Hitchin town centre manager Keith Hoskins announces he is to step down
- Credit: Archant
A pillar of the Hitchin community who earlier this year celebrated 20 years in his role has publicly announced he is to step down.
Town centre manager Keith Hoskins – known by many as ‘Mr Hitchin’ – marked two decades in the job in April, but will retire once the end of the next five-year Hitchin Business Improvement District period is up.
Keith, who was awarded the MBE for services to Hitchin by the Queen in 2015, got the job after many here were concerned the historic market town was floundering after the recession of the early 1990s.
It was felt having Keith co-ordinate commercial matters with the community and the council might help lead to a renaissance in the town – with Hitchin now renowned as a thriving hub for independent business and talented creatives, a haven for foodies and a reputation for having a real sense of community.
Reflecting on his time in the role, Comet columnist Keith said: “Retailing has changed. When I first came to Hitchin in 1997, the only shop that opened on a Sunday was Woolworths.
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“The huge growth in online shopping had yet to occur and so ‘High Street’ retailing was still predominant.
“Now there are so many more cafes, restaurants, beauty salons, hairdressers, health & fitness outlets – lifestyle choices – things you can’t purchase on the internet. Hitchin recognised from the early days town centres were and would increasingly become so much more than just shopping venues and so adapted quite quickly to the changes in demand.”
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Keith has many highlights, including meeting the Queen when she came to Hitchin during her Diamond Jubilee visit in that glorious summer of 2012.
He also cites the growth of the Hitchin Festival, the popularity of the Christmas lights switch-on in Market Place and the beautiful summer flowers that brighten up the town.
He added: “Hitchin is a unique town. I’ve always described it as a town with a village feel. Great location, fascinating history, genuinely warm-hearted and helpful community,” saying he hopes his legacy will be as someone who made a difference.
The official recruitment process to replace Keith starts tomorrow, with a view to an appointment in the new year.
The current town centre manager will continue until the end of the Hitchin BID period in March 2019 in an advisory role, helping in the campaign to say the BID renewed for a further five years.