My name is Deborah Norrey and I’m recording for the Histories at Hobmoor project. I’m here today with Oliver Scott… and Barry. It is Tuesday the twenty… first of November 2017 and I’d like to start by saying hello Barry, thank you for agreeing to be recorded.
And can I please ask, for your full name and your date of birth and where you were born?
Name’s Barry Cartmell, birth is, er, date of birth thirty-first of the third 1956 and I was born in Birmingham.
Can I ask where in Birmingham you were born, Barry?
[Sighs] Somewhere near to the city centre, I believe it was, well, erm, a, r, I was, the family was living around about Benacre Street, that’s, that’s going way back in, in… So some of your listeners may… may remember Benacre Street but I think it’s all been redeveloped since.
What area was this, that, in the city?
It’s, oh, that was… erm, I just know it as off the, er, [sighs] off the Pershore Road. Erm, close to Belgrave Road but, er, I was… I was only ten months when we moved out so my memories are a little vague. [Laughing].
And can I ask where you moved to, Barry?
Er, moved to Rubery in South Birmingham which was a, a new, development area back in the fifties and sixties. Erm, yeah, so quite a new, er, had a lot of new housing and… and families from city centre, the old city centre housing, were moved to such developments.
And can you tell us a little bit about your childhood, what it was like?
Yeah, er, d … we were quite lucky really because the, er, Rubery itself was, erm… relatively new area, it was on the, the… boundary with, erm, er, Birmingham and Worcestershire and it was… literally countryside. Erm… five minute walk into the countryside. Erm… all of the, all the buildings were new buildings so the schools I attended were new schools. And there was that certain feeling, as there was in… in the fifties and sixties of, erm, the country was rather dymamic [ph], dynamic at that time, things were moving at a pace and, er, everyone… there, there was an air of happiness. I know you… we tend to look back with… er, with our rose… tinted glasses on and, and everything looks good but genuinely things were… it, it was a better time. There was a lot more optimism about the, the war was well, well gone and, and, and out. Er, a lot more prosperity, the jobs were, er, plentiful and so, yeah, a lot of people were enjoying a, a very good, er, quality of life compared to what they had done. So I, I grew up in a, a very nice, comfortable environment.
So you spent a lot of time outdoors as opposed to…?
Oh yes, yes, that was our, er, yeah. No video games, er, it was football and it was hide and seek, it was, walks in the country with groups of young kids when …groups of, groups of young kids could do that, erm, in safety. Erm, so yeah, we… we were encouraged to, to be outside and that’s where all of our activities and, and play took place really. It was, we only stayed indoors if it was raining, erm, we annoyed our parents too much if we stayed indoors anyway, so… Erm, yeah, it, lot of fresh air, lot of exercise, er, they were good times.
And after you finished school what did you move onto then, Barry?
Erm… my first… job, as such was I… I was an apprentice in the, er, printing industry in, erm… er, city centre again, erm, Great Charles Street. Company called Rodway, Drew and Hopwood who had quite a bit of history. Erm… but when I joined the printing industry, that’s when computers were coming in and revolutionising quite a few areas of, of… various industries and businesses. And that, put paid to a lot of the old, erm, independent printing companies and that’s, erm, so I, I moved on from there. Erm… couldn’t get my apprenticeship transferred over to any other companies, erm, so I left that. And, erm, I think ultimately I went to work, as most people from South Birmingham do, at the, Austin Rover works… which again was fun. Erm… and then various jobs since then, everything from… er, managing exhibitions to shop management… er… working on building sites, erm… designing, erm, toys for children and, erm… other items for, er, disabled people. Erm… and through into, er, property management. So, yeah, quite a varied background, which has been… it’s all been interesting. All added to what I am now.
So can you tell us, erm, Barry, when you first came into Yardley and what brought you here?
