The impact of Ripon's WW1 commemorations: A business's perspective

Ripon Spa Gardens bandstand decorated with curtains of poppies. Picture: Rodney Towers.
Ripon Spa Gardens bandstand decorated with curtains of poppies. Picture: Rodney Towers.

Ripon's Armistice Day commemorations have attracted thousands of visitors, generating a huge surge in footfall.

At Ripon Spa Gardens alone, where the bandstand, gates and Sun Parlour Cafe are beautifully decorated, visitor numbers soared from from 9,621 in September, to 13,650 in October, according to the latest figures from Harrogate Borough Council.

Here, Caroline Bentham, the owner of the Sun Parlour Cafe at Ripon Spa Gardens, shares her views on the impact of Ripon's extraordinary efforts.

"As a small business owner in Ripon the effect of the community poppy project has far outweighed any expectations. We have had a definite increase in trade from people coming to see the displays and popping in for a coffee and cake.

"It has been really great to have conversations with visitors from far and wide about why the project started, how dazzling it is, how poignant it is, how emotional it is and how our city has pulled together to pull it off.

"We have heard stories of visitors travelling for hours to see the displays of poppies, the silhouette soldiers and the fields of Mud, Seeds of Hope. They have heard about it from the newspapers, TV radio and social media coverage, but have been blown away by the sheer volume of poppies when they have got here.

"Some people arriving during the day, planning on staying to watch the light show on the Cathedral in the evening, this can only have helped the restaurants and pubs.

"As a business owner I really think we need to thank the organisers of everything to do with Ripon's remembrance of the end of the First World War, because as a by product of this project we have seen the footfall to Ripon increase, which can only be a good thing. It has also brought the city together in a way I have never seen before, and I have lived here forever.

"The Sun Parlour Cafe has been very involved with the project, not least because Hazel Barker, a main coordinator of Ripon Community Poppy Project, is my mum, but also because we were able to offer ourselves as a collection point, meeting place and general poppy “headquarters”. We have met and got to know new people over the last year that we may never have crossed paths with and I for one feel a sense of belonging to this amazing group. Mostly we are proud to have been part of this project and proud to be Riponians."