In My View – Julia Grant, Winter’s Moon

As an independent retailer in Chichester it’s very easy to be focussed on life within the city walls
and not look further afield. But a recent trip to Folkestone gave me a wonderful insight into the
possibilities when creativity is put at the heart of a place and community.

‘Creative Folkestone’ was established by a local arts charity in 2002 and has evolved into an
organisation that oversees five diverse projects. This includes running a Creative Quarter that
accommodates a host of creative businesses and shops, enriching both the experience for
residents and visitors, and the economy of the town as a whole. Creative Folkestone has a
great website for anyone interested in learning about its approach.

I found so much to engage with creatively in Folkestone from pop-up exhibitions, street art,
great creative retail businesses and a wonderful calendar of events throughout the year. The
organisation’s impact on the town was so visible and in our experience elevated our enjoyment
of our time there over similar neighbouring seaside towns. As a result we spent money with the
creative businesses there, and have recommended it as a destination to friends and family.

In Chichester we are hugely fortunate to have big creative cultural institutions such as the
Festival Theatre and Pallant House Gallery, drawing in visitors who appreciate the arts from all
over the country. I believe this represents a big opportunity for developing Chichester as a
creative destination by offering real tangible support to the designers, makers and creative
professionals working at the other end of the scale in the area.

Chichester is currently undergoing an evolution which offers an opportunity to change the city
for the better. Big retailers are leaving the city whilst the smaller independents are the ones
digging deep, staying put and supplying the consistency. There are empty retail units, in theory
offering potential for creative projects. But often sadly the process of engaging the landlords or
property management companies to accommodate more creative possibilities is hugely
frustrating, time consuming and ultimately unlikely to achieve a positive outcome.

So whilst I don’t have any solutions to make the most of the opportunities – keeping my own
business moving forward in these times is more than enough challenge creatively for me – I
hope that maybe somewhere there is someone with a bit of time and maybe even some deep
pockets (Creative Folkestone was set up thanks to funding by Roger De Haahn the son of the
founder of Saga) that could help improve the creative offer in the city.

Any plan to maximise the creative opportunity that exists right now would require vision, funding
and various stakeholders in the area to work together with a common goal and, I would also
argue, an ‘independent retailer’ mindset. There is nothing more focussing than the knowledge
that the money that lands in your account each month is solely reliant on your productivity,
decision making and just getting things done!

My business Winter’s Moon has a huge creative focus in terms of the products we sell, many
from local makers and the attention we pay to our displays and windows. From opening as a
pop-up in December 2019 we are still on the high street, three and a half years later thanks
mainly to our creative approach and seeking to offer difference. I remain really optimistic about
Chichester’s future as a city but would be more confident if I knew that the people who made
saw the creative potential that I do.

Julia Grant is Owner of Winter’s Moon and is on the Chichester BID Board of Directors.