Christie Frail reflects on her hometown of Falkirk in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Following my Scotland’s Towns’ article, ‘Do you Believe There is No Place Like Home?’, 3 years on I have decided to take a further look at this little town of mine; Falkirk. As I had described it back then ‘home of the World’s first and only rotating boat-lift, connecting the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. Boating heaven.’
That fact is still true. But a lot has changed since then. The entire world has been faced with unprecedented disruption across education, business and communities. No-one has been exempt, the young and old alike.
Through this time, we have all grown, albeit with obstacles and set-backs.
Yet we are still here, and that, I believe is growth. The adverse experiences of the Coronavirus pandemic have altered the feeling and perception of ‘home’. For a large amount of people ‘home’ has become a more definitive place, a serenity, through the challenges of national and local lockdowns, missing friends and family, and a great deal of shared loss.
But, if you had said to me back in April 2020, only three weeks into the first national lockdown, that just short of a year from now, life would not be so different…I would have screamed. I was climbing the walls, desperate to get out and see my wee Grans, my friends, and I would have even returned to do a seventh year of high school.
For me, few things have changed. Firstly, my mind-set. Being at home isn’t all too bad, and in wider context (outside my brick house), when Falkirk is the place you can call home. Despite the repetitiveness of each day as a first year University student, who by the way has never set foot on campus, I’ve inevitably fallen more in love with my family home, my surroundings, and my town.
Places such as The Helix, with the famous 30m high Kelpies, The Falkirk Wheel and Callender Park, have been the ideal locations for my daily walks – a view that I am certain I share with many others. These gorgeous outdoor spaces, that attract tourism all year-round have most likely been taken for granted by the locals. Shameful to admit, that I am referring to myself.
The outdoor leisure and socialising has had to compensate for the closure of Falkirk’s amenities and local businesses; who have suffered greatly as a result of the pandemic.
Returning to my prior article, I was concerned with the dying High Street, not unique to Falkirk, as a result of budding retail parks, and the continual growth and immense shift to online shopping. The town Centre’s life-blood, its people, has been getting sucked away.
Falkirk has been top of the table for positive Covid cases in recent months, with figures showing 171 positive cases per 100,000 people – far greater than the Scottish average of 77 cases. The amazing new £78 million Falkirk Campus for Forth Valley College, has been at the forefront of the vaccination process. Having only opened their doors to students in January 2020, the new innovative and inclusive way of learning was cut short. And so the pressure has been on for all organisations to provide the local people with support for health, finances and much more.
The Falkirk Business survey, conducted in July 2020 gained 444 responses from Falkirk businesses. Responders cover a range of roles from small business owners to managing Directors of national and multinational companies. Sectors involved include: Chemical Industries, Tourism, Retail, Logistics, Construction and many more. Of those surveyed, 80.7% have lower business optimism than last year, and 72.3% have lost income.
But Falkirk is strong.
As many as 62% of Falkirk Businesses believe they will be able to cover the costs of their monthly fixed overheads, and be able to reopen for trade when it is safe to do so without borrowing money. A promising figure for the future of Falkirk’s economy post-Covid.
With Falkirk at the forefront of the Town Centre Action Plan and Business Improvement District (BID) there are positive destinations ahead. These plans aim to improve six key themes: town centre living, accessible public services, proactive planning, digital towns, enterprising communities and vibrant local economies. So don’t worry Bairns! Falkirk still has more to offer.
…I’ll keep you posted.