Warren Draper looks at the exciting businesses which are making Doncaster a premium town for destination shopping. First up, The Shoe Room, 8 Priory Walk, Doncaster DN1 1TS
Words: Warren Draper
Photography: Warren Draper
Thanks largely to the vision and drive of some amazing independent retailers, Doncaster is rapidly becoming a destination shopping hot spot. Destination shopping is where people travel miles to visit a specific store and the patrons of Doncaster’s The Shoe Room come from all over the country — sometimes from other countries — to visit one of the best shoe shops in the country. Which just happens to be run by one of the nicest couples in the country. We have featured The Shoe Room‘s Richard and Michelle a number of times over the years. First mentioning Richard back in May 2015, as part of our Slow issue (see Be More Tortoise on page 6).
Richard and Michelle offer a level of quality, knowledge and service which is hard to match. They sell the finest quality shoes in a relaxed and welcoming environment. In a world where ‘pressure selling’ is the norm, it is a pleasure to be treated with warmth and humanity by people who have a passion for what they do. They also have a passion for Doncaster, which is one of the reasons, I suspect, that they give so much care and attention to their shop window.
Richard and Michelle’s window displays are always stunning. They have the beauty and attention to detail of classic mid 20th Century department stores.
National chains try their best and are very strict with their staff about how their store-fronts should look, but this works against them because the real secret to beautiful design is creativity and love.
The Shoe Room window isn’t just about enticing people in to buy their wares. Their last display was created in remembrance to the fallen and it didn’t feature a single product from their shop. This was duly noted by an ex-serviceman I spoke to outside when I was photographing the shop back in November. He said he had felt truly moved by it.
The Shoe Room is as beautiful inside as it is out. Not only is the décor superb, the shoes are amazing.
With some of the world’s finest manufacturers, including Barker, Tricker’s, Loake and Fairfax & Favor, there is no compromise on quality and there is style to suit every taste.
As well as shoes, there are accessories, coats, hats, belts and socks. With masculine and feminine tastes duly catered for.
Banter is always thrown in for good measure at no extra cost… as is fine whisky when the mood presents itself.
You only get service like this in independent stores. It takes care an commitment to create this kind of retail experience.
Check them out for yourself. And if anyone fancies getting me a Christmas present, you could do a lot worse than buying me a pair of Barker’s double monks 😉
Welcome to the first of our ‘Honest Don’ reviews. In this series we share our honest, everyday experiences as patrons of Doncaster’s cafes, bars and restaurants. First up, the Slug & Lettuce, 53-54 Hall Gate, Doncaster DN1 3BP.
Words: the Donco Don
Photography: the Donco Don
The first thing which strikes you when you enter the Slug & Lettuce on Hall Gate is what a great job the interior designers have done. The high-street chain has invested £460,000 in its Doncaster venue and it looks like £794,405… i.e. a million dollars (given today’s exchange rate).
There is a gorgeous new bar with a raised chequerboard floor which perfectly defines the space, so that even if the venue is busy – and, given that it was a Saturday afternoon in the run up to Christmas, it was very busy indeed when we visited! – the surrounding dining and relaxation areas never feel too crowded.
Layout and décor create further defined spaces for dining and drinking throughout the venue, offering different ‘feels’ and varying degrees of privacy. The décor itself is bold and punchy, while maintaining a high standard; never once venturing toward tacky. Bird cage seating areas and pre-bookable bespoke party spaces mean that you and your friends can enjoy intimate spaces whilst still bathing in the wider atmosphere of a lively venue… and today it was very lively indeed.
The food menu is very good, with plenty of healthy – and calorie controlled – options. Nationally Slug & Lettuce have a very good vegan menu, but for some reason they’re not offering the full selection in Doncaster yet. Doncaster is changing rapidly, and this gives me some concern that Slug & Lettuce are not yet fully aware of our town’s changing tastes. As things stand, if I were taking vegan friends out, I would probably be tempted to go next door to The Greenhouse Eatery (which we will feature in a future review). While we don’t yet enjoy the full big-city vegan menu, S&L do seem happy to charge big-city prices for their beers, being above average for Doncaster. This isn’t a game-changer, we’re used to paying a bit more if the venue is right, and they do have regular offers such as their ‘Wine Down Wednesdays’.
