Imagine Watford: visitor feedback

Spurting man Le Voyage des Aquareves

We’ve had some really excellent feedback on this year’s Imagine Watford festival. Hundreds of people have commented about how ‘magical’ Watford felt, how proud they feel of our town and just how much they enjoyed it. This is really reassuring as it’s exactly why, together with the Palace Theatre, we have put it on for the past four years.

The visitor survey data shows that this year’s festival reached an audience of 92,811 people, compared with 88,532 last year and 49,902 audience members the year before. So it’s an upward trend, that I hope will keep on rising as the word gets out that this really is a great event that it is worth putting in the diary.

Indeed, the data shows that that 73% of people had attended the festival before and 72% rated the performances as ‘excellent’ and a further 24% rated them as ‘good’.

This year’s festival was the first of our ‘Big Events’, which consisted of live performances from a variety of internationally acclaimed acts, from The Spurting Man – a performer who spurted water from all over his body – to Le Voyage des Aquareves, a ghostly ship that sailed through The Parade at night – which made it onto the critics choice list in the Financial Times.

Do try and get involved with our Big Events, the next ones are the Big Dance on 12th July, the Big Family Sports Day on 19th July then it’s classic movies and family favourites on the Big Screen at the end of July and start of August. All details can be found at watfordbigevents.co.uk.

Behind all of the theatrics and the fun events we have planned for the rest of the year, lies our solid determination to keep our high street thriving and not let it suffer the fate that some have elsewhere in the country.

Watford Junction: August closures info

Here is the update I have had today from London Midland regarding the details of the August closures, which will see Watford Junction closed and no service running between Hemel Hempstead and Euston.

As a reminder, this is London Midland’s Watford Area Renewals programme, during which time they are renewing all signalling between Kings Langley and Bushey, as well as laying 15km of new track. The idea being that there will be less breakdowns, so less disruptions to service as a result.

The weekend closures are:

  • Sat 9 until Mon 11 Aug
  • Sat 16 until Mon 18 Aug
  • Sat 23 until Tues 26 Aug

The Abbey Line will be closed entirely from Saturday 9 until Tuesday 26 August.
They have also provided a further breakdown of information: Read more »

£4.5 million from Lottery for Cassiobury Park!

Heritage Lottery Fund win

I am absolutely thrilled that we have been successful in securing £4.5 million of lottery money for restoring Cassiobury Park. Council officers worked really hard, together with local residents, groups and councillors who helped shape the proposals, to prepare our bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund – and that hard work has really paid off. With this money we can now restore much of the history to the park as well as improving the facilities we offer our residents.

The £4.5 million will be added to the pot of money we has a council have allocated to create a total investment of £6.6 million into the park. For that money we are creating a new sustainable park hub building with café, community and exhibition room, education facilities, toilets and changing facilities.

We’ll also be extending and improving the Cha Cha Cha tea pavilion and revamping and improving the pools. We’ll see the historic bandstand returned to its rightful place in the park and the restoration of the historic 18th century Lime Avenue. We’ll also be improving the entrances to the park and the management of Whippendell Wood and the Local Nature Reserve. The money also goes to providing an on site park manager, community park ranger and education officer. Read more »

County Council plans to reduce opening times of tip – sign petition!

The County Council is currently consulting on proposals to reduce the opening hours of waste recycling sites, including the complete closure of two sites – one of which is at Elstree – and so used by some Watford residents.

The main site for Watford is Waterdale would be closed on a Thursday and Friday, but open the rest of the week, on reduced hours – closing at 4pm instead of 6pm. The County Council is suggesting that when Waterdale is closed on a Thursday and Friday that local residents should make the 16 mile round trip to the next nearest one in Rickmansworth.

I worry that some residents might not drive the extra distance or wait until the tip has re-opened on the Saturday, so we may see more dumping of waste in local streets.

Also closing the site as early as 4pm on a Saturday and Sunday during summer, when I know myself I can still be busy having a clear out or sorting the garden at that time, just feels wrong.

Many of you will remember that just a few years ago the County Council justified forcing through the closure of the Wiggenhall Road Waste recycling site by saying that Waterdale was the alternative, a much more modern site and open 7 days a week. Now they want to cut the hours there as well.

I pleased to tell you that Liberal Democrat county councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst has set up an online on the county council web site as a way of showing the opposition to these changes.

You can sigh this petition at: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=196681

The formal county council consolation on waste site closures is at: www.hertsdirect.org/wastechanges.

Do also fill this in and there is a petition to stop the Elstree site being closed at: https://consult.hertsdirect.org/petitions/petition?petition_id=194420

Owen Parry – funeral details

Owen Parry

Shopmobility has asked me to share the funeral details of this lovely gentleman, Owen Parry who sadly passed away recently. It will be held at West Herts Crem on Thursday 10th July at 4pm. This photo was taken at last year’s Audentior Awards when I presented with him the Mayor’s Award for his work in the voluntary sector for many years.

