolutely essential that any cinema be run as a commercial enterprise by people who know what they’re doing.

    You have it right in that I’m totally exasperated that the people supporting the Guildhall cinema can’t see that it’s a totally ridiculous idea. I’m all for a cinema, but done properly. It might be an Idea to start by the council approaching Scottish Widow and telling than that they won’t put planning impediments in the way of a cinema option.

    As for The Guildhall … the town should never have taken on the responsibility.

  9. Hester

    I agree with Rachel – those of us who have been trying (in an active and constructive way and with no political or self-promoting aspirations) for some years to make things happen in this town know that there IS an appetite for this kind of venue here. We also know from our own investigations, from experience in other areas and from reports from qualified experts in the field that they can be commercially viable – especially if the management is professional but the community help out with some of the lower-level tasks. Even the Globe Theatre uses volunteers ushers for goodness sake!

    Not everyone wants to see the new films in multiplexes the day after they come out – many of us would be happy to wait a while and see it in a comfortable local venue, with a glass of wine instead of a vat of Coke! And if you don’t believe me, go to any of the equivalent size towns where it does work.

    Happy New Year one and all..

  10. Hester

    … and PS – this wonderful blog usually manages to keep a pleasant tone – constructive, but certainly not sycophantic. I am sure that is why it is so well-liked. Please could we make a New Year Resolution to avoid personal abuse. I am as vehement as the next person in expressing my views of certain local figureheads in private and among friends, but I can’t see what is to be gained by doing it here. Personally I tend to believe that my case is more likely to be taken seriously if I make it assertively but politely.

  11. Iain

    Steve – just to correct one factual error in your post.

    The current cinema plans include two screens; a 100 seat permanent screen and a 220 seat second screen to use for peak times and popular shows. This second screen will also work as a flat floor venue and a theatre.

    I won’t repeat the reasons why i dont believe the private solution you suggest to be workable, but happy to discuss some time if you wish. I guess for me the acid test is tgat we’ve had 30 years of no cinema for the private sector to intervene and it hasn’t happened so we need to try a different solution.

  12. Peter Del

    I think a small cinema is an excellent idea, as long as it does not show the likes of 007, for that there is a multiplex in nearby Didcot.
    They could show limited releases that are only shown in London, and fine vintage films such as Bicycle Thieves and Il Postino. One Winter there could be a French or Italian Season. Clever marketing might expose a new generation to movies they might otherwise never see or even heard of.

  13. James

    I think the guild hall building should be demolished and i think 98% of the town wouldn’t realise or care if you did, you could then build a purpose built cinema and theatre, one that isn’t the ugliest building in Abingdon, no matter how much tarting up you do it’s still going to look like a giant concrete bunker….. you can roll shit in glitter but at the end of the day it’s still shit.

    Maybe ask the crown and thistle who they used as a architect??

    And abingdon fashion, i shall be sorry to see you go….. I can’t say i’ve ever been in but you have to applaud someone for trying….even if it was a bit half arsed

  14. Julian Annells

    A town the size of Abingdon NEEDS good facilities. At the moment we have NONE! We have a complete lack of shops that people actually want, (I have heard recently of people travelling to Didcot from Drayton to do their shopping. Didcot, Witney, Cowley all have better shopping facilities than us! Indie shops are fine for that quirky gift, but if there are no bigger shops to attract the footfall, then as we have seen, even they will go out of business. As for the “Cinema”, I think this joke of an idea is just to tick a box to say that they have tried to get a cinema in Abingdon, and when it fails, (which it undoubtedly will due to the latest Hobbit/Harry Potter/James Bond not getting there for 3/4 weeks after general release), then the TC can smugly say “We tried a cinema, and no-one wanted it”. I have lived here all of my life, but I’m afraid to say, with the half-arsed attempt at the precinct refurb (eventually!), the lack of facilities, and worst of all the horrendous incompetent ABITS system, this town has missed the boat, and Didcot, Witney, Cowley have won the race!

  15. Backstreeter

    I have been away for a couple of days without internet and returned and moderated some comments that were getting personal. I know Newcomer wants the best for the town and thinks the Town Council is making a mistake with the Guildhall cinema but please try to convince with arguments not personal attacks.

  16. Peter Del

    Shellsuit!, no I am not.

    James may have a point, pulling it down a building a new fit-for-purpose building may be a good idea, but it will be much, much more expensive. Birmingham decided not to convert the old central library but to erect a completely new one nearby – a masterpiece, but at great cost.

    Backstreeter, welcome back, this forum needs an injection of civility. I hope you had an enjoyable break.

