What haven’t I written about this year that I intended to? Hmmm Squad’s top of my list, hosted by the indefatigable Pip Bayley, providing Shrewsbury’s answer to the TED talks, tackling every subject from Death to Halloween and back again. Next year’s talks include February’s on Love & Doing the Right Thing and March’s on Human Rights. Here’s what the group says about itself:
‘Science, Philosophy and Discussion! Hopefully touching on a variety of subjects, topics and all aspects of 'the Sciences'. Meeting on or around the last Wednesday of every month at Shrewsbury Library. We have been meeting for over two years and have members of all ages and are incredibly welcoming. Possibility of biscuits.’
Network Rail is also up there on my list. Ever since they started wrapping Shrewsbury’s railway bridge as if they were Christo and it a work of art, I’ve been meaning to get up there amongst those girders spanning the River Severn and see what’s going on. But it hasn’t happened. Work has been going on there for the last six months and still, at the end of the year, I haven’t managed to explore those girders which I populated with homeless children for my novel, Sabrina Fludde, or talk to the people who are restoring this wonderful, iconic old bridge about how work is progressing and when the wraps will be coming off.
What else? Whilst on the subject of the railway bridge, how about mentioning Shrewsbury station? I’m told it's one of only three in the world to have platforms built over a river. Don’t know if this is true, but I do know that it’s listed [Grade II], that it was built in 1848, and that its imitation Tudor style, complete with carvings of Tudor style heads around the window frames, came courtesy of architect Thomas Mainwaring Penson who was attempting to match the Tudor style of nearby Shrewsbury School, which is now the Castle Gates Library.
All year I’ve wanted to get behind those windows and find out more about the building and the life of the station which it houses. However, emailing, phoning, even turning up in person and being passed around from pillar to post has got me nowhere.
Another Grade II Listed building that’s been high on my list all year is the old Granada Cinema, currently housing Gala Bingo. Built for Granada in 1934, its lavish and still largely intact interiors were designed by Russian émigré, Theodore Komisarjevsky. In its day, the stage of the Granada saw many live shows, amongst them a series of pantomimes whose stars included Eddie Calvert, Rosemary Squires, Joe Brown and the Bruvvers, Dick Emery and Sid James. Some of these pantomimes were presented on ice. Not on ice, and most definitely not in pantomime, were the Beatles in February 1963 and, in January 1964, the Rolling Stones.
What are the chances of getting them back for a Golden Jubilee year show? Only joking, of course.
At the end of this post is a recent photograph of the River Severn in flood. I haven’t written as much about the river as I would have liked, given that it’s an ever present part of town life.
Here's another picture of the river, this time featuring The Stew [behind trow, on right of picture], whose plight I have written about - but it hasn’t been saved yet. An argument of sorts has been put forward that it played no part in Shrewsbury’s river trade, so it doesn’t matter if it’s knocked down to put up a boutique hotel instead. Outrageous. Un-be-liev-able. The battle to save this fine old building, the last reminder of a history going back to the Wars of the Roses, carries on into the New Year.
Shrewsbury is almost as rich in charities as it is in old buildings. One I’ve been intending to feature for months now, based in College Hill, is Village Water, whom I first came across at the Shrewsbury Marathon. ‘Changing Lives in Africa through safe water and sanitation’ is their byline. From 2003, when they first set up in rural Zambia, they’ve supported activities in more than 540 villages and twenty schools, reaching approximately 150,000 people. This year has been their tenth anniversary. I’d hate to let it slip by without recognizing their hard work.
This litany of people, places and activities could go on and on. Some time over the year I would have written about Hall’s Auction House by the Welsh Bridge if it hadn’t moved out of town, meaning that my days of mooching round its general sales looking for the occasional piano accordion or Polish icon are over for good.
The Wakeman School has gone too – the last state secondary school in Shrewsbury town centre, now replaced by the Art & English departments of Shrewsbury Sixth Form College. And Jane Dyas has gone. As I write, her shop stands empty in the Square, having graced it for over a hundred years, supplying generations of Shrewsbury ladies with clothes, shoes and underwear [or lingerie, as Jane Dyas would call it].
There are regattas that My Tonight From Shrewsbury hasn’t written about, coracle and dragon boat races, theatre events, concerts, festivals and fairs. There are churches it hasn’t been into, including arguably the most beautiful church in Shrewsbury, the decommissioned St Mary’s, its windows full of jewel-like stained glass. There's a Museum and Art Gallery that hasn't opened yet, but when it does it'll be another year's good news.
There are pubs that haven’t been written about, and restaurants like the Drapers Hall and The Golden Cross. Shrewsbury is full of wine merchants, publicans, market stallholders, shop owners, business people and residents who all have fascinating stories to tell. But the year isn’t over yet. Some of those stories I still intend to tell. So stay tuned and see what comes up next.