The past few weeks at The Ridings have been very exciting as we have welcomed a new Centre Manager. Well when we say new, we mean new to the role because Eileen Holroyd who has taken over the reins from Barbara Winston, is actually our longest serving member of staff!
Eileen knows The Ridings and the city of Wakefield inside and out. She has been at the centre since the first foundations were being excavated in June 1981 – so before the centre was actually built!
Back then when Eileen was first attracted to the bright lights of The Ridings, she worked as a Secretary/ Receptionist. Her office was on the top floor of the portacabins that were erected during the build process.
But once the shopping centre doors opened, Eileen jumped at the chance of taking on a new role after being offered the Administrator position and slowly began working her way up the ladder. Swapping the portacabin for a glamorous office, Eileen worked hard to complete a course in Business and Finance at Wakefield College, which allowed her to become an accounts person rather than just the office admin girl. And she’s not looked back since!
Here Eileen shares with us her fondest memories at The Ridings and also explains what the future holds for the centre.
“Whilst we have always had lots of exciting events going on at The Ridings, the one that stands out the most to me was 2013’s Christmas Lights Switch On where we welcomed X factor finalist Kye Sones. And boy was he popular! I have never seen the centre so busy. It wasn’t actually my weekend to work, but it was one of those events that you simply couldn’t miss, so I braved the crowds and screaming fans to pop along.
“Believe it or not, we have had a number of famous people grace The Ridings’ floors over the years too. In the early days, we always nominated a charity around the festive period and inevitablty had whoever was the star of the local pantomine visit us to show their support. I remember Duggie Brown and Helen Shapiro visiting us.
“Another famous face to walk the centre’s floors was Sandra Dickinson for an event to promote CPR. All I can remember was her being down on her hands and knees blowing into the mouth of the dummy. It is a sight I will never forget!
“Newscaster Anna Ford was also one of our visitors and, of course, we had Black Lace entertaining us on one occassion. We’ve had various actors here when we’ve had film crews visiting for shows and we used to get regular unannounced visits from Geoff Boycott, Jane MacDonald and Geoff Capes to name but a few. It’s great to spot celebrities walking around incognito!
Looking to the Future
“I’m honoured to be The Ridings’ new Centre Manager and I am very much looking forward to taking over the reins and steering the centre into the future. There’s no doubt that the high street has changed over the past 30 years and we have had to change too. We now have lots of exciting events including our craft markets, themed fairs, car boot sales and events to attract visitors and are keen to offer so much more than simply a shopping destination.
“We have seen a noticeable shift in shopper habits too. People no longer want just convenience and high street stores, but independents too. That’s why we have worked hard over the past few years to draw these types of shops into the centre with the likes of Created in Yorkshire, Feather’s Confectionery, Dickey Bow Boutique and Present Days – I am sure you’ll agree that these stores are truly unique!
“2015 is set to be a fantastic year for The Ridings. We hope you’ll join us on this exciting journey!”
Say Hello to Sara
As well as Eileen becoming Centre Manager, we have also welcomed a new face to the centre – Sara Hassan who joins as Marketing Manager.
In the next few weeks we’ll be having a sit down with Sara to talk all things The Ridings and find out a little more about our newest member of the team.