  17. steve king

    I think the vast majority of Abingdon folk would think this project is doomed to fail? historically, local authoroties don’t have a good track record as far as trying to run anything in a business manner, the Old Gaol is a prime example of how to waste thousands, if not millions on a white elephant. Already the cost has risen by a staggering £900k, and that’s before a single brick has been laid.
    Knocking the place down may not be as silly as it sounds? it is built of top quality Portland Stone which would be worth a lot in salvage.
    They could flatten the place, sell the stone (which would cover the cost of demolition) sell the plot for sympathetic housing (not another block of flats) then, and here’s the trick, sit down with the Vale and Scotish Widow and decide on how Abingdon can have its own “Cornerstone” as in Didcot’s, built on the site of the old Woolies.
    There you go Ian, something for you to ponder on?

  18. Iain

    Hi Steve

    I don’t agree it’s doomed to failure so i guess that’s where we differ. There are good examples of local authority run venues, the pump rooms in ludlow and the corn exchange in newbury are two that spring to mind.

    Scottish widows (actually aberdeen asset management now) have a strategy for the charter and it doesn’t involve the cornerstone. I’d pursue it if i felt i had a) any authority over the area (i’m not a vale councilor) and b) i thought it had a realistic business case (which i don’t). I can pursue the guildhall project as the town council owns and operates the building already, it already invests a fairly large amount (c£150k pa) in running the building, and there is a good business case for converting the building into an entertainment venue, not to mention the social benefit to the town.

    As you’ve raised the issue of the £900k, i’d like to take the opportunity to explain what’s behind this. There have not, contrary to the implication of the Herald headline writers, been an uncontrolled increase in costs. The £4.4m represents the cost of the scheme we would pursue if we are successful in our funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. We have added approximately £600k worth of heritage related costs, mainly around the building’s interpretation, in order to meet some of the requirements of HLF. These are more than covered by the grant requested which is £1.9m.

    The other £300k is made up mainly of an increase for inflation and some relatively minor amendments to the design, mainly to do with the external finish of the building, which came out of the public engagement process. The inflation is due to the time we will need to add to the schedule if we are successful with the HLF bid which is a long process (c1 year).

    Hope this helps explain the situation a bit more clearly. As always happy to discuss further.


  19. newcomer

    Apologies, backstreeter. This is a wonderful Blog and I don’t want to make your life more difficult.

    I’m afraid the extra £900K was a final straw for me as I’ve been highly sceptical since the idea was first punted and garnished with questionable research. The problem is partly the inadequacy of a 100-seater, partly the TC thinking it should run a cinema and partly what interested parties think the cinema is going to show. I think this Blog has brought out that some seem to think an art-house cinema where people can swig a nice wine in armchairs is the intention. This won’t pay it’s way and would be ‘selling’ the idea to the population of Abingdon under false pretenses. It would be mad to make The Guildhall even more of a money -pit.

    I’m pleased to see that this Blog has brought out more people who aren’t at all convinced by this project.

    See … I can do reasonable …

  20. Iain

    Sorry newcomer, i think it’s good that you and others are questioning, but many of the points you repeatedly raise are just wrong (and i have explained most previously):

    1. We have had two studies done, neither of which are questionable. Mayfield arts , a specialist cinema consultancy, have looked into the viability of running a cinema in abingdon for us. Max Associates, a more generalist consultancy who do a lot of work on local authority recreational projects, have produced a report on the overall commercial viability of the scheme. Both are reputable and independent organisations and both reports say the scheme is viable.

    2. We are not proposing a single screen venue per my earlier post.

    3. The detail of the nature of programming has not been decided and in all likelihood will evolve depending on what people actually want to see. As i’ve previously stated my personal view is we are likely to have a mixed programme focusing on mainstream films at peak times and more niche/arthouse offerings at other times. You’re previous comment on not being allowed to show mainstream films is just inaccurate.

    4. I’ve explained the £900k thing above. Obviously most of that would not be incurred if we dont get the HLF grant, and if we do it will be covered by the grant itself.

    5. Again, as explained previously, we havent yet taken a decision on how the cinema will be run. There are broadly four options, the town council runs the facility, a charitable trust is set up to run the facility, a specialist third party is brought in to run some or all of the facility, or some sort of hybrid of the above. Until we’ve been through a detailed commercial analysis we wont know which of these will work best for the town. There is a limit to how far we can push this at this point as you can only take commercial discussions so far before the building is underway.

    Thanks for the much more reasonable tone in your last note newcomer. I really dont mind discussing the project reasonably, and have no issue at all with your questioning the use of public money which i thoroughly welcome. I just believe this particular project is a good one.

  21. newcomer


    1) I’ve only seen the dodgy research in the Viability Report of November 2013. I wrote the specification for the Music Charts (twice) in the 1970’s and ’80’s … I was Chairman of the BPI Stats Committee and the only non-record company-MD on the Charts Committee (I was Planning and Research Director on the Operations Board of EMI Records at the time). This was the biggest continuing quantitative research contract at the time. I lost count of the number of pieces of qualitative research I specified and commissioned. I know what valid and reliable research is … it’s not what you’ve got in the above report. Check out with the MRS if you don’t believe me.