Right, the, there was a, a job advertised for the Centre Manager of, of the then, er, Swan Centre. Erm… and I applied for that job, erm… and was lucky enough to get it. Erm, I’d got a background in, property management from the old Bullring Centre when I used to manage the office blocks associated with the Bullring, which not many people realise there were four office blocks associated with it. Erm, so that was my, my first taste of, er, property management. And then this position came up and I applied for it and, erm… and took it. Erm, that was when, in the days of the old Swan Centre when it was, erm, a typical sixties angular concrete construction which, at the time of construction was the bees knees, er… but obviously over, over the years it, er, is, it sort of became known with that… horrible industrial type building of, of that era. Er, so. And it was… w, even when I joined the, the centre was due for, erm, a major refurbishment, if not demolition and re, redevelopment. It, it really was that old. It, it was a, a great local centre for the people that used it, it was very popular, erm, it was a navigation aid as well. Everyone said, ‘Get to the Swan Centre and you, you either go north, south, east or west from there.’ Erm… but, yeah, it was well past its sell-by date and it, it desperately needed to be, er, redeveloped.
So can you describe the old centre to us please?
It was basically, erm, three blocks. Er, there was one main block on the Coventry Road stroke Church Road which housed everything from an independent fruit and veg, er, dealership, independent, er, butcher, a Farmfoods unit, er, Blockbuster video, which sort of dates it as well. Erm, the next block were, were more independent shops, er, fashion shops, erm… toiletries, household goods. Er, and then above that was the Gala Bingo Hall which… was the Gala Bingo Hall in my day but originally when the centre was built I believe it was a nightclub called Bloomers, which, again, some, some of the people around here still remember. Erm, I don’t remember the, the club as such, er, I, I know of the name. And then the third area was, erm… eventually became an InShops indoor market. It had been a, a few things over its time, I think mainly, er, supermarket, er, but for all of the time that I was here, erm, it was an InShops market. And then above that was multi-storey car park. Erm… open air er, on, on… all the malls were open to the air, erm, so that… that was restrictive to a degree, obviously. Er… open to the, er, well depending on the vagaries of the weather if they wanted to do anything externally. Erm… And that was pretty much it, really.
So what sort of stalls did they have in the, erm, indoor market?
Oh, again, just about everything. They’re … more or less replicating what we’d got externally so there, there’d be, erm, a stall selling cheeses, one selling, d, erm, meat products, a couple selling meat products, er, one selling haberdashery, jewellery, erm, football memorabilia, erm, cameras and associated, erm, goods and, er, to do with, er, photography. Erm, there was a café in there, there was a, a crèche, er, for toddlers. Erm… all pretty much a, a standard of what you would find in, in indoor markets of the sort of sixties and seventies, er, which a, again a lot of people in, in this area still remember fondly. It was a wig, big attraction.
So what was your first impression when you first, saw the centre?
Initially when I came for the interview I was, I was quite enthusiastic. Er… but then that, that wore off quite quickly. Erm, it was… the area in particular had a considerable problem with, erm, people drinking out of doors. Erm, er… they were, a lot of them were alcoholics, erm, very large group of that. And it was very difficult to deal with, with a group, like that, without the, the wherewithal, basically, without the, the, the staff and security backup. However, erm… what was in place at the time wasn’t working so I decided to change tack and …started to… I got to know these guys in the end and by building up a relationship, as such, erm, they were a lot more mena [ph], amenable and, er, we got to deal with the problem that way. So in terms of the initial problem and my [Pause] the problems that I encountered, that’s, that, that’s what sticks in my mind initially. But then the other side of it was, erm… to… to try and make something more of the centre. We’d still got some, er, vacant units so I was charged with, along with the managing agents, to, to get those units let which we did with some success, I think I was involved in about seven lettings, er, throughout. But it always, erm, sticks in my memory that was a, one shop unit that we never managed to let, so… But, hey ho, you can’t win them all, as they say. Erm, yeah, and then, erm… I really got to… to know the centre better, all the traders, the, the area and, erm… yeah I liked it enough to want to stay here for twenty years [laughing]. Er, that was good.
