My Town: Uppingham with Mike Goldmark
How long have you been in Uppingham?
I’ve been in Uppingham since 1972. I needed to move somewhere with my young family, and I had a dear friend here so thought this would be a good place to be. I had a second-hand bookshop in the early days, which soon became quite popular. Offering free cups of coffee meant that I soon found I had lots of friends who would drop in for a chat. From quite early on I also sold prints. Over the years the business grew, gradually morphing into what it is now. For better or for worse, I still work seven days a week, spending more time here than I do in my own home, so in a somewhat self-indulgent way I surround myself with things that I like.
Tell us about your career…
I’ve always considered myself a shopkeeper. I left school at 18, with virtually no qualifications, and worked for short periods of time, first with Sainsbury’s and then with Marks & Spencer, learning how retail is meant to work. I have to tell you that I now ignore most of that and tend to do things very much in my own way.
Back in the Swinging Sixties – yes, I’m getting on in years now – I was the General Manager at a small public company in London, selling fashion menswear, before starting a fashion tie business. I think I might have inadvertently invented floral ties. All that changed during the three-day week and I lost everything that I had. That was when I relocated to Uppingham and I have been here ever since. Things were not easy in Uppingham during the early 1980s; the town had been by-passed and there was not enough trade. At that time, I had to resort to living in the roof of my bookshop in Orange Street.
During one sleepless night, I wandered around the town and identified some 12 under-utilised buildings and the next day, visited all the owners and told them if they were ever interested in selling, I would like to buy. I had no money, but it was a time when the banks were still helpful. During the next six years, I bought 11 out of 12 of those buildings, started a small building company, and undertook conversions, adding some 20 more shops, which I let to antique dealers, second-hand book sellers and the like in an effort to revitalise the town’s trade. I built an art gallery in Uppingham. Slowly the books disappeared, to be replaced with sculpture, paintings, and ceramics.
The gallery has grown over the years to the point that we now have a separate print studio and business called Goldmark Atelier where we scan, screen print and create limited edition prints for artists all over the world. My job is to welcome customers and do what I have always done; be a shopkeeper. I have a fantastic team around me who take care of the many different aspects of this place.
We open major art and ceramic exhibitions on a regular basis, write and publish fine art books, make films, design and produce our own catalogues and put on many, many shows for galleries all over the world with our vast archives. Not bad from a little town in Rutland!
What makes the town unique? What do you miss if you’ve been away?
Uppingham is the centre of the universe. Actually, it really is! If you take a globe and stick a pin in Uppingham and then look carefully you’ll see that I’m right! But seriously, the town is mostly great independent traders and that’s what gives it such a good atmosphere.
From high end design such as Priddy Essentials and Blue Gryphon to butchers Culpin & Son and the famous Baines bakers, there’s something for everyone. Traders like Wendy Grindley, who runs the Uppingham Antiques Centre or Mark at the Rutland Antiques Centre or the town’s independent coffee shops, make Uppingham a great place to visit.
Who inspires you around Uppingham?
There are some quite extraordinary people who live here. I greatly value the contribution that Robert Wills has continued to make over many decades.
His generosity has always been extraordinary, not only has his manufacturing firm, Arnold Wills, been one of Uppingham’s biggest employers, he has also created The Falcon Hotel, The Vaults and Don Paddy’s, which are great places to entertain and meet friends. Most shopkeepers identify a gap in the market that people want and the independent traders of Uppingham have done that very well.
Less known, but also inspiring, is Don Collins, who 25 years ago became chairman of a local youth brass band, open to all-comers who can blow their instruments. That band has now become the greatest youth brass band in Europe, six times winner of the UK National Championships, twice winner in Europe which is an amazing achievement.
Another Uppinghamian who has inspired me is Christopher Richardson; teacher, designer, artist. Many years ago, he created the Pleasance Theatre, now a huge part of the Edinburgh Fringe, and then the Pleasance in London.
His generosity towards young people who want to go on the stage has been extraordinary. When he ran the Uppingham Theatre, we were privileged to see talents like the young Rowan Atkinson… Christopher even designed the front door of our gallery. I’m also constantly inspired by the dedication and talent of my own 30-strong team here at Goldmark. I’m very lucky to work with so many special people.
What’s the area like in summer and where should we visit?
Uppingham in Bloom do great work to make sure the town always looks fresh and I would recommend everyone comes to Uppingham Feast Day on the 16th June. That augments our great pubs and cafes with a wealth of street food and drink and wonderful live music!
Where would you take friends and family to dine or have a drink?
Well this is a hard one to answer as we offer lunch to visitors to Goldmark in a daily basis, so I tend to be here every lunchtime. However, the Tap Room in the Falcon Hotel is good for lunch, as is Lake Isle. Don Paddy’s is ideal for sitting outside with a glass of wine on a summer evening and I know our PR likes the area’s traditional pubs; The Crown and the recently upgraded Exeter Arms. Both Scandimania and Javawocky are excellent coffee shops and the latter has a very nice courtyard garden for morning coffee in summer.
Which shops and businesses would you recommend to visitors?
I have probably answered this as I think the independent traders of Uppingham make the town what it is. But as well as the above the Friday market is a must for fresh vegetables, seeds and a truly excellent cheese van. The Falcon hotel and Lake Isle both offer good rooms in the centre of town and outside of Uppingham we must not forget Hambleton Hall on the peninsula.
What are the best views by day and the best by night?
We are surrounded by the most amazing countryside here in Uppingham. You don’t have to walk far to get a great view of Rutland. Walk across the Middle and see the town from the Uppingham School playing fields and at night, when it’s Christmas, the lights and the tree in the Market Square are really heart-warming.
What about nature or a quiet place to escape to in the area?
Well I go for long walks through the fields but if one wants a nearby escape for a few minutes then the Arboretum is a good place for a summer stroll.
Would you change anything about Uppingham?
In terms of the character? Absolutely nothing. In terms of logistics… well, I really do think everyone would welcome and benefit from free parking in the main car park!
Goldmark Gallery is based on Orange St, Uppingham, LE15 9SQ. To see what’s going on in the gallery, visit www.goldmarkart.com.
Uppingham in Bloom
This year, Uppingham in Bloom celebrates its 36th birthday. Founded by three traders who were members of the town’s Chamber of Trade – June Smith of Stocks, Mary Lloyd of Minerva and Maureen Sumner of Clutter – these ladies all wanted to have floral displays at their premises and their vision and passion soon sparked other business owners and members of the town’s various groups and organisations to follow suit.
As the years have elapses, so Uppingham in Bloom has grown to become an annual riot of colour in the Market Place, High Street, and the periphery supported by the Town Council, the Women’s Institute, the Church and The Scout Association, helping the town to win many awards.
If you’d like to find out more, visit the organisation’s website at www.uppinghaminbloom.co.uk.
A Gallery Like No Other
The Goldmark Gallery is much more than just a Gallery. It’s a thriving hub of hard-working creatives who are passionate about art and together work to nurture the talents of artists around the world.
The gallery now holds over 50,000 items of art in stock, with prices from £10-£150,000.
Founded by Mike, who oversees operations as well as creates some stunning films created to showcase the work the gallery displays, he now offers a framing service, print service with stone lithography and fine art printing, and music events in its 65-seat auditorium, a music venue known as The Front Room, to clients and appreciative audiences, with jazz music and the off short-notice big name gigs. There’s a range of ceramics, too, all curated with love, care and expertise.