    2) I know you’re not proposing a single screen … you’re proposing an expensive 100-seater and a 250-seater in the main hall that’s going to be arduous to assemble and disassemble.

    3) You need to be a lot more specific with the majority of townsfolk about the ‘filler’ nature of much of the programming you will be able to afford. At the moment it begins to look like expensive new premises for Abingdon Film Club. To be financially viable you’ll need a lot of commercial programming.

    4) Is the project going to cost £3.6million, £4.4million, or what?

    I put a lot of TV albums together for PolyGram and was responsible for the UK launch of the Cd … PolyGram being partly owned by Phillips. If I’d been so vague I would have been fired.

    5) Were I you I’d get the management team in place asap as I think they should know what they’re supposed to be running.

    I’d like to see the majority of people of Abingdon have a multiplex in the centre of town showing the kind of movies they want to see. I’d like to see that cinema in the middle of the shopping centre disgorging customers into the existing shops and attracting new businesses.

    However, the suspicion remains that the Town has been ‘sold a pup’ in the Guildhalll and the cinema idea is a post hoc rationale. On a per capita basis the tax-payers of Abingdon are carrying all of the overhead, which used to be shared with the rest of The Vale.

    I came here a few years back, on the cusp of the disasterous realization of the ‘new’ traffic system. I ‘retired’ here as it’s an appealing town, but every major civic decision made since I arrived has been such a disappointment … the Old Gaol … (sigh)

    You may think this is a good idea. Iain, but it’s not.

  22. Peter Del

    Do we really need a mainstream cinema when there is one ten minutes away? The multiplex at Didcot disgorges its customers into the shopping centre when all the shops are closed!

  23. Julian Annells

    I have contacted “Spotted Abingdon” on Facebook, which seems to be the way that the youngsters of Abingdon communicate/get to hear of anything. I have asked the question ” How many comments can we get in approval of a multiplex cinema in the heart of Abingdon? NOT the Guildhall version which will house a 100 seater and a 250 seater cinema! But a proper multiplex showing all the latest films, like smaller towns than Abingdon have. Let me know your thoughts on here and I will direct the Town Council to here to see the results. Thanks”. Spotted Abingdon has asked me to assist in a survey of people and has posted something asking whon would be interested in completing a survey. So far in 30 minutes I have had 31 people who have “liked” my comment, (means that they agree with it), and 10 people have commented back so far. PLEASE Iain, and the rest of the TC……..LISTEN for once to what the people of Abingdon want?.

  24. Chris

    Wow a real scrap on the blog. I don’t have any opinion on the cinema beyond believing it would be good for Abingdon to have one again. where and how much are not something I’m qualified to pass comment on.
    But I agree with Backstreer re ABTIS and the Old Gaol. two monumental disasters by the local authority. ABTIS we unfortunately have to live with. But should be changed. The old Gaol sold cheaply and lost out big time to Cranbourn crooks. Both still irritate people who live here.

  25. Julian Annells

    Ps. For many years I organised the Abingdon Firework display at Abingdon Airfield. It was a very successful event each year because I listened to what people wanted and did my best to do what the public wanted.

  26. Iain

    Hi Julian

    I agree with you that it would be nice to have a multiplex in Abingdon. I’d also like to see a John Lewis and a Marks and Spencer, but the decisions as to whether they want to locate in abingdon is down to those businesses, and at the moment we’re nit big enough for them. The challenge is the same for cinema, in that there is nobody looking to create a multiplex in Abingdon and I cant see that it will ever happen (they are basically set up as loss leaders for greenfield out of town retail developments). So the question should be would you like a small, two screen cinema in abingdon or no cinema in abingdon.

  27. Iain

    Newcomer – on point 4.

    It’s £4.4m if we get the hlf grant

    It’s £3.8m if we are not successful in the bid as we wouldn’t include the interpretation work without a specific grant to pay for it.

    Not vague at all – just the exact spec will vary depending on what external funding is received.

  28. newcomer

    The Cineworlds in Witney and Didcot don’t strike me as loss leaders in out-of-town retail developments. They look like traffic-drivers close to central shopping, and, Peter Del, there are such things as matinees when the shops are open. As for the Wallingford Corn Exchange … I like the occasional cultural live broadcast, but it would be financial suicide to build an expensive Guildhall Cinema just for that.

    With a properly thought-out plan involving all parties something quite exciting could be made out of the Town Centre. Include redeveloping the Telephone Exchange … now that is one ugly building. Drive something through from there to Bath Street and you start talking about a joined-up Town Centre. With all this imaginary monopoly money we could do great things ….