If truth be told I don’t mind paying a bit more for my tipple as long as the atmosphere is right… I just make it last a bit longer 😉 The ambience of the Slug & Lettuce is warm, inviting and lively. But this time around I was there for business rather than pleasure, so I decided to give the beers a miss and order coffee instead. Unfortunately, the aforementioned Christmas liveliness did lead to one of the only negative experiences of the afternoon. When I placed my order the attendant asked several times what I wanted, pressing keys on the till and saying: “Sorry, what was it you wanted again?” For the record, I only drink virgin espresso or Americano, the rest of that milky froth they laughingly sell as ‘coffee’ should be seen as an afront to any connoisseur of the magic bean. They gave me a cappuccino. My heart sank.
The food however was a different story. I ordered a Sautéed Pepper & Grilled Halloumi Feel Good Flatbread and it felt very good indeed. The meal was served within 15 minutes of placing the order. Unfortunately, the cutlery took a few minutes longer to arrive so we did have a little bit of a wait before we got the chance to tuck-in. This meant the food was a little bit on the cool side when we took our first bite… but the bite itself was well worth the wait. Very fresh. Very tasty. And at £7.29 it wasn’t too much more than your average Macky D meal… which is always very, very average – and that’s being generous.
Great atmosphere. Great food. Crap cappuccino (all cappuccinos are crap), but all-in-all a good place to spend time with friends and loved ones… and it’s always good to enjoy a national high-street name when you have the added bonus of knowing that Sheffield doesn’t have one yet 😉
Warren Draper explains why there will be no Christmas issue of Doncopolitan this year.
Words: Warren Draper
Photography: Warren Draper
When we started Doncopolitan we knew that we had to treat Doncaster with the highest possible level of passion, respect and positivity if we were going to show the (all too often hidden) wonders of our town and its people to convince the doubters that a braver, brighter future is truly possible. To do this we had to design something a beautiful as we possibly could and invest in the highest production methods we could afford (we have to thank Andrew Loretto and Right Up Our Street for the initial seed funding to print the first edition).
Rachel Horne and I don’t like to blow our own trumpets (something which we should probably learn to do better if we are to avoid repeating the current situation which I am about to describe), but we can honestly say that our strategy worked. As well as showcasing the talent we always knew existed, the magazine has acted as a focal point for arts and culture and attracted amazing people who we previously knew nothing about. We could never have dreamed that arts and culture would become such a major aspect of the town’s future. We are proud of the small part we played, but it has come at a cost.
Because we create something which is beautifully produced, many people believe that we’re a well-resourced, well-financed operation with paid staff, who have the honour of working full-time on a project they love. While it is certainly a project we love, the rest could not be further from the truth.
Doncopolitan is not our main job. To pay the bills we have to find work elsewhere. For the first two years we had our editorial meetings in the basement of Furniture Factors, where I used to work. I used to design the magazine partly at work – in-between serving customers and setting up displays – and partly through the night (although, as any magazine designer will tell you, working through the night is pretty much the norm when you have deadlines). I didn’t leave Factors because of the success of the magazine, I left to found Doncopolitan’s sister project, Bentley Urban Farm. Rachel’s main work isn’t Doncopolitan either. She works part-time at St John’s Hospice, using her artistic talents to give comfort to people who are nearing the end of this amazing journey we call life.
Doncopolitan has never struggled for content. Our town and its people are such a rich source of stories, that if we were a well-resourced, well-financed operation we could easily become a weekly publication. But we are not, and we have always deeply regretted not being able to pay each of our wonderful contributors; writers, designers, artists, illustrators, photographers and admin workers alike. The simple fact is that Rachel and I have often subsidised the magazine from the likes of arts commissions and other work. Money isn’t our main motivator for anything we do. We are artists. We live simply – sometimes to the point of masochism – so that we can channel what little resources we have into our creative passions. But we have reached breaking point once too often (our personal lives are beginning to suffer from the strain, with Rachel having to take time away from most of her commitments recently due to stress) – and all too often the background tasks of chasing ads, chasing money and chasing the naysayers out of Donny get in the way the creative work which is our true passion; work which led to us producing Doncopolitan in the first place.
With all of this in mind we’d like to apologise for the fact that, for the fist time since we started, there will be no Christmas issue of Doncopolitan this year. We need to take time out to restructure what we do so that we can continue to do the work which we feel is still important to Doncaster.
