Belinda Richardson is the new Tourism Officer at Marlborough Town Council. She lives in the Vale of Pewsey with her husband Adrian and their three teenagers. The family has an assortment of animals including two dogs, a pair of lovebirds, four Indian Runner ducks, eight chickens and a loud cockerel.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Surrey, went to a rather strait-laced girls’ school, followed by a fun – mixed – sixth form and then Newcastle University.
After that I landed a job at Harpers & Queen, working my way up from lowly junior to Features Writer. I went on to work at Tatler, where I became Managing Editor . There were far too many neurotic, stick-thin fashionistas so I quickly moved on to the more grounded world of newspapers and the Daily Telegraph. I began there on the Peterborough diary column, which was great fun for a couple of years, as it basically involved attending a lot of parties! After that I moved over to become Food and Drink editor on the weekend section.
When I had my children, I began freelancing as that worked better with a young family. We moved out of London, and then went to the US with Adrian’s job (he worked in Risk Finance). We lived in Connecticut for five years, returning to the UK a few years ago. Adrian carried on commuting to London for a while, but eventually decided on a complete change of career, and now is in charge of Whitehall Garden Centre in Woodborough.
I continued to write freelance, but was attracted to the job as Tourism Officer as I wanted to get back to working with people, in an office again.
You must have met some interesting people in your time as a journalist?
I certainly did, one of the most memorable being Margaret Thatcher. We were doing a photo series on the Best of British, so it was only a short interview. She was lovely, quite bossy but very easy. We sat her on a throne for the photo, which she didn’t mind at all!
What attracted you to the Tourism Officer role?
As mentioned, I w
as keen to do something that involved getting out and about with people. Writing can be rather solitary. It is also a new challenge for me, and I am looking forward to helping promote Marlborough and ensure it punches above its weight in attracting visitors and improving their experience.
What does it involve?
The key objective is to make sure that Marlborough is a star player in the whole Great West Way initiative. Just to explain, Great West Way is a recently launched, multi-modal, touring route between London and Bristol, along which we sit right at the heart. Our trump card is that we have been involved from the start which already gives us the competitive edge. It is important that we build on this and use our muscle to help shape the development of what’s likely to become one of the world’s premier touring routes.
Great West Way is designed to attract foreign visitors, but my role also encompasses making sure that we make the most of home-grown tourists too. I have been working on a tourism strategy for the town, which will be published soon.
Will you be working with local businesses?
That is definitely part of the plan. I started in September last year and have since spent time meeting up with businesses locally that will benefit from the various initiatives. Initially I have foc
used on some of the key places of interest, such as the AONB, the Merchant’s House, Summer School, Crofton Beam Engines to name but a few. The town has a great vibe, with lots to offer on the food and drink front especially – more than is currently recognised. It also hosts some fantastic events such as the literature festival, not to mention the shopping. I think we can make Marlborough a real destination, and make sure visitors know it extends far beyond the High St.
We are looking at setting up regular tourism workshops, to communicate the benefits of the Great West Way to local businesses.
What will people see?
It’s important to get the basics right first. In spring we plan to launch a tourist information point alongside the recently opened public loos in the George Lane car park – we’re naming it Coopers Corner. As well as a room with up-to-date maps and literature that gives people ideas on what to do, there is also a space with facilities for coac
h drivers, which will hopefully help us gain coach friendly status. We’re currently also carrying out a signage review to make sure it’s easy for people to find their way around and we’re busy widening our reach on social media, with a new Instagram account (Visit Marlborough). Long term, we plan to set up tourism offers with local attractions that might encourage people to stay in the area overnight.
Why is tourism important to Marlborough?
It’s part of what makes Marlborough and the surrounding area such a vibrant place. It provides jobs, boosts the local economy and helps conserve our tradition and heritage.
What do you enjoy most about the job so far?
I enjoy working with t
he team at the Council and the Councillors themselves, with their diverse array of talent. I love the fact that we have an almost a blank canvas, upon which to build something quite fantastic.
Anything you’re not so keen on?
I wish things could move along a bit quicker sometimes – but that can be difficult because of the number of organisations involved.
Big time – I want to lay the structure to make Marlborough THE must-visit town along the GWW. Small time – I want to clean up Marlborough’s very dirty white horse and give it back
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy tennis, and playing Bridge (badly!). I love walking and am currently doing the entire South West Coastal Path. There’s a core of about 10 of us who go for the weekend around 3 times a year. We started off staying in youth hostels and drinking water but, happily, we’ve graduated onto hotels and wine. We do about 26 miles over a weekend, so need comfort and rewards in the evenings!
I also have ambitions to walk the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path with my husband, we’re planning to do the whole thing in one trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.
Do you enjoy reading?
I do, but don’t get much time. I have a lot of friends from my journalism days that have gone on to write books, so I always try and read them. For example , The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale; Alys, Always by Harriet Lane and The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay. I have to confess to a certain envy, and a desire to write my own book – although it wouldn’t be nearly as highbrow as theirs, more along the lines of Bridget Jones, the advanced years. I have started, but not sure if I’ll finish!
What about music?
I’m a bit lazy about music, I tend to go for ballads by artists like Adele. My kids find it deeply embarrassing, and are always trying to get me to listen to more up to date stuff like Stormzy. (I called him Spanksy so, clearly, they are fighting a losing battle!)
When the kids were younger, we used to watch a lot of family stuff, like sport, Strictly and so on. Now they are older they are all off watching different things. When I get the chance I have discovered the merits of binge watching -so things like The Crown and Succession.
If you are interested in finding out more about the opportunities for Tourism in Marlborough, you can contact Belinda at Marlborough Town Council on 01672 512487, or email at email@example.com