    Iain, I’m curious as to what ‘interpretation work’ on the Guildhall would include. … is that the same as cladding to hide the buildings current brutality? It’s all vague at the moment, though clarifying the main vagueness, the type and extent of commercial programming … which most Abingdonians want (and which has nothing to do with cladding) would be a major step forward and persuade us that the building wouldn’t be another Millennium Dome with nothing of interest going on inside it.

  29. Iain

    Interpretation is work to help the community better understand the building and its history. It includes display materials, electronic material, the creation of a heritage events post to work with younger audiences, work on restoration of some of the artefacts in the building, etc. it’s not really to do with the physical appearance if the building.

  30. Julian Annells

    Iain, you really haven’t asked the people of Abingdon, especially the younger generations, what they want. They aren’t interested in ‘understanding the building and it’s history’! Yes by all means have a brochure in the tourist office…..oh wait, no, that was another bright idea of someone’s to do away with that! Ok a brochure in the one stop ever-so-plush-expensive many times refurbished council offices. That will cost a maximum of £1000 p.a and is perfectly adequate for those who are interested in the history! If you printed a 1000, I would put money on it that this time next year you would still have 700 left! The community doesn’t want or need display materials – electronic materials to tell them about history of an extremely ugly disfunctional building! They WANT/NEED new facilities in keeping with a large town! LISTEN!

  31. Iain

    Hi Julian

    I’m not sure where you are getting your information from, but…

    We still have a visitor information office which is in the town council offices in abbey close. They will move to the guildhall in the spring.

    The town offices are not ‘much refurbished’. The lease on the current building ends this spring and we are relocating to modest offices in roysse court. These we’re previously unused and derelict so some money has been spent to bring them back to reasonable order. The move will save the council £30k pa.

    The interpretation i mentioned is specific to the hlf bid. If we dont do have this in our plans we would not be eligible for the hlf grant. This will bring £1.9m to the project to create the sort of facility you describe, so it’s not a binary decision.

    The issue on facilities is not about listening or understanding. I’ve read your survey and if you ask any of the councilors what sort of things they’d like to see in town you’d end up with a similar list. The challenge is that these things are very difficult and expensive to achieve. The guildhall is an unusual opportunity as we already own this underutilised building and as such have a chance to do something useful with it. The question i think it would have been useful for you to have included in your survey was whether people would prefer a 2 screen cinema (plus theatre) in the guildhall or have the town remain with no cinema indefinitely as this is the real situation we face.

    I do understand your concern (i have three children myself one of whom is an avid spotted reader) and i applaud your initiative to get more people to express their views. I would reiterate my earlier invitation to discuss your concerns personally, particularly if you have ideas on how to effectively engage younger people who are a difficult audience to get involved for local councils.

  32. Hester

    Rolf – the Wallingford Corn exchange was set up and is run by volunteers – the local drama group being the main organisers. It runs approx half time as a cinema, showing as far as I remember mainly fairly recent but not brand new films , and the other half for plays and concerts. It is extremely popular which is one of the reasons why I think that the rather more ambitious proposal here would also be popular – albeit not with those who are wedded to the multiplex idea!

    What has worked in Wallingford and elsewhere is for a group of constructive enthusiasts to get behind a project! put a lot of effort into it and make it happen. In Abingdon we have a head start in that we have a publicly owned building, a considerable capital sum to kick it off and a local council to do all the hard work of fundraising, managing contracts etc. It may not be perfect, but if we get behind it and make constructive suggestions it will be a d……d sight better than nothing – and whatever dreams we may have I don’t see any other viable options on the horizon.


  33. James

    Having read the proposal for the “boutique” cinema I am yet to find and real evidence of the ability of the TC to run the thing. Build it? I think they will do that well.

    Run it other than at a loss (met by the tax payer) it seems unlikely.

    Make sufficient profit to repay the cost of its development into reserves? Its simply not going to happen.

    It would be considerably cheaper all round for the council to buy a couple of buses and just take people to existing cinemas.

    Look at the way the TC manage the existing structure. The beautiful rooms in the old part are rarely let out. They are poorly advertised. The fact you have a registry office *next door* and still the rooms are not advertised as a prime wedding venue for the town escapes me. It seems to be used only a few times a year for that purpose and none of the normal infrastructure i in place in terms of catering etc. [I know this as we found out by chance we could get married there and looked at the venue, the rooms are daftly cheap to hire, but that was about it] The main hall is rarely in use, with only the recent comedy night being well advertised.

    A community hall like that ought to be in use more or less every single night and making a significant cash contribution to the town. Little of it is to do with building or investment, its basic events management.

    The main investment needs I can see is some proper riser seating that folds back into the wall to keep things multi-functional and ensure layout changes are quick/cheap to do so you can stage 2 or 3 events a day. Yes that’s how many there should be in a properly run venue. And then some proper bar areas as that’s where the venues make the money, its not the tickets, its the drinks. Again you will see if you go to ‘proper’ venues these are normally both in the hall and outside, and there are lots of them.