And how long had some of the traders actually been trading in the Swan Centre?
Erm… I think one of the oldest was, uh, probably the fruit and veg shop. Er… I, I may be wrong on this but from, from memory, er, because the centre opened round about 1963, erm, again there was, erm, a Fine Fare supermarket on site which again dates it. Erm… that’s way back into the sixties when Fine Fare were, were still growing. Erm… but I think the fruit and veg shop in one form or another, had been here from day one, from when the centre opened. Erm, with regards to the other tenants and how long they’d been here, as I say, the… the then, Gala Bingo had been a nightclub, erm, so that building has always been used, erm, a, as something from a, a social or entertainment point of view through the years.
So you started at the Swan Centre in 1997?
Erm… you, you manged to let some more, more of the spaces.
So how did the, the… ‘cause you said when you started there it was due to be redeveloped…
Well, it –
So how did that come about?
It was, it was well past its sell-by date. Er, but even before I came here the, the owners had been looking at various plans to redevelop, er, the centre to some degree, either partial or, er, demolition and rebuild or, or major refurb. The, the main problem was that the centre was, was bounded by either residential properties or the main Church Road so expansion of the site was extremely difficult. Erm… and then, er… it was decided by, whoever, be it the architects or the owners, to look at maybe, erm, extending the… the area of land itself and redirecting Church Road which is where we stand now. Erm, it’s… there’s a horseshoe section of dual carriageway that is now Church Road, old Church Road still exists but it’s, it’s cul-de-sac’d where it meets the new centre. Erm, so by… by doing this, erm… by… erm, proposing this new section of road that meant the, the car park could, er, be extended, it could, could all be surface level and then the existing, erm, footprint of the old centre could be used… as, as the new centre base, in total. So multi-storey car park gone off site, er, which, er, erm… erm… mixed feelings for, for a lot of people on those, some people like them but most people don’t. So the decision was made to have a surface level car park. So by, by extending the land, er, buying up the, the other various bits of land that enabled, erm, the owners to, er, to look at a, a much… a larger plan and footprint to accommodate what we have now.
And how did… well, how did yourself feel about that and the fact that the changes were going to make? But also how did that have an effect on the traders that were already there?
The [Pause] it was… it was due for a, a major, erm… redevelopment of some sort. Erm… the… the traders that we had, erm, they had been aware of it for some time that, in the future the centre was, was probably going to be deve, redeveloped, as a lot of those, these sixties centres were. Erm, so it was always at the back of their minds so even w, when new tenants were coming in they were aware of that as well. Erm, so, erm… leases were… er, were drawn up to, to reflect that, they were shorter term leases or, er, there were break clauses that would allow, allow the owners to, to say, ‘OK, this is the date where we’ll finish and, er, and that will be that.’ Erm… the main concern, really, was people in the local area, when they found out that the InShops market was to close. Erm, that was the biggest thing, obviously it’s, it’s a big… it was a big social, erm, interaction point for, for Yardley. People used to meet up there, it was their social scene, erm… especially the, the, the, the older people in the area. And… it was, it was part of their daily life and daily routine so when they found out that the market was to go, they were, concerned, shall we say. Er, but from a long-term point of view it, it desperately needed something.
The, the building was, was sixties, erm, it was, er… typical of its day to, to contain a lot of asbestos so we, we had that issue to deal with as well. Erm, so in order to try and sort of build round the old centre, or, or try and …tackle it piecemeal it really didn’t make sense. So …eventually the decision was made to… erm, close the centre down, er, completely and just demolish and, and rebuild.
And was that, erm, done by phases? You didn’t just go in and shut everything down at once?
No, no, it was, it was phased. Erm… negotiations with, with some tenants and then the rest of the tenants, erm… er, they moved out as and when leases ended. Erm… and then we eventually closed, I think the last tenant left in early 2009 and then the, the centre was, erm… was then, erm, fenced off and that’s when the demolition contractor came on board.
