July 4th really was glorious for the independent scene in the city with the launch of Exeter Trails – a website and collection of five beautifully designed maps that make it easy to follow your fancy, whether that’s amazing food, great fashion or stuff to do.
Go wild for vintage? Then pick up a ‘Bygones & Boutiques’ map and take a tour from Tout Garook to Off the Hook Clothing via Lorna Ruby, Otto Retro and Relevant. Itching to get crafty? Let the ‘Creativity Trail’ lead you to Bunyip Beads, via Spangles and Village Yarns. Hungry? Grab a ‘Food, Glorious, Food’ or a ‘Café Culture’ map. ‘Activities & Hobbies’ covers everything from Saddles & Paddles to Project Music… Who knew Exeter had such a vibrant independent scene? We did! Catch up!
This genius idea began with the Exeter Indies Christmas Trail map and website in 2012, and was such a hit that the team of traders responsible realised that it could be bigger and better; through a lot of hard work and determination, they took their idea and made it grow. It just shows what you can do if you put your mind to it. The beautiful maps are hand-drawn and coloured by Dawlish-based dip pen and ink illustrator Philip Harris, and include notable city landmarks and places of interest as well as the featured shops – in fact, they are artworks in themselves. The whole scheme is inspiring: if you want something to happen in the city, then get on and make it happen. Your community is what you make it!
But back to the launch…
Exeter Phoenix was packed to the girders with the cream of the city’s indie folk to declare the Trails officially open – there was even the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Rob Hannaford, who arrived in a really fancy car. The conversations were lively, the wine was flowing and there were even badges. And then I moved into the café, where tables groaned with food donated by The Real Food Store, Cakeadoodledoo and The Exploding Bakery, to name only three. In the spirit of intrepid journalism, I sampled most of the cakes, some of them twice (just to be sure). As I hovered by the carrot cake (again), someone tapped me on the shoulder, saying, ‘Haven’t I seen you before?’ I admitted that this may have been my second (third) pass by the chocolate caramel shortbread, but they only meant that we’d met somewhere else… Sugar-induced paranoia had clearly set in, so it was time to make my excuses and leave, but the band, Zanou Cowboys, were already sounding good.
The scheme, which is backed by Exeter City Council, has signed up 101 traders so far. The maps feature five different routes with a view to taking in more of the city’s independent traders in the future. The maps will be available for free at RAMM, Tourist Information, Exeter Phoenix, Exeter Central Library, St Thomas Library, and at each of the participating businesses.