    To me a proper use of the building should certainly include regular cinema times, along side live music of all genres (yes the soundproofing probably needs to be improved), drama, comedy, disco, you name it it should be on to both serve the community and contribute cash to the councils coffers. You just need to put decent events on, keep them regular and above all advertise heavily!

    I should point out the council seems to do events management much better when it comes to the town square (always something on) or outside summer events. I am not sure if this is because the people putting on the events sort of this out themselves perhaps, but when it comes to the guildhall there seems to be little imagination or effort to make the building work and I cant see how spending several million pounds on a new building is going to change things. You spend a huge sum on the museum but still barely advertise the only bit of interest for residents – the roof tours! Why is this going to be any different?

    Covering the foyer in some glass (the naughties version of 1960’s ubiquitous concrete) wont get the punters in. Only a decent events manager will do that.

  34. colin

    Saw the report that Abingdon Butique is closing in 2014, as is Sweet Chocolate, and Heelas are moving from Abingdon also.

    Not a good start.

  35. Iain

    I dont think abingdon bridge is closing – not sure if there is some confusion but they have moved/are moving premises but very locally to their current offices

  36. Rolf

    Its simple:

    Don’t go crazy and biet off more than you can chew with a big multiplex, that would not be right for Abingdon.

    Have a smaller independent cinema like Wallingford, showing cool, arty films, plus some latest releases, live opera etc. Basically, something tasteful, cultured and fun for the residents,

    The issue here is about the vision –

  37. Peter Del

    Rolf, I agree with you, but don’t leave out the young people. The occasional Saturday afternoon screening of a pop group like, for example, One Direction Live at the Apollo (I made that up).

  38. Chris

    Rolf I hope your not suggesting we go back to showing buck rogers and all the stuff they used to show at the Regal in Magdalen Rd on Saturday mornings in Oxford back in the ’70s. It was just organised chaos 🙂

  39. James

    A little boutique cinema simply isn’t going to work, people won’t want to go and see the latest blockbuster 3 months after it’s release, it will just be the Guildhall as it is now tarted up with a ‘cinema’ plonked on the back, then it will be underused as it is now, it’s basically a school hall with out the school, tear it down, get some real investment and build something good,

    And just to confirm i was saying that Abingdon fashion was a bit half assed, i’m not saying you didn’t try, but it just looked like the old phone shop painted pink with some clothes in it and appearance is everything in retail, you can sell cheep tat if your shop looks good,

  40. newcomer


    I think, for some reason known only to themselves, the TC ‘bought’ the Guildhall without having a plan. A cinema is the ONLY idea they’ve got as an attraction and, regardless of its lack of viability, they won’t, therefore, look at alternatives. They are dug-in and won’t move.

    A cinema on Bury Street/The Charter, would be financed by a cinema chain and the leaseholder. The TC shouldn’t need to put any money in, just smooth the planning process. I would imagine that the leaseholder would be only too pleased to have a cinema on the site earning money, rather than empty shops earning zilch.

    One wonders, whichever council is involved, whether they have even approached the leaseholder on the matter.

    Anything is possible … the TC as just found out that the Highways Agency isn’t against diamond interchanges on the A34. I think it was at the initial public meeting re. the unwanted Drayton Road development that we were told that the Highways Agency wouldn’t allow a diamond interchange as they didn’t want to attract traffic onto the A34.

    Ah, the Drayton Road debacle … another fine episode in the councils’ planning inadequacies.

    No wonder they are always quoting ‘commercial confidentiality’, or that issues are ‘too complex’ for our puny brains … the truth would be too shaming for them.

  41. Abingdon fashion

    James are you kidding the phone shop was a dump till we got in there . The whole shop was painted throughout new carpet the upstairs flooring was removed and has wooden flooring . The shop has a jukebox and iconic pictures and is different to any other clothes shop around it has bright colours and sells all clothing from size 6 to size 30. You said you have never been in so how can you be a critic . We have stocked the items people of Abingdon and welcomed any ideas so please by all means tell me what you would like me to to do with the shop and we will consider it

  42. newcomer

    Were I a cynic I might think that the TC saying The Vale is the (disinterested/inactive) leaseholder’s ‘connection’ re: any development of a cinema on Bury Street/The Charter I might think that The Vale is giving the TC a clear run to persuade the ‘persuadable’ (the electorate) that they have a cinema in the Guildhall, or no cinema at all. Should the electorate fall for this then the TC and The Vale will be off the hook. Deal done ….

    … the left hand talking to the right hand.

    Was that complicated … it might never have been meant to be easy.

    Iain said a few posts back that the multi-layering of local politics goes back to Harold Wilson in the 1960’s. Of course he’d say that. He wouldn’d mention the decades that the equally useless Tories have been in power and could have reversed the local government mess.