Our blog and online presence will become busier than ever to compensate for the gap between printed magazines – and to balance out the still all too frequent negativity. We will be back with a newly designed magazine next year. The new structure will finally allow us to pay our contributors and support the artisan economy we are helping to build.
In the meantime, please stay in touch with us via social media. Sign up to our weekly listings guide. And, if you’re a local billionaire (or even just slightly flush), why not consider becoming a patron of the arts… hint, hint ?
Photography Warren Draper ©2018
Warren Draper talks about the changes that have happened to the planet, such as climate change and global warming.
Words: Warren Draper
Photography: A view of the Earth from Apollo
I was deciding between two options for titles for this piece. I went with the softer one. The other was “Its not easy being green… but its better than being extinct”.
Make no mistake, we are living in dangerous times and dangerous, panic-ridden headlines are not only highly tempting, but will become more frequent over the next few years. Only the scientifically illiterate and people in the pay of polluters and oil companies are denying climate change these days. The vast majority of scientists and the ecologically aware have been warning about the problems we now face for decades. Which is part of the problem. We’ve placed ourselves in a typical ‘cry wolf’ situation where climate deniers can say: “You were saying this 30 years ago and we’re still here!”
The truth is that the predictions were not only accurate, but, in many cases, they vastly underestimated the speed of climate change. I have been on the frontline of ecological resistance for most of my life. I remember telling people that they should “think of their grandchildren”. It wasn’t long before I had to revise this line to “think of your children”. And now the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the leading scientific authority on man-made global warming, tells us that if we don’t act immediately to halt carbon emissions, we will reach the significant rise in global temperatures of 1.5% by 2030. Less than twelve years from now. Given that timescale, it is very much a question of “think about yourself!”
A degree or two might not sound like much, but it will mean that the crazy global weather we are experiencing lately will be remembered as the good old days. Sun lovers might think that more summers like the ones we’ve just had is a good thing. Farmers will disagree, but it is also unlikely that we will enjoy them once the Gulf Stream has been affected. The Gulf Stream is a channel of warm water flowing across the Atlantic from the Gulf Of Mexico to warm our own waters. It only thing which stops us living in a climate more akin to Iceland’s. Iceland is very nice. Just right for a population of 350,000 people. But 65,000,000 people living in a subartic UK will not find things so easy.
We don’t even have to look to the future to find the doom and gloom. The UK has lost 75% of its flying insect mass in just 27 years. This is due to a number of man-made factors, including habitat loss, pesticides, car culture and climate change. Globally we have lost 50% of species in just 40 years for much the same reasons. We are living through the sixth mass extinction event in the natural history of our planet. As quick and as devastating as the extinction event which ended the reign of the dinosaurs, only this time we – you and me – are the asteroid colliding with Earth. Even if you don’t have a soft spot for the already endangered polar bear, going beyond the 1.5% rise in global temperatures will see the loss of species such as Theobroma cacao, the plant that gives us cocoa beans. Yes, that’s right, chocolate is in danger of becoming extinct. So why, given that we’re up Poo Poo Creek with a bunch of nutters in charge of the paddle,
would I go for the softer headline?
Because there is hope. Where there is genuine care, empathy and love, there is always hope.Doncopolitan is often criticised for being ‘too positive’. But humans are a story-driven animal. We shape the world with the stories we tell ourselves. I’m not on Facebook, but I’ve heard about the Clean Up Donny campaign, where well-meaning people are spreading horror stories about our town centre. I know that the people on that page are genuinely concerned, but the (ill-informed, often grossly exaggerated, sometimes even false…) negative stories about the town centre are as damaging as the spice users, beggars and litter they like to point the finger at. Yes, Doncaster has problems. Most towns do. But I have spoken to a number of people from the town centre business community who say that trade and footfall was more heavily affected by the doom and gloom stories than it was by the actual problems we share with towns throughout Austerity Britain.
Perception is everything. If we tell ourselves that we’re poor with no prospects and no future, that is what we will get. But it we decide to stop moaning and count our blessings – reminding ourselves of the fact that we live in a peri-urban paradise with fertile land, one of the best climates in the north of England, with warm, welcoming people and a rich, inventive heritage – then we can begin to change the narrative. Something which Doncopolitan has been banging on about for years.
