The beloved Christmas markets being axed by council scroogesDecember 4, 2023
The beloved Christmas markets being axed by council scrooges: Festive fairs including Brighton and Felixstowe are scrapped and England’s oldest market in Lincoln becomes the latest casualty – with excuses varying from ‘crush fears’ to ‘declining footfall’
- Lincoln Christmas market is not going ahead after almost 90 injuries last year
Christmas markets across England have faced the axe this year, with the nation’s oldest fair becoming the latest tragedy.
England’s oldest Christmas market in the city of Lincoln was called off this year over a ‘significant risk to public safety’, as market organisers around the UK blame rising costs, falling footfall and crowd safety as key concerns.
Markets in Brighton and Felixstowe have also been called off, while in Durham the ‘Christmas’ market became a ‘Winter’ market this year in a bid to become more inclusive.
Poor weather has also created extra problems for organisers – at the Essex County Christmas Fair, punters were turned away after muddy conditions created a ‘swamp’ in the car park, with even rescue vehicles becoming stuck.
With light displays also cut around the UK as cash-strapped councils try and balance their budgets, some are facing accusations they have ‘cancelled Christmas’.
Lincoln Christmas Market
In 2022, almost 90 people were treated for injuries and the council had to enforce people-calming measures in order to prevent a crushing disaster
Ric Metcalfe, City of Lincoln Council leader, said the decision had been made as the ‘current market has gotten way too big’ and risked becoming ‘unsafe’ in the future
Last year’s four-day event saw 320,000 people flock to the city for its 40th year – but fears of crushes and other crowd injuries have meant the council rejected a last-ditch attempt to secure the future of the event.
In 2022, almost 90 people were treated for injuries and the council had to enforce people-calming measures in order to prevent a crushing disaster.
The event saw huge queues weave around the city’s castle, with disgruntled punters describing it as a ‘nightmare’ and ‘claustrophobia simulator’.
Ric Metcalfe, City of Lincoln Council leader, said the decision had been made as the ‘current market has gotten way too big’ and risked becoming ‘unsafe’ in the future.
MP for Lincoln Karl McCartney slammed the decision to cancel the market, saying: ‘It doesn’t seem rocket science to mitigate and ensure all aspects are catered for’.
Speaking on BBC local radio, he criticised a council decision last week which voted against a motion which sought to ensure a market was considered in Lincoln for 2024.
‘It wasn’t to say we definitely want to bring the Christmas market… to just look at the possibilities of a different type of Christmas market that was done in a very safe and enhanced manner than previous Christmas markets.
‘The Christmas market is something that not only everybody looks forward to who lives, works, studies or visits Lincoln but you can’t even pay for the advertising that gave Lincoln and the county of Lincolnshire.’
Cllr Ric Metcalfe, Leader of City of Lincoln Council, said: ‘We understand some people’s disappointment that Lincoln Christmas Market is no more. The decision was announced nine months ago on the basis that we simply could not continue delivering an event that had been deemed a significant risk to public safety.
‘Lincoln at Christmas remains a stunning place to visit, with lights all across the city centre and our new Ice Trail and traditional festive activities taking place this weekend.’
Durham ‘Winter’ Market
The Bowes Museum, which was founded by the ancestors of the Queen Mother and is based at Bernard Castle, has this year removed the word ‘Christmas’ from the event’s title
A popular Christmas market in Durham was also the centre of controversy in recent weeks after it emerged bosses had renamed it the ‘Winter Market’ – seemingly in a bid to become more inclusive.
The Bowes Museum, which was founded by the ancestors of the Queen Mother, has this year removed the word ‘Christmas’ from the event’s title.
BBC Antiques Road Trip expert David Harper called for the Durham museum’s ‘bonkers’ decision to be reversed, saying it was deleting Christmas.
Mr Harper claimed the museum was hoping to try and attract more people but was taking the joy out of Christmas.
He told The Sun: ‘What’s next? Are we going to cancel Santa, the reindeer, children wearing Christmas hats?
‘Essentially, all you’ll be left with is a Wednesday market. This won’t stop until we stop it. We need to nip this in the bud, take control and be a bit braver.’
The Museum’s director Hannah Fox strongly disputed the claims.
