Centre celebrates its big birthday milestone

Mayor Cllr Shirley Weymouth, right, blows out the candles to kick of celebrations for Market gates'

Mayor Cllr Shirley Weymouth, right, blows out the candles to kick of celebrations for Market gates' fortieth birthday - Credit: Victor Ling

Shoppers were feeling the funk on Friday as a shopping centre kicked off a set of year-long celebrations to marks its 40th year in business.

Market Gates Shopping Centre in Great Yarmouth first opened its doors in 1975, and as one of the first covered malls in the region, the red-brick building soon became home to many well-known stores.

Now, 40 years on, celebrations started with Great Yarmouth Mayor Cllr Shirley Weymouth blowing out the candles on 40 birthday cakes, while retailers boogied on down to the sounds of the 70s.

Nick Spencer, centre manager at Market Gates, has been there for 25 years and even over this time he has seen the centre transform.

'When I arrived the centre was still as it was when it opened; dark floors, poor lighting, brick planters in the middle, and even the original wooden escalators. It was the start of a big chance and we've been lucky that every owner since then has enhanced the centre.

'Over the years there has been a lot of investment, the 1992 refurbishment was a big one and of course the 2008 extension giving us New Look and Debenhams amongst others.'

Nick also said that he and owners Ellandi are going to continue the investment, and that he was pleased with a recent decision to reject plans for an out-of-town retail park on empty land next to Pasta Foods and the Tesco Extra store. 'I'm glad that the council made a similar decision to before and are safeguarding our town centre,' he said. 'We'll be carrying on with better offers and rebranding, continuing to be a big part of the town centre.'

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Store owners Helen Sharpin, of Helen's Handmade Card Creations and Rebecca Hampton, of the Linen Line were two retailers who turned out in their 70s dress for the occasion.

'It's important to celebrate how long Market Gates has been here,' said Helen. 'Hopefully it'll make people realised we've still got a town centre and that they should support it!'

'People should come and have a look,' Rebecca added. 'I've been at the Linen Line at the bottom of the escalators for 20 years, so I've seen a lot, but there is still plenty going on.'

On the celebrations, Dee Dillamore, deputy manager at Market Gates, said: 'Over the next year, we want to celebrate our birthday with several appropriately themed activities. On Monday, February 15, 2016 at the start of the School Half Term Holiday, our young Magic Mondays craft workers will be decorating a giant birthday card with 'cut out and colour' handprints with children drawing round their hands and adding these to the card. We will also get them making and decorating their own birthday cards.'

'At the end of April, our style experts will be returning to the centre to offer advice on how to look 'Fab at 40' with beauty demonstrations and practical tips. And you can't have a birthday without a party. We are planning a birthday bash in September, complete with party hats, balloons, jelly and ice cream and a birthday cake and at the same time we will take the opportunity to unveil the final stage of the centre's new branding.'

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