What’s on in Basingstoke during 2018
PUBLISHED: 10:47 16 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:47 16 January 2018
Last year this North Hampshire town rediscovered its heritage, and 2018 will see it continue to rejuvenate itself as multi-million investment forges ahead. We look at what’s to come
Gripped by Jane Austen fever during 2017’s bicentennial, Basingstoke’s connections with the author’s early life have been preserved in a bronze statue on Market Place. A cultural heritage reborn as this part of North Hampshire celebrated one of its most famous residents. Buoyed by the excitement generated, all eyes are now on the place the Thames Valley Property Awards voted Town of the Year, as the ambitious programme of regeneration and redevelopment in Basingstoke gathers pace.
Doing the business
With its office towers visible on the skyline, interestingly, around 90 per cent of companies in the Basingstoke area employ less than 10 staff. And if proof’s needed that global organizations can co-exist with small, independent businesses, the town’s movers and shakers point to its Business Improvement District. Here, as much as £2 million could be raised thanks to high street retailers and independent shops, cultural centres and major corporates joining forces to invest in the future. Already up in the historic Top of the Town, grants to give its buildings a facelift and expert advice to help its businesses to grow, have seen results.
Additionally, there’s the ongoing rejuvenation of the central business area, as the council’s Invest to Grow Fund, pours £25 million into supporting new housing, office, industrial, manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure, renewables and low carbon schemes. And on-going investment from Enterprise M3 is behind road improvements to the south west and north east corridors; meaning faster journey times, as well as improved routes for cyclists and pedestrians.
Bricks and mortar
Whilst there may be a sharp intake of breath from some quarters at the idea of creating a brand new community on Basingstoke’s western fringes, supporters of the Manydown development argue that it will provide much needed housing and facilities on land jointly owned by the borough and the county council. If the planning application is successful, this will see over 3,000 new homes, schools, play areas, allotments and a country park being added to the landscape.
Skills for life
Not only has BCOT (Basingstoke College of Technology) been ranked among the county’s top achieving colleges for vocational qualifications, it’s now opened a new £3.8 million Future Skills Centre in Bordon. From brickwork to carpentry and construction this addition establishes BCOT as one of the region’s largest providers of apprenticeships for school leavers and those already in work, who want to build a career.
As home to 200 plus retailers, Basingstoke’s Festival Place has long been the go-to place for a big brands fix, and there’s a makeover underway! Several new store openings are in the pipeline and car parks are being renovated. Whilst down the road in Basing View, the arrival of John Lewis continues to attract devotees. The good news being that there remain fewer empty shop units than the national average and the street market, established by Royal Charter in 1622, is alive and well. Stalls set-up from 9am on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Market Place and continue down Wote Street towards Festival Place.
Those wanting a day or night out are eagerly awaiting the proposed transformation of Basingstoke Leisure Park. With swimming, 10-pin bowling and golf among the sports already catered for alongside the Milestones museum, indoor skydiving and skiing, a cinema and restaurants, a £350 million cash injection could see the doubling of attractions offered at the 60 acre park. Some of the ideas expected to be rubber stamped include rebuilding and redesigning the existing Aquadrome, as well as the addition of an events arena, velodrome and a designer outlet shopping centre.
The great outdoors
When it comes to green spaces, both Eastrop Park and The War Memorial Park hold a Green Flag for their high standard. And now the go-ahead has been given for Beggarwood Park to become a Local Nature Reserve.The park is rich in ancient woodland, chalk grasslands and wildlife and is somewhere to escape the hurly burley of everyday life.
What’s on in 2018
• Thursday 8 to Saturday 17 February: Basingstoke Gang Show
One of the region’s longest running family variety shows returns to the Haymarket Theatre with a matinee and evening performances.
• Sunday 13 May: Festival of Transport
Expect over 900 vehicles from classic cars to military trucks on The War Memorial Park.
• Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 June: Kite Festival
Flying dragons surf the skies above Down Grange Sports Complex.
• Friday 15 June to Sunday 8 July: Basingstoke Festival
Community groups and professional organizations take part in over 100 events, including Basingstoke Live, the UK’s biggest free music festival. On 16 June Old Basing Carnival has vintage vehicles and fairground rides adding to the fun on the Recreation Ground. And on 23 and 24 a Cheese and Chilli Festival returns to The War Memorial Park.
• Sunday 7 October: Basingstoke Half Marathon
Starting in The War Memorial Park, runners will line-up for this traffic-free, challenge.
Basingstoke’s annual A Place to be Proud of awards recognize the contribution made by individuals, groups, organizations, places and initiatives in creating a vibrant community. THAT Gallery in Festival Place, topped the hotly contested 2017 Arts and Entertainment category. Graeme Farragher and Rachel Davis curate the novel pop-up.
“We started as an artists’ collective about four years ago,” Graeme explains. “ Prominent local artist, Kev Munday, approached the centre director because he could see there were empty units and felt it would be good to have a pop-up gallery to showcase local artwork.”
Rachel adds: “It brings a bit of culture into the shopping centre. We’re given short leases, so part of the creative challenge is to take whatever space is available and try to turn it into something magnificent.”
The 25 artists currently exhibiting - all of whom are from Basingstoke and the surrounding area, are, she says, getting quite a following.
“What’s interesting is that people don’t always buy from one particular artist, they might be driven by colour or subject matter. For anyone looking for something a bit different, they are thrilled not to have to travel outside of Basingstoke as we’ve original artwork starting from £50.”
With many of the artists also doing a shift in the gallery, there’s a good chance of seeing an eclectic mix of work being created in front of your eyes. And, according to Graeme, it’s what makes the whole place much more relaxing than your average gallery.
“We are always happy for families to come in,” says Rachel. “There really is a sense of community here, and it’s such a hive of creativity.”