    I’m not a political person. Most politicians are just useless planners and managers and should be kept as far as possible from other peoples’ money (which they will spend with abandon).

  43. James

    Abingdon Fashion, I dont want to get in a bitching war on here…. but as you asked,

    I actually viewed the Phone shop just before you opened it as ‘YBYNU’ was it?

    You say the shop is different to anything around? there is quite possibly a reason for that, bright colours isn’t always a good thing.

    I haven’t actually been inside but i do walk past daily so i think i can pass a opinion plus i have ran several successful businesses in this town now.

    You need to have set opening hours and stick to them, the bit of cardboard with your hours on written in biro and highlighters is lovely but you are closed more often then you’re open.

    Things should be profesional, again… handwritten signs look shoddy, maybe invest in a cheap laptop and printer? and stick to nice simple fonts to give you’re brand an identity, no comic sans

    The Abingdon Fashion sign on the outside, you should paint the black bits from the old YBUYNU sign white, i’m assuming you were hoping the icons from the old sign would fit in but it just looks like the new sign doesn’t fit.

    Maybe just cut your losses and get rid of the stock that hasn’t sold in say the last 6 months or give it to the charity shops, it looks a bit cluttered in the shop.

    I’m honestly not trying to be mean, Half assed was the wrong way of saying it, inexperienced is probably a better way of saying it.

  44. Abingdon fashion

    James we spent over 30 k on decorating the shop and if you look as you pass everyday in the window is a gold professionally made opening hours sign . The shop has to be closed more than open due to lack of footfall . This will be confirmed by many shops in town it does not matter how pretty or great the shop looks people are not visiting . I could sell an Aston Martin with a red bow on it but if I am trying to sell it in a town with no employment it won’t sell no matter how good it is . Ybuynu had a sign that cost over a 1000!quid which was 3d and they sold designer items and then was asked by people of Abingdon to be like the shop gear change which they did but it ruined the trade as more people brought clothes in to sell than buy . I talk to established shop owners in the town who’s trade has halved . I have also owned many business successfully but I am afraid in this climate and the way the town is it is an impossible task . We will close soon we don to want to but it is not. Financially viable

  45. Julian Annells

    Iain. I agree with you that maybe the survey on spotted didn’t ask all of the questions that maybe should have been asked, but it was just something that ‘Spotted’ & myself cobbled together between a few text messages. We shouldn’t have had to resort to that though, that is something that the TC should be doing, coming up with a proper survey that involves ALL of the different age groups in Abingdon and ensuring that ALL available media is used to engage as many residents as possible. It seems that you have asked a few people from a small niche group whether they would like a cinema in the Guildhall or not at all. I personally would choose not at all, as if this goes ahead, and some enterprising company does eventually look at putting a proper cinema in the town, the council will either vetoe it in favour of keeping their ‘arty’ little cinema, or it will be turned down because the Guildhall one ‘isn’t used’! Even the tone of your previous post, when you said it should have been asked ‘do you want a 2 screen cinema or not one at all’, sounds almost threatening, and forcing people to take the option that you want them to have. No one has answered the question I asked previously, what happens when a blockbuster film is released, such as The Hobbit, would it get to be aired in the Guildhall cinema on the day of release, and if it was are people going to have start queuing at 6am to get one of the few seats for a 7:30 viewing?

  46. Iain

    Hi Julian

    Thanks for response. As previously stated i think it’s good you’re doing something with spotted abingdon.

    On the survey point we did a fairly extensive piece of public engagement on the cinema back in April, which is why i’m confident that this will be successful. We used a web site, press articles, public meetings, an online survey, several radio interviews and were on itv and bbc local news. Most usefully we spent two consecutive weekends in various public places (1 day on mkt place, 2 at tescos and 1 at waitrose) in order to achieve exactly what you suggested.

    We had 300 formal responses and in the course of the fortnight we will have spoken to a couple of thousand people which is a pretty good coverage for a town our size. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

    I’m sorry if you felt my tone was threatening, it wasn’t intended that way. I’m afraid i don’t believe that there is a fairy godmother commercial cinema planning to set up in abingdon. We last had a cinema here in the early 80s, and with the exception of the plan that john prescott stopped about ten years ago, there doesn’t seem to have been any interest since.

    Neither of the two big retail landlords have any plans to build a cinema here and both have written us letters of support for the guildhall plans.

    In regard to programming, I’m reluctant to be too definitive, as this will inevitably be something that evolves over time as we better understand what an abingdon audience actually pay to see, which may not be the same as what we think or that people say they want to see (see post 28). My best guess is we will show things like the hobbit (which i took the kids to see yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed) as part of a balanced programme, but we will never compete with say vue in terms of round the clock screenings of every new release.

