Artists impress judges as Hitchin gears up for Great British High Street Awards

PUBLISHED: 12:54 18 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:54 18 September 2019

The judges visited Hitchin on Tuesday, September 10. Their decision counts for 80% of the final score. Picture: Hitchin BID

The judges visited Hitchin on Tuesday, September 10. Their decision counts for 80% of the final score. Picture: Hitchin BID

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Murals and window paintings from homegrown artists are appearing in Hitchin as the town ramps up preparations for The Great British High Street Awards.

Clara Nicoll posing in front of her hand painted golden wings in Churchgate. Picture: Clara NicollClara Nicoll posing in front of her hand painted golden wings in Churchgate. Picture: Clara Nicoll

In August, Hitchin was nominated as one of three 'Champion Award' finalists for England, and is now fighting to be named the UK's best high street.

On Tuesday, September 10, a three-person judging panel were given a grand tour of the town, and were treated to a celebration of Hitchin's community spirit, environmental initiatives and dazzling artwork.

Hitchin was nominated as one of three finalists for England. Picture: Hitchin BIDHitchin was nominated as one of three finalists for England. Picture: Hitchin BID

Clara Nicoll, a former pupil of Hitchin Girls' School, is a professional illustrator and mural artist. She was asked by Hitchin BID to brighten up the windows of the former Henderson shop in the town centre.

"I've seen Hitchin change a lot over the years, but it has always had a fantastic community," Clara said.

One of the hand painted angel murals by Clara Nicoll facing the town square. Picture: Clara NicollOne of the hand painted angel murals by Clara Nicoll facing the town square. Picture: Clara Nicoll

"If enthusiasm and dedication were criteria in winning the competition then it would be a definite win for our town. I've been bowled over by the effort people are making - and I hope it pays off."

Fellow artists Kim Raymont, of Kim Prints, and Cathy Smale have also been decorating shop windows and retail units with prints and murals of Hitchin landmarks.

The recycling service provided by Hitchin BID displayed in the town centre. Picture: Hitchin BIDThe recycling service provided by Hitchin BID displayed in the town centre. Picture: Hitchin BID

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Hitchin BID town centre manager Tom Hardy said the visiting judges were hugely impressed with Hitchin's clear sense of community.

Arnaud Cox, aged 5, posing in front of the children sized wings. Picture: Clara NicollArnaud Cox, aged 5, posing in front of the children sized wings. Picture: Clara Nicoll

"The High Street Awards have boosted the perception of the town," Tom said. "This process has done amazing things for Hitchin, and for businesses in Hitchin, and it has been the foundation of our tourism strategy."

The British High Street Awards is a government-led competition, in which high streets are judged on community, customer experience, environmental impact and digital transformation.

Hitchin BID Town Centre Manager Tom Hardy with his team from Hitchin BID. Picture: Hitchin BIDHitchin BID Town Centre Manager Tom Hardy with his team from Hitchin BID. Picture: Hitchin BID

Hitchin is competing with Freeman Street in Grimsby, and Belper Town in Belper, to be crowned the overall winner for England.

The victor will then face delegates from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the grand final.

A print vista of Hitchin painted by local artist Cathy Smale. Picture: Hitchin BIDA print vista of Hitchin painted by local artist Cathy Smale. Picture: Hitchin BID

Public voting counts for 20 per cent of the score, while the judges' decision accounts for 80 per cent.

To vote for Hitchin, go to thegreatbritishhighstreet.co.uk/high-street-of-the-year-awards/champion-finalist-hitchin

Hitchin BID impressed judges with a display of its environmental initiatives. Picture: Hitchin BIDHitchin BID impressed judges with a display of its environmental initiatives. Picture: Hitchin BID

Voting closes on October 7.

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