I spend a lot of time in Salisbury, it’s a place I really like. It’s also convenient as I live very nearby. However, as I walk around the town I get the increasing sense that it is a place that is almost decaying. The major draw of the place is naturally the cathedral, and the building is a pretty spectacular draw at that.
But, I am also noticing that a lot of the shops are empty (‘to let’ / boarded up with those anodyne pretty photos to make things appear not that bad to people) or closing down (such as Monsoon recently, and several others in the town at the moment. The shops that seem to be starting up are either more food places (such as the recent opening of Nando’s) or chain shops (such as H&M). The local paper talks about how Salisbury is at risk of becoming a ‘clone town’, same shops different buildings – you could be anywhere. From what I know of the town, it has a history of being artistic with local shops. Shops that seem to be disappearing from what I can see.
The market square was recently refurbished (the shot above) and the area has become a popular spot for adolescents on their skateboards, now that the car park there has gone. The arrival of the skaters from my point of view, makes things a lot more visually interesting. However, most of the shops surrounding the square are food shops.
To me, Salisbury seems to be a town that it struggling to reinvent itself. Maybe this issue is not dissimilar to other cities in the UK.
I grew up in a fishing village in Cornwall (Porthleven). In the 80s and 90s it was also struggling to reinvent itself, as the fishing and boatbuilding industries were dying off whilst tourism was growing. Then, at the turn of the century the place started to get a reputation for its food. A food festival was started up, Antony Worrall Thompson was invited down to open it (and has done so now on numerous occasions), then things grew seemingly from there. Now you go to the village and there are numerous bijou art shops, good quality restaurants, and a positive vibe about the place (well, for the holiday makers at least – poor job prospects and low pay still remains an issue for the locals).
Perhaps Salisbury needs to follow a similar model and work out what it needs to do to encourage more business into the town. After all, the shops that are closing probably aren’t those that cater to the tourist market.