So er can I ask what… as the shops were being phased out what sort of effect did that have on bringing the community in to the area, because if, if shops were closing one by one you’ve got limited, er, shopping left, haven’t you?
So what sort of effect did you notice with the community?
The… there were lots of… or, and still are lots of other local shopping areas, er, in this part of Birmingham. So there’s Sheldon, there’s Acocks Green, there’s the Yew Tree e, Yew Tree area, er, Small Heath, erm. So it wasn’t so much… erm, a loss of those… those facilities and… and amenities, it, it was more a case of where do people congregate and, and would they still see each other in the street. Which, they did because it was a, erm, a gradual close-down of the centre then people had found other, avenues, erm, or areas to, to congregate and meet and use, er, areas to shop in. Er, and they knew e, eventually there would be a new centre anyway so it was just, erm… it was just a waiting time, erm, until the new centre was built, erm, and everyone was… eh, eh, had seen the plans, it was going to be a new centre, it was going to be, er, covered malls, erm, so everyone could come shopping in comfort. Er, there were going to be, erm… er, food and drink areas so there was that ability for people to meet up again and socialise. Erm, so… in the, the short-term there were concerns but in the long-term people could see that, the development was needed and, erm, the… not, not necessarily the problems but the, the issues that they faced were short-term, er, and the long-term was better for, the area generally.
So can you describe… describe to us a bit about the, the redevelopment of the Swan Centre? Or tell us a little bit about it?
Erm… as much as I was involved, I was still employed by the, er, managing agents but I spent a lot of my time off site looking after other properties. Erm, but I did come… I, I… I wanted to be involved so that… erm, one, to get the experience of what it’s like to, to live through or, or work through a redevelopment of such a large site and, two, with the hope that, er, once it was complete I may be able to manage the new scheme, erm, because that, that was always uncertain. Erm, so from that point of view the site, although I was on site in a Portakabin, that was about my extent, I, I left the rest of… the demolition site was obviously the demolition site. Erm, I, erm… I took lots of photographs to, to document it, erm, so I got it from the, when the centre was closed through to as the, the various bits were demolished. Erm, I’ve got quite a record of that. Erm… so I saw that right through to, erm… through to levelling of the entire site and then, erm [Pause] that’s when the, er… pr, our principal contractor came on board and literally started the rebuild. So from a, erm, a partial hole in the ground and, and level land to what we have now, it all, all came up and was a wonderful experience. So, yeah… I enjoyed it.
Did you… walk around the old Swan Centre when it was empty and there was nothing there anymore?
I did… er, yu, er, occasionally, just to ensure that the, er, erm, security, integrity of the site was as it should be, to make sure no health and safety issues. So, erm, I would walk round occasionally, erm. You know, d, strange… strange atmosphere, it was a bit of, er… rather surreal, obviously, a bit of a ghost town feel to it with, with nobody there, only the people I could imagine walking, walking past me. Erm… but yeah, but other things to occupy me so, erm… yeah. It was… it wasn’t with, with an air of sadness, it was more, erm… an air of expectation of what was coming rather than what we’d lost. So… But then again I’m… from, being from out, outside of the area I probably saw it a, a lot different to, to the people that were living in the Yardley area and, and surrounding areas. Erm, so… yeah, I was looking at it more from the business point of view and, and what was to come of the future rather than a individual or, or sort of… er, occasional problems that would, would arise while we were waiting for it to be completed.
So could you now describe the new centre to us?
