Turning to magic in bid for £100,000
A TEAM of traders leading the campaign to revive Wincanton's high street are hoping to cast a spell over judges to secure a £100,000 grant.
Wincanton was one of 371 areas fighting to win a government grant to help rejuvenate struggling shops, backed by retail expert Mary Portas.
The town was not among the dozen areas that will receive an initial grant, but due to the strength of applications, a further 15 areas are set to benefit from a second round of funding.
With the second tranche of applications now open, the Wincanton team is turning to the world of magic to ensure their updated bid stands out from the crowd – drawing on its links to the fiction of Sir Terry Pratchett.
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The town is home to the Discworld Emporium, an official merchandise vendor for his Discworld fantasy book series.
Wincanton is twinned with fictional Discworld city Ankh-Morpork, and attracts many of Sir Terry's huge army of fans throughout the year.
Trader Katie Petre-Mears who runs the Wincanton regeneration team said: "We want to reinstate the mystical and magical side of Wincanton – no other town in South Somerset is doing it and it could give us a real identity.
"Discworld is an important part of Wincanton and we want to tap into that uniqueness and quirkiness."
One idea mooted is to open a magic shop at the former Alldays site, which the town team hope to transform into an emporium for local businesses.
Town team member and south Somerset district councillor David Norris said the Discworld Emporium, run by Bernard Pearson, is a "centre of excellence" in the town.
He said: "The Independent once described Wincanton as 'a market town without a market' that is 'twinned with a place that doesn't actually exist'. We are looking to change the first part and build on the second.
"Wincanton has a lot of untapped potential which the town team is looking to utilise, and the Discworld Emporium is part of that.
Mr Pearson said: "No other town is twinned with a mystical place. Millions of Discworld fans from all over the world know about a small town called Wincanton, so there is a lot we can do to help. We will support the town's bid in any way we can."
The town team is putting the final touches to their updated bid before resubmitting before next Saturday's deadline. Money for a further 15 areas will be announced in July.
Mr Norris said: "Everything had to come together very quickly to meet the first deadline, so now we've got a bit of time before resubmitting our bid to make sure it is as strong as it can be."
Other ideas put forward by the team include creating a weekly market and regenerating the Green Dragon antique and crafts centre.