We’re not talking from a high-horse or from a position of privilege. Doncopolitan is not created by a wealthy, well-resourced organisation. We’re just Donny folk who see things a little differently. More importantly, we live a little differently too. None of what we do would be possible if our main focus was getting a bigger house, bigger car and an endless supply of gadgets and bling. Yes, we’ve got next to nowt, but we never feel ‘poor’. Yes, we’d like more money, but only to make it easier to do even more cool, creative and positive things in Donny (hint, hint). But the truth is that we live happier, greener, more creative, more rewarding and freer lives because we live more simply, with more control over everything we do. If climate change is the big bad wolf, then culture change is our happy ever after.
So, if you love this mad, amazing planet like we love this mad, amazing planet, why not join us? We don’t do doom and gloom. We do slow living; we do the local economy; we do artisanal attitude; we do ‘grow your own’ and urban farming; we do communal cooking and eating; we do live art and music. We use less energy; watch less TV; buy less tat; and tread more carefully. And we have a bloody good time doing (and not doing…) it. All together now…
“Culture change, not climate change…
Culture change, not climate change…”
Rachel Horne interviews Emily Hannah Jones about the group Be Conscious.
Words: Emily Hannah Jones
Photography: Warren Draper
How did Be Conscious come about?
We kept going out on woodland walks and seeing how much litter was around and basically got tired of seeing it and decided to do something about it. We always picked up as much litter as we could already and decided to take a step further and make a group page.
So where’s your page and how do people get involved?
It’s a Facebook page that is open to the public to join if they feel inclined. It’s going slow which is why I need help making it more public to get people involved more often. I make an event every few weeks and people decide whether they want to attend or not. People are quite quick to complain about the litter yet when it comes down to it they aren’t doing much about it which is why I thought group meet-ups would be a good idea.
It’s a brilliant idea, there are 9000 people on Clean Up Doncaster, wonder how many people get involved in physically cleaning up the town? I know some people will and really care, but literally a few hours’ litter pick means you can natter about Doncaster’s problems whilst actually doing something to make a difference.
What areas have you cleaned up so far? Do you feel like you are making a difference? Or does it seem overwhelming? Is a lot of it plastic waste? I know plastic has its uses but when it comes to consumable goods we don’t need it. Each time you see a piece of plastic, I just think what the f*@k are we doing. That’s gonna take 1000 years to decompose.
I decided to start the first one at High Fields park near me which is Woodlands area, it was really successful that first day with around 10 people helping and we got 25 or so bags of trash which were collected by the council as I have a number to ring for collections. We also got a lot of recognition from people while they walked past but didn’t seem like they wanted to join in even though they were unhappy with the amount of trash they see. The woodlands in that particular park are atrocious and accumulates a lot of trash which is why I wanted to keep a focus on it for a while but then fast forward into the future events and less people were showing up to help out.
I would definitely agree and say some places can be overwhelming with the amount that people litter and you feel as if your never going to make a difference but always still have hope that things will change and more people will get involved.
It’s because it’s hard work and relentless, and it’s demoralising seeing the rubbish reappear again. I think to really understand the crisis we are in you need to know how things decompose, everyone should be composting waste at home. When you compost your waste you understand that’s the way things should be done and consumable plastic waste is utter madness.
Yes the majority of trash we pick up is plastic i.e. bottles and straws which are the most harmful to our environment. Plastic isn’t decomposable so it will be there forever. I often think that if people have the time to go out deep into nature and throw all their trash around why can’t they take the time and go to the appropriate place.
How did you get into all this? What motivates you personally?
Yes, I’ve always been interested in the environment since being a little girl so it was just inevitable for me to blossom into an environmentalist. I hate to see trash everywhere and felt the urge to clean Doncaster up. I feel a lot of people have lost their connection to nature and how important it Is for us. Therefore, I want to be able to teach people everything I’ve learned and get people to become connected once more, not only with nature but ourselves and each other.
Also, I became vegan in January 2016 and have never looked back.It was very empowering to know I could make a change just starting with the food on my plate. I kept seeing events online and reading more a more into veganism and how animal agriculture affects our planet. Therefore, I felt the need to do more which led me to becoming a part of Doncaster Animal Action and going to vigils and protests. I love the people I’ve met through this amazing movement and seeing it grow and become more worldwide is a blessing.
Have you studied ecology or anything this field?
Everything I’ve learnt is through experience and lots and lots of research, nobody should need a degree for being an environmentalist just a love for nature and the urge for change.
When will the next pick take place?
Found out on the Doncaster Be Conscious group HERE.