    You sound a reasonably person julian and i’d be very happy to discuss what we have (and haven’t) done so far, and what we still have to do over the next couple of years, over a coffee or a beer, rather than try and explain 2 years of work in a few quick posts on a discussion forum. I’ve done this with a couple of other correspondents on the site previously who seemed to find it quite useful (I’m sure they’ll say if they disagree 🙂 ).



  47. Iain

    James – same offer as per Julian.

    Your diagnosis is not far off what i thought when i first got involved with the guildhall.

    We do have an experienced manager at the guildhall who we appointed a little over a year ago and has done much good work including the comedy nights you referred to. There is far more work to be done on the usability of the fabric of the building than you imply I’m afraid, and the quick fix solution you suggest simply isn’t that quick.

    You mentioned weddings, and you’ll be pleased to know that we have a guides for brides wedding fair at the guildhall on Sunday, so do pop along 🙂

    Happy to talk further.

  48. Neil Fawcett

    newcomer and others – don’t underestimate the costs of providing small and medium sized cinemas. Didcot, Newbury and Witney only have their cinemas because the capital costs were heavily subsidised and the sites were big enough to provide at least a small multiplex size venue.

    The only genuinely profitable new cinemas are large multiplexes, large city centre venues with big catchment areas and boutique style cinemas in areas with a large enough market for that kind of venue.

    One of the big problems we have in Abingdon is that we don’t have a big enough market to sustain a large multiplex, given the provision in Oxford, and we probably don’t have a large enough market of the right type to sustain a boutique style cinema.

  49. Neil Fawcett

    Overall I’m supportive of the idea of turning the Guildhall into cinema/theatre venue.

    A town the size of Abingdon should have a big enough market to sustain a venue like this if it is run more like the kind of community based operation we see at the Wallingford Corn Exchange or the Chipping Norton Theatre.

    If run well I think it is likely that we could see a combination of a significant increase in usage of the Guildhall and a significantly reduced annual subsidy.

    What I am not convinced of is that it will be possible to reduce the annual cost completely, and the business case doesn’t make it at all clear how this will happen.

    My expectation is that, if the scheme goes ahead as currently proposed, it will involve the Town Council in borrowing a significant proportion of the capital cost, presumably on a long term and low interest basis, and will result in a substantial reduction in the net revenue costs, but that we will still be paying quite a large annual cost.

    Personally I think it is better to pay an annual subsidy for a well used facility than for one that’s hardly used at all, but I think the TC should be open about the long term financial commitment that will be involved to achieve this.

  50. Julian Annells

    Thanks for the offer Iain, but could I make a slightly different suggestion? That is that you arrange a meeting one evening with all who have commented on this particular post, and we all put our constructive criticism into the mix? That is if it would/could make any difference to the way Abingdon is at the moment, and our views were to be heard. But I suspect that TPTB do not really want to hear anything that goes against what they have already decided for the town, and we might all be wasting our time and effort, getting annoyed but frustrated that no-one actually listens.

  51. newcomer

    If there’s ever any proper research done on this Guildhall cinema project I’d like to put a draft question forward for discussion:

    Would you like a cinema in the Abingdon Guildhall. It wouldn’t be the kind of cinema normal people understand as a cinema, it’d be more like Abingdon Film Society. In addition, if your family is a council tax payer you’ll have to pay for the cinema’s annual budget shortfall … forever … even if you never, ever go to the cinema?

    One wonders what the Abingdon Film Society could do with a million spondolics … perhaps we should ask them.

    A terrible thought has occurred to me about the ‘interpretation work’, which is that I hope it’s not going to include a specially commissioned film about Abingdon playing on continuous loop to an empty cinema auditorium.

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  53. steve king

    A couple of questions for you Ian please.
    1, can the public see the business plan? (if there is one?)
    2, what happens when the hall is rented out for Auntie Dot’s birthday party? or holds a council meeting? or the Mayor’s Christmas ball? or the antique market? etc etc, presumably they’ll be no cinema?
    3, you said you had a good response to your survey, 300 replied, but that’s less than 1% of Abingdons population, surely you’re not going to committ £Millions to a scheme on that basis?
    4, there is talk on here of borrowing money to fund the project, was that made clear to those who answered your survey?
    5, If the T.C hasn’t enough money in the pot to replace the now obsolete “Abingdon” signs on the boundary’s to our resurected “Abingdon on Thames” title (which I believe your party instigated) how can they justify spending what they haven’t got on a project for so few?
    Little wonder Enoch Powell once said “all political careers end in failure” !

  54. Julian Annells

    Steve, James, Newcomer and all the others who have taken time to comment on this post, Iain has suggested several times that he is willing to arrange a meeting to discuss this issue, and maybe, the way forward for Abingdon in the future. Can I suggest that we all get together and put our views across collectively? Please email Iain and he is going to suggest some dates. Thanks. Julian

  55. Iain

    Steve – happy to answer but have covered several before and difficult to give full answers in posts. Why dont you join session with julian per above?