She said: ‘We have a very popular seasonal programme of events of which the market is the centrepiece.
‘It’s fabulous and everyone is welcome, however they celebrate over the festive season.’
Brighton Christmas Market
Last month Brighton & Hove City Council confirmed its Christmas market would not return after no commercial partner could be found to fund the event
Brighton joined Lincoln in calling off its market altogether, saying it was facing an ‘enormous funding crisis’ which meant it could not stump up the £70,000 cost of hosting it.
Last month Brighton & Hove City Council confirmed its Christmas market would not return after no commercial partner could be found to fund the event – as the council leader blamed low footfall.
Lead councillor for tourism and culture Alan Robins said: ‘Organising a Christmas market for the city was always dependent on finding a new commercial partner to help us to fund and co-ordinate the event.
‘Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find a partner willing to commit to the project for a single year.’
He continued: ‘We wanted to create a different kind of Christmas market this year – because in the two years it was staged it was never actually all that popular with the public, and was also expensive for traders who wanted a pitch there.’
The last two markets in Brighton have been held by an independent events company – but it ended its contract early citing problems caused by Covid and rising costs.
Felixstowe Christmas Market
Organiser Karen Stewart told the East Anglian Daily Times she had had come to the ‘difficult decision’
Event organisers in Felixstowe also named footfall as one of the factors in the decision to cancel.
The Suffolk seaside town traditionally holds a Beach Street Christmas Market at the start of December.
Organiser Karen Stewart told the East Anglian Daily Times she had had come to the ‘difficult decision’.
‘We didn’t have as many people with availability to take part in this market as we had anticipated, or to make the great atmosphere and footfall we’ve had at previous markets,’ she said.
It marks a blow for local business as the decision came just days after two restaurants in the area were both forced to close.
Essex Country Christmas Fair
The annual fair takes place at Layer Marney Tower (pictured)
Last month an Essex market was cancelled part-way through due to safety fears – after wet weather meant there was too much mud.
The Essex County Christmas Fair, which takes place at Layer Marney Tower, had to be called off by Prestige Country Events as they launched a desperate social media appeal telling people to stop arriving.
On Facebook, a post from the organisers read: ‘We cannot let anyone else in… tonight, as the conditions in the car park are too boggy and we don’t want anyone else getting stuck in the mud’, the BBC reported.
The three-day event was also cancelled the following evening, as organisers said: ‘Do not arrive, event cancelled tonight. Cars stuck in mud.’
A spokesperson added: ‘Unfortunately after a year of hard work, huge financial investment and thousands of work hours, we have had to take the incredibly tough decision to cancel the Saturday and Sunday fairs, purely due to the weather.
‘The field at the back had become a swamp, with rescue cars being stuck in the mud.’
Oxford Christmas Market
Oxford Christmas market was saved at the last minute after the previous organiser said council demands were ‘impossible’
Oxford’s traditional Christmas market almost joined this year’s casualty list after the organiser complained the council’s insistence on cycle lane access made it too complicated to hold.
Organiser Nicole Rahimi previously ran the event for more than a decade but claimed the council’s stance made it ‘impossible’ to continue due to the ‘high risk of accidents’.
But the event was saved when new organisers were found, Oxford council confirmed.
Andrew Gant, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highway management, said: ‘We have worked closely with all partners to deliver a market that works for all parties, including residents, traders, and the cyclists who use Broad Street as a vital route.’
Christmas Light Switch-ons
Bournemouth’s Christmas light switch on in 2016 – as the council confirms its cancellation due to a £44million black hole in its budget
A number of light displays in Bournemouth and Christchurch have been called off
Elsewhere Christmas markets are not the only casualty of this year’s festive season – many towns have called off their light switch-ons too.
The Mail previously reported how towns including Bournemouth, Bolton, Medway and Leominster are cancelling the events in order to save cash or as a result of local disruption such as roadworks.
In Bournemouth, the switch-on was ditched after its £44,000 budget was scrapped in a cost-saving exercise – the council currently has a £44million hole in its finances.
Medway Council took similar action and said it would save £75,000 – as they seek to fill a £17million budget gap.
Braintree Council, in Essex, also blamed ‘budgetary constraints’ for cancelling its official switch-on event.
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