Well… new centre a, a totally different animal. Erm… as I say it’s, it’s anchored by Tesco Extra, er, which this area of Birmingham, er, has never had, erm… they’ve had large supermarkets in the past but the, the Tesco Extra sells everything, erm, from general groceries through to, erm, erm, clothing to, er, electrical white goods, erm… and that’s, erm… that is the main attraction for the centre. Erm, people refer to it as, Tesco at Yardley rather than the Swan Centre, erm, [22:32 that’s for] the locals. Er, the other shop units, erm, a lot of, er, new tenants to the area, er, a lot of the, erm, high street multiples, the likes of, er, Costa, Sports Direct, Specsavers, er, companies such as that. Erm, everything was covered, it was a, erm… a controlled environment, it was warm, it was bright, it was comfortable. People could sit on the benches on the mall and chat and they could sit in the, er, in Costa or Subway or Greggs and, and, and meet up and, and have their coffees and their, their bacon sarnies. Um… And, yeah, it was, erm… a lot of people …were pretty much awestruck when they came in. The, especially the people that knew the old centre and they… memories of the old centre then walking into this new, cathedral like, erm, building with all mod cons, no asbestos anywhere to be seen which was nice. Erm… so, yeah, it was, it was greeted really warmly by… by the locals.
So, have you seen… erm, a change in the people that have used the old centre and use the new centre at all?
Yes, in so far as the… the new centre attracts people from much further afield now. Erm… We know from our… our demographic, erm, information that we, we’re getting people coming from Walsall, from Sutton Coldfield… er, Wolverhampton, Coventry, er, Solihull, areas like that. Erm, and they’re driving to the centre. Erm, whereas before it, it was very much a local centre, people would drive to it but it would tend to be people that had known the area and it was… it was as much a, a nostalgia trip as anything to, to come back to the old centre and, and see how it was doing. Erm, so yeah, the, the change in, in customers was, has been, er, quite marked. Obviously more people with cars, er, travelling a, a little further, erm… that tended to be slightly more affluent, er, groups as well. Er… so, yeah, it’s changed in that respect, erm… but it still caters and it’s still very much a local centre. We, we still have interaction with, with local community groups, local school, er, local choirs and we try and be as communal as possible in that respect. Erm, we, we encourage a lot of, erm, er, charitable causes and other good causes to come and promote themselves as well as part of the, community and wider community.
Erm, so yeah, there’s… there are many aspects to it, er… er, in, in that respect, er, so it’s not just, a, a shopping centre and lots of shops and get people to come in and spend their money. It, it is… there is a… erm, a social aspect to it, erm, the staff that work here as well, the security staff and the, the cleaning staff that work for the centre, erm, they… they know a lot of the customers, they’re on first name basis obviously. Erm, they see them on, on a regular basis, er and there is a nice relaxed atmosphere. So if there are any issues or problems, erm, a lot of these get raised just in, in passing, in, in conversation. Erm, so we, we get a lot of, erm, a lot of positive feedback in that respect, erm, so we know the, the sort of ground… erm, the feeling and general opinion of, of what’s happening at the centre or, or any, anything that we’ve done at the centre we’ll get immediate feedback. Erm, we don’t have to stop people and say, ‘What do you think of… er, of this latest… erm, event that we’ve run?’ People will tell us before we’ve even asked them. Erm, so that they’re… they do that, not so much to give us positive or negative feedback, it’s just to let us know because they feel it’s part of their community so they’ll talk to us about it. Erm, because they do feel that, that they are part of it and they should be. So that’s… that’s a, a very positive aspect of it.
So, on a personal note, Barry, when the centre was due to be opened, so you were coming up to your opening day…
How were you feeling personally? Excited, apprehensive [laughing]?
Both, er, to be perfectly honest. Erm… being able to manage this scheme compared to the old scheme, it was such a… a major difference. Erm… my concerns were, were, erm… weren’t founded at all because when we opened people came in and it was as if we’d been open for months, to be perfectly honest. They came in, they shopped at the Tesco’s they would normally shop at their Sainsbury’s or Morrison’s or wherever they were shopping before and they’d come in and they’d sit and, in Costa and ‘cause the centre had never had a Costa before. Costa was… wasn’t the kind of thing that people in this area were used to, so they used to use it more as a treat as anything because, yeah, they’re playing with the big boys now. Costa, wow! Er, one of the, the modern coffee shops. Erm, so there was that part to it. But then again it, it was a one-stop shop, you could come in here and buy your, your ladies’ and gents’ and kids’ fashions, erm, your sports goods, all your, your shopping. You could have something to eat, erm, and again it was all in this nice, calm, controlled, warm, bright atmosphere which was a big change for the, er, the customers as well.
