Click here to see the report on the Members' 20th Anniversary Celebration Event held in the King's Arms on 19th November 2023

In July 2003 Saffron Walden Initiative was registered as an independent, non-political, not-for-profit company and this year is delighted to be celebrating its 20th anniversary. It currently has 180 paid up members and they elect the directors. The Initiative’s aims include developing community spirit, enhancing the town’s appearance, promoting the town and providing activities for all ages and interests.

The Initiative name was first used in 1999 by four local business people concerned by the decline in many aspects of the town’s life. In 2002 one of the founders, Donna Sharp, held a meeting in the King’s Arms for anyone interested in forming a broader, community-led organisation. The first chairperson was Barbara Wilcox followed by Peter Riding and then Jacqui Portway.

For its members the Initiative has organised over 100 talks, social events and visits in the last 20 years. These have included visits to the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, local businesses such as Radleys and Contamac in Shire Hill and the Iron Age Fort and Temple of Victory at Audley End. For the wider community the Initiative helped in the early stages of setting up the Saffron Screen cinema; organised a comprehensive Health Check of the town; funded and erected the town’s fingerposts; created the Town Trail with pavement plaques and, over time, supplied the Tourist Information Centre with 100,000 free trail leaflets for visitors to the town; funded and managed the refurbishment of Swan Meadow Pond; organised the design of new town road entrance signs; provided numerous public seats and benches; installed new map holders with town maps at the main car parks; organised the lighting of the fountain in Market Place; put on the Walden 1647 celebrations of the Birth of English Democracy in Saffron Walden; made the Walden 24 film following 24 hours in the life of the town; organised 6 Blue Plaques for the town and set up the oral history Listening Bench outside the Museum.

The Initiative has also organised 3 Maze Festivals; created a new maze in the Jubilee Gardens bandstand and one next to Swan Meadow car park; 19 free Dances in the Square; 19 Late Night Christmas Shopping events for local charities; 7 Societies Showcases to promote local clubs and societies; 6 Social Quizzes; 5 Christmas Shop & Business Windows Competitions; 2 Christmas House & Gardens Competitions; 5 Litter Picks; 3 Food Fairs; 3 Remembrance Sunday wreath laying ceremonies; compiled hundreds of Welcome Packs for new arrivals to the town; and organised a Music Saturday event in the town centre where buskers raised £650 for Uttlesford Food Bank’s Fresh Food Voucher Scheme. For 6 years the Initiative organised free monthly business Saffron Start Up sessions and also ran the monthly Saffron Business Friends networking meetings in the King’s Arms.

In 2021 the Initiative carried out surveys of street furniture which documented 72 examples which either required attention or had become redundant and needed removing.  The surveys were passed on to Saffron Walden Town Council who, in turn, asked Essex Highways to deal with them wherever possible.

In 2022 the Initiative arranged for the willow fencing at the mini maze next to Swan Meadow Car Park to be refurbished because it had been damaged by vandals.

Last year through its Late Night Shopping and other Christmas events the Initiative celebrated the legacy of local man William Winstanley who is credited with saving Christmas in the 17th Century after parliament had cancelled it. William was all about charity and so it was appropriate that many local charities ran fund raising stalls. Also, the Initiative collected £2,147 for the Fairycroft House Young Carers Holiday Fund.

Looking ahead, this year’s Dance in the Square on 26th August will be a 20th anniversary celebration event and the Initiative is looking for financial support from grants and sponsors.

SWI is ever looking forward to help the town thrive in these testing times and we thank our members for their continued support.