Owen was a Scout Master and upon retirement in 1993 joined Shopmobility Watford, initially to man the office. Over the years he undertook many more activities such as collections, carnivals and looking after stalls. Despite being disabled himself, Owen always found the time and energy to be a committee member of The Disability Forum, Chairman of PASS, Vice President of POHWER and a trustee of Roundabout. He will be missed.

Watford pond – last paving slab laid!

Watford Parade Redevelopment

This morning I was joined by pupils from Watford Central Primary school to lay the symbolic last paving slab of our top of the town improvements – the work is now complete and our historic pond has had its much needed make-over!

It isn’t the first time the pond has had a new look, and hopefully it won’t be the last, but I am so pleased with the results of this transformation. It looks really impressive and has given the whole area a completely new look and feel. I love it!

There is new lighting, seating areas and granite steps around the pond. A state-of-the-art filtration system and UV filters will keep the water cleaner. There are three new fountains too and of course the new bridge, complete with illuminated hand rails and decking.

The children that came here today were so enthusiastic about how it looks and were really excited about our Big Events programme – especially the ice skating rink and the outdoor film screenings next month. That’s what it’s always been about for me – reclaiming this part of town as somewhere Watford families can come to enjoy themselves during the day and in the early evening.

I hope you will join us for the official opening celebrations on Friday. All the info at watfordsbigevents.co.uk.

Election manifesto

If you live in Watford hopefully you’ll be aware by now that next week (22nd May) are the local elections, euro elections and of course the mayoral election.  I’m standing for a fourth term – and this is the Watford Liberal Democrat’s election manifesto

I’ve lived here all my adult life, having taught at local schools for the 25 years before I became Mayor.  Quite simply I love the job and am just as ambitious for the town now as I was when I first stood in 2002.   So many of the projects that we started, such as making the town centre more family friendly, the Croxley Rail Link, the Health Campus and Charter Place redevelopment, are now really gathering pace and I want to see them through to fruition.

Indeed I hope my ambition  is reflected most by what you see around you on a day to basis, and how it is continuing to improve.  It would be an honour to continue on as Mayor, and I hope some of you will come and vote for me on polling day.

Coming soon: Watford’s new market

Market new path Dorothy RESIZED 8-4-14 market traders new site RESIZED 8-4-14

Yesterday I visited the site of the new Watford market, which will open in September, in  the grounds of the TJ Hughes building.  It will be modern and brightly coloured container-style market, spread over two floors, with an eating area level with the flyover, making it really visible from the ring road.

Shoppers will be able to access the new market via a main entrance on The Parade, as well as a rear entrance by the ring road.  It will be really well sign-posted and very visible, so I hope this will significantly improve footfall.

We’ve built a new footpath to link Clarendon Road to the rear entrance of the market.  This was important because so many of our older residents get off the bus on Clarendon Road, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to get there, quickly and safely.

Most of the existing traders are transferring to the new market when it opens in September and are looking forward to the move.   And of course, the old market in Charter Place will not close until the new market has opened!

Easter activities

We’re once again offering our younger residents the opportunity to swim and use the gyms at our leisure centres for free during the summer holidays.  As a parent I remember the extra pressure you feel during the school holidays to find activities to keep their children amused and it can be an expensive time.  So this should help. 

The free swimming is on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Watford Leisure Centre – CENTRAL and on Mondays and Wednesdays at Watford Leisure Centre – WOODSIDE.  The free gym use will be on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm.  There are terms and conditions you’ll need to know before you turn up – such as you need to apply for an Everyone Action card first - so do ensure you know those first: www.bit.ly/1hwfd1q or telephone: 01923 296750 for Central or telephone: 01923 892710 for Woodside.

There are other Easter activities we’re organising:  

  • Tuesday 15 April: 10am to noon, join Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Officer, Rob Hopkins, on a Spring nature walk in CassioburyPark. Meet at the RusticBridge, near the Langley Way entrance.
  • Saturday 19 April: Rob will lead another two hour Spring Walk in CassioburyPark. Meet for a 10am start at the kiosk by the main car park entrance in Gade Avenue. 
  • Saturday 19 April: free family Easter workshops at Watford Museum. The workshop times are 11am to noon, noon to 1pm and 2 to 3pm.

 Happy Easter!

Lib Dem childcare pledge will benefit 3000+ Watford families

You might have heard in the news today that the Liberal Democrats have pledged to give working families up to £2,000 towards childcare costs.  The figures show that this will benefit 3,060 Watford families, when it is rolled out in Autumn 2015. 

 As a mum that worked throughout my children’s early years I’d have jumped at the chance of this extra boost to my teacher’s salary – and childcare costs are far higher these days, in many cases prohibitively so.  Those on Universal Credit will get 85% of childcare costs fully covered.

We also announced at our Autumn conference last year that wanted to make free school meals available to all infant school children and disadvantaged college students from September 2014. This was confirmed in the Government’s Autumn Statement.
 
I commend Nick Clegg on all he is doing to support working families – these measures will help parents to go to work and provide security for their families.

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Dorothy Thornhill

Town Hall
Watford
Herts
WD17 3EX
T: 01923 278371
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