So did you have an, er, like an opening day event? Did you put anything on or just open the doors and let them in?
It was… it… it, it was no… the opening was a soft opening in effect. So, erm, there was some local press about when it was happening, erm, again most of the, the groups in the area, the community groups, had been involved all through so they, they knew what was happening – the local police, fire brigade, erm, local schools, er, and other groups such as that. Erm, so in fairness we didn’t really need to, erm… to publicise the opening that much and that, that was founded as well that we didn’t need to because on opening day the, the crowds outside were, were phenomenal, really were. Erm, whether I’ve still got photographs of those, erm, I’m, I’m sure we’ve got them somewhere in archive but, yeah, it was a… it was a great day when we opened and it very, very positive feedback, as I say, because people, erm… they, they’d felt for a long time that this part of Yardley needed something like that and they, they’d finally got it.
So the role of the Swan Centre, erm, how do you see that in relation to the community?
We try to be as, erm… as close as possible. Erm, the Tesco store itself, they always have, erm, every store of theirs has a Community Champion anyway so they will work closely with. Erm, I was, erm… during the time that the centre was due to close and through the, er, closure and into the, erm, new centre I was, erm… a, a member of the, erm, Board of Governors of the local school. Erm, so… that was as much for, erm, feedback purposes as anything. So they would… they would be updated at regular meetings by myself on what was happening and… and any, anything we, we could, er, run together or any activities that the school could, er, use at the centre, er, for the, the various classes, erm, at the school there.
Erm, as I say, we, we, we encourage, erm, lots of local groups to come into the centre and, and represent themselves and, and… erm… er, so that, erm, they can run awareness campaigns, er, be it Scouts, the Guides, local hospitals, er, other healthcare groups, er, various charities. We, we maintain a non-political and non-religious aspect, we always… or I always maintained that at the old centre, we, we still do now. Erm, to be as… as open and, and as wel, welcoming so, so we’re not accused of catering to, to one group or another. So, keep it, in that respect. And that’s… that, that’s certainly helpful because it, it doesn’t have any sort of political, erm… connections or perceived p, c, political connections or religious connections. So it’s a… it is a centre for everybody and you, you’ll see that if you walk around. It’s diverse cultures – Polish, erm, er, Pakistani, English, some Americans, some French. Er, I don’t know why we don’t have more French considering we’re so local but hey ho, maybe in the future. Erm, but yeah, erm… it’s… yeah, a centre for everyone.
Do you think the opening of the, the new Swan Centre, as everybody still calls it, has had, erm, any sort of effect on the other shops in the local area?
Well… I… personally thought there, there may have been, erm… an effect but looking at the, the very local area such as the, the Yew Tree, Acocks Green, erm, they… they were benefitting from the, er, extra trade when the centre was closed, erm, so when it opened I think they, they lost trade because their… the old shoppers came back to the Swan Centre and they, they probably did lose some of their custom. But if you look at the… the…er, especially the Yew Tree now, which is very local to us, it’s only a matter of a few hundred metres down the road from us, their… their customer base or… or the whole area is still thriving. Erm, the only thing that, that, erm, affects them negatively at the moment is the fact that there isn’t enough parking for all of the people that… that visit that area. Otherwise they, they would be trading much better. Erm… Sheldon is a, is a slightly different matter because everybody knows Sheldon, as it is people will shop at Sheldon specifically as opposed to swapping… shopping at the Swan Centre. They’ll come here occasionally but, er, Sheldon has, has maintained its, its, itself. Erm, they’ve seen expansion of… in other areas, er, redevelopments of various buildings and, and sites, erm… so yeah, that’s… Overall I think it, it, we’ve reached a level now. The centre’s been open for five-and-a-half years so I think, erm, any effect that there may have been I think that’s, that’s levelled itself out now and, and, er, we, we used, all used to what we’ve got now.
