|The Dome - home to the University of Derby, sponsor of the Buxton Festival Fringe|
We've been doing this Blog lark for a good few years now and have had over 15,000 hits - so thanks to everyone for taking an interest.
In all that time we've written about all manner of things that are Buxton-related without ever writing about the town itself. I suppose that it hardly needs saying that we love the town and think that everyone else should feel the same way about it. But what is it that we find so satisfying about the place?
In part it is a matter of scale and shape. There is something about the physical sense of place. It is commonly said that Buxton sits in a bowl - surrounded by hills. On the north side Corbar Cross is a striking visible landmark about 400 feet above the town; little more than a mile away, to the south, is Solomon's Temple at a similar altitude. Walking slowly, and taking in the Dome (see picture above), the Crescent, the Opera House, the Pavilion Gardens and Buxton Country Park (as Grinlow is now branded) it is no more than an hour from one landmark to the other. En route you will pass magnificent buildings, trees, gardens and the free mineral water that allows the claim to be made that Buxton is England's Leading Spa Town.
No doubt all this looks better - and is more easily enjoyed - on a dry, warm day with just a faint cooling breeze for company. Some of us say it is an uplifting walk in the wind and rain - and is a special pleasure when snow is on the ground.
A place can be made by its physical qualities alone but a town is a place to live in - to share time and spaces with others. Buxton has a population of around 22,000 - and is growing slowly. This makes it quite small in terms of triggering all sorts of economic developments. The town has no commercial cinema, for example, and many familiar high street brands are missing from The Springs - the undercover shopping centre.
This can be a blessing; if the national and international chains won't provide retails outlets then it creates opportunities for smaller, local and independent traders. Sometimes it is a struggle for businesses but over the last year or so we have seen some evidence that things are picking up. Central to hopes for a Buxton renaissance is the redevelopment of the truly magnificent Crescent. The fifth Duke of Devonshire commissioned architect John Carr to build a hotel, lodging rooms and assembly rooms in the 1780s and the building enjoyed a relatively brief heyday.
Concerns about subsidence resulted in the building being boarded-up about 20 years and cynics have doubted that it would ever re-open - and certainly plans have been slow to develop and it hasn't been easy to secure funding. Finally, though, all seems to be in place. Work to convert The Crescent into a 79 bedroom 5* spa hotel will begin in earnest early in 2015 and should be completed before the end of 2016.
This project will give a huge lift to the town - putting it on the international tourist map. The town will be ready to welcome these new visitors. Buxton is a friendly and resourceful place; yes major Northern and Midlands cities such as Manchester, Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham are but an hour away but Buxton has learned not to be dependent on others. In 2014 the Academy of Urbanism shortlisted Buxton for a Great Town Award. The adjudicators were hugely impressed by the number of groups and organisations that existed within the community, all working to make the most of life in the town.
It is this energy and independence of spirit that makes events like the Buxton Festival and Buxton Festival Fringe possible - a friend from Greater Manchester once observed that "Buxton punches well above its weight." We take this to be a compliment. With some degree and pride, and no little expectation, on behalf on the Fringe, we wish you all the best for Christmas and 2015 and we look forward to welcoming you next July.