    1 yes – not full business plan bit commercial viability assessment which is appropriate to stage of project

    2 one of the reasons we prefer two screen solution

    3 ultimately it’s a judgement call – we believe the survey is representative but frankly its our job as elected councillors to take decisions within the scope of our powers on behalf of the community

    4. Yes

    5. Two issues unrelated

  56. newcomer

    I’d come along to a meeting were it not chaired by an interested party on either side of the argument.

    I’d imagine that backstreeter would be an acceptable chairman to all and he might report the meeting on this Blog

    Re. point 3 above:

    For any research to be regarded as representing a ‘true’ measure of opinion it has to be both ‘valid’ and ‘reliable’. These terms have strict meanings in market research, but can be reasonably expressed as:

    The research sample must provide an accurate representation of the population (in this case, the residents within the TC’s catchment area). This requires that the sample be stratified according to age, sex, socio-economic class, and any other factors thought relevant to the issue. The results must be capable of ratification using an identical sample, but made up of totally different respondents.

    There’s a bit more to it than this, but it doesn’t count as research it you just question anyone who fancies/will submit to being questioned (this is called ‘respondent bias’).

    There’s a whole lot more to do with questionnaire design and avoiding ‘leading questions’ eg. ‘Would you like a cinema, or none at all?’

    It’s not, actually, a ‘judgement call’, it’s just not research and doesn’t back up anyone’s decision.

  57. Shep

    Re Comment 68 from Steve King

    From someone who has so many strong opinions on so many local issues I think it has to be said that at least Iain Littlejohn had the courage to get himself elected ! He seems to me to be trying to do something . He also seems to very open to answering criticism ! As a generalisation , all you ever seem to want to do is harshly criticise , normally without knowing all the facts . Both you and the eminently capable ‘Newcomer ‘ are retired capable men presumably with enough free time and financial security to stand for election . Perhaps you should stand together as Independents ?Your manifesto pledge could be simple “Whatever It Is, I’m Against It!” (Groucho Marx – no relation of Karl )

    Enoch’s correct quote is –
    All political lives ,unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture , end in failure ,because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs ”- very true but like most things a bit more complicated than they appear .

  58. newcomer

    I think there’s probably enough general concern about the nature of this project and its cost escalation that a meeting is required. This should be independently chaired to make sure that all issues are given a fair hearing (and no ‘shouty-shouty’ ;0).

    It would be a good idea for the meeting to be open to the media as the amount of money involved is not insignificant. It’s a large amount of capex for the town on a decade timescale and should not be passed-though without considerable scrutiny.

    I’m just pleased that the cinema no longer seems to be regarded as a shoo-in.

  59. Daniel

    I’d be eager to attend, or at least hear all about such a meeting. It sounds like there’s a lot to ind out about both sides of the argument. However, is it already a done deal…or is there room for change?

    I worry sometimes that this is just about a cinema. What about all the other issues affecting the town – going forwards I mean.

    Is the time ripe to ask the good people of Abongdon what their hopes, dreams, wants and desires are for the town? What’s the ‘Vision’?

    Drayton had signs up recently for “Drayton 2020”. Is there anything similar for Abingdon?

    Many millions of pounds are about to be committed, if they haven’t already, on the Charter development. This is going to shape the direction the town goes in, its destiny and it’s aspirations for the next half century at least. But no one seems interested in whether what’s being planned is what Abingdon wants…let alone needs.

    Are we a (rural) market Town, or competing on the same retail footing as Didcot, Oxford, Witney, Milton Keynes? Are we to celebrate and nurture the individuality that independent shops can bring…or are we to just offer the same retail environment as ‘Any other Town’?

    Perhaps if there was a vision for Abingdon, we could all be working toward it….but if no one knows what that vision is…………..

  60. Hester

    Daniel – the Friends of Abingdon and others have been asking the Town Council for 2-3 years now to talk to us about drawing up a Neighbourhood Plan (which is what Drayton and Faringdon have been doing and Wantage are now starting) but to no avail. Such a Plan might not provide the “vision” you refer to, but it would provide a framework for future decisions – and address some of the questions you ask. Maybe 2014 will find them more responsive – as the next TC elections draw nearer?

    Re your “ask the people” approach, I wouldn’t like to bet on whether a democratic vote would be win by the pro independent/individuality lobby or the clone-town

  61. daniel

    Hi Hester, thanks for the reply. Good to know that someone is trying to plan for the future!

    It’s a shame though…although the detail – those wants and aspirations, should come from “the people”; I think the very notion of “a vision” should come from those tasked with “running Abingdon”. The fact this isn’t in place is a dire circumstance I fear.

    I don’t think I’d want to bet on the retail vision either! Although…at least if the town is asked…and those that choose to respond are listened to…then job done. Abingdon gets what it wants! Sounds easy…if you say it fast enough!


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