When we’ve been interviewing people, Barry, round the area, erm, the Swan Centre has always …been quite the focus of, of the local community, it seems to be the hub of the area. Would you agree with that?
[Pause] I think so, that was very much the case with the old centre. Erm… erm… again, it catered to a much more local, erm, base then. Er, we cater to a, a wider base but it’s still the… the centre of, of this part of, of Birmingham, it’s still the… er… it’s still that navigation aid. Erm, people still know it. Erm, it’s been a benefit because of, it’s brought additional business, erm… to the area in, in terms of, er, Farmfoods, for instance, they moved their head offices here to… to another site that used to be occupied by Staples in the area. Er, they opened a store there as well, erm, so there’s been that, er, on the back of the success of this area, erm. Aldi have opened a store quite close to us and, er, as much as that’s competition for the centre but it’s, it’s… there is, erm… there is room for both and we both coexist quite nicely and, erm, I’ve, I’ve met the management team there and they know that they’re, it’s a, it’s a smaller shop so they’re catering to a slightly different, erm, customer base than, than the centre, as such. Er… but yeah, again it’s, the centre’s big enough to… erm, to cope with that k, kind of, erm, additional business as well. So the… even though the centre may have, detracted from some of the businesses in the area they’ve since helped to attract more business into the area. So, erm, there’s been more morny[ph], money, money into the area as well. Er, one of… the other benefits of that with the centre, er, because some of the land, er, land was required, erm… money was put into the parkland to, er, to rejuvenate it. So there’s been an add-on, erm, effect from that as well.
So when you started here twenty years, Barry…
And you wanted to quit after a week…
[Laughing] Can I ask you, erm… how have your… how have you changed your ideas about the Yardley area? How do you feel about it personally? What do you like about it and what don’t you like about it?
Erm… the worst thing that happened to Yardley was the, the underpass on the A45 was built which basically took the main road from the Swan Centre and, er, that had a major negative impact way back in the… I think that was… late sixties, early seventies. Erm… er, but… even after that it’s, it still rose, not phoenix-like, but it, it came back. Erm, the local community used it, erm, but other people were going further afield. Obviously the city centre was… er… was expanded and growing and the offer there was bigger. Er… but the centre remained, erm, a local centre, erm, very good for the area. And… it… as I say, it still is now, it is. And… that’s how I want to see it. I know that the, the name, of any big supermarket name will, will have its detractors, erm, but as much as it’s, it’s a Tesco-anchored scheme it’s, erm… we still encourage it to be, a small local centre mentality… if, if you can understand that, rather than thinking it’s, it’s not a corporate shopping centre, it’s, it’s a local centre with variety. Erm… so, and we try to encourage people to… to realise that again with working with, with the local groups especially. Erm… so yeah, I think it’s… there’s still, er, room for more, er, business at the centre. Erm… and there, there will be more success, erm, long after I’m gone I’m sure it’ll still be here and, er, who knows, in another twenty-five years they’ll knock it down and rebuild it again as, er, people have, a habit of doing. So…
But have you found that you… you’ve got more fond of not, not just the area but the community as well over the years?
Well yeah because, er, during my time here, again I’ve, I know a lot of the local people, er, not just from the block of flats that sits above the centre or from Lily Road but people from further afield as well with my involvement with the school and, and, and other areas. Erm… [phone ringing] and… that’s been, er… that’s been… not use, useful’s the wrong word. Erm, it’s been a part of, er, [phone ringing] of getting to know the area and, erm, and growing with it really. So it’s never been a question of OK my, my first impressions weren’t positive but it was never a case of I don’t like the area, I’ll never get used to it. It’s a case of I was here to do a job specifically and as part of that job my further remit was, was wider, er, with, with other people and other groups. Erm, so I just took that on board naturally and, erm… er, so… yeah, I, I’ve just grown with, with the centre and the area as well and hopefully, erm… [phone ringing] made some friends along the way.
Looking back twenty years, Barry, when you first came here, you wouldn’t have, visioned, envisioned what the centre is now like, erm, does that give you a sense of pride?
It does in so far as… when I came on board I knew there were, there were development plans, erm, to a degree. Erm… so even though it took… twelve years, erm, to actually come to fruition, erm… I, I wasn’t looking specifically at the long-term, erm, again this was my, my first venture into shopping centre management, erm, so I wasn’t consciously looking at, as this… at this as a, a long-term venture or a stepping stone, or… at the time. It was so… so varied an experience that, erm, my time was taken up with it full time. Erm, so it, it really was a case of day at a time, week, month, year at a time and… the time just flew by which is testament to the fact that, that I’ve enjoyed the time, it’s, it’s… it’s gone too quick unfortunately. Er… but yeah, being able to manage this centre now, erm… and I…
People have their own, er, management techniques obviously, er, depending on which books they choose to read or not, erm, I’ve, I’ve tried to develop my own and part of that is my… I’ve deliberately built a, a fairly relaxed, er, security and cleaning team and given them a, a relaxed environment to work in but to do their job professionally and that has… erm, that does have, have an effect on the customers and the customers notice that and they, they notice that, that atmosphere and that’s part of what’s helped to make the centre successful because it, it is a nice environment for people to be able to come and shop in. It’s a safe, secure, er, environment, er, even so far as Halloween now, we have trick or treat around the shops. So the little toddlers that might want to do trick or treat, they can do it again in a safe, controlled environment, the parents come with them, they go and visit the shops and they, they get involved in, in that part of it. So, yeah, that’s another way of including them in something. So, yeah, it’s… I’m, I’m proud of what we’ve got now and I’m… just looking forward to what we can, er… what we can make it into in the future.
I asked you earlier, Barry, about when they closed the old centre and you’re walking around it on your own.
Did you walk around the new centre on your own before it opened?
Unfortunately not, because right up to day one the, the centre was full of, of various people, contractors, erm, erm, other in, involved, er, groups. So it was never… I was never alone in, in the new centre, unfortunately. Erm… of a night-time when we first opened it was only… the centre opened, it only opened ‘til midnight, erm, so… late at night it had that, that atmosphere as it stood as, er, sometimes now. Erm… but no, unfortunately I, I never got to see it in, er… erm… on a one-to-one basis in that respect, erm, which would have been nice but …there you go. Can’t have everything.
Do you ever sit here and think back to the old days?
Oh God, yeah. Many, many times. As I say, fortunately I’ve got lots of, er, photographs, lots of memories. Erm… but… it’s more a question of… it’s more a case of the, er, the happy memories that come back ‘cause it’s, the… strangest thing can, can set off a memory and, er, yeah, I remember the… some of the tenants that we’ve had in and some of the, er, customers that we’ve had, some of the characters, some of the police officers. Erm… some like to drink their coffee more than others, erm, so… yeah, but… Yeah, 99.9% fond memories.
Barry, I’d like to take, thank you for taking part in our recording today.
Before we finish is there anything else you’d like to add at all?
I don’t think so, no, I think you’ve covered all the bases but… as soon as you’ve left the room I’ll probably think of a hundred-and-one, er, well… er, little quips or, or anecdotes. Erm… if I feel there’s anything specific that, er, that may be of interest I’ll, I’ll let you know but… No, I think we’ve, we’ve covered… twenty years in… in quite a short period of time quite well.
Thank you very much Barry.
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