Thursday, 31 March 2016

Make market bigger –
not shoehorn stalls into a
smaller site and let optical
illusion do the trick

Last week, we reported plans by Worst Street’s secret society Prosperous Boston to combine the Wednesday markets in Wide Bargate – and free up the great stone desert as an “events space” with one or two events a week during the summer to attract visitors.
At first sight, this sounds not unreasonable – but given a closer look, it may well have the reverse effect, and perhaps even see the demise of the markets over time.
Many traders want to move to a single site because
  • The number of  Market Place stallholders is shrinking and trade is decreasing
  • The stalls on Bargate Green are struggling
  • Crowding the stalls together in Wide Bargate – as happened during the Market Place “refurbishment” makes things seem busier and more vibrant.
  • It might lure back the Farmers’ Market – which has quit the town.
The problem with this is that it encourages further decline in the numbers of stallholders, when it should be trying to attract more to replace those who are leaving.
Also, we suspect that once the traders get their feet under the table in Wide Bargate, they will resist the idea of using the main Market Place at weekends.
According to Boston Borough Council’s website: “The market is a recognised tourist attraction in its' (sic) own right, with over 120 stalls …”
How many?
We think that this must have been written a long, long time ago.
Two years from now will see the 800th anniversary of the granting of a licence for Boston's Fair – and the earliest maps of Boston dating from that time show the "Market Place" indicated on them in its present location.
Common-sense suggests that we should be working toward marking the anniversary as a magnet for townsfolk and visitors alike – and forget about diluting the market even further.
Some years ago a report by the National Association of British Market Authorities suggested that 25% of the UK's local markets would close down by 2020.
But by 2013, however,  markets were more than holding  their own, with 65% of Nabma members reporting stallholder numbers up, 57%  reporting higher footfall and 58% saying that profits either up or stable, year-on-year.
Nabma's chief executive, Graham Wilson said at the time: "What we are seeing is little short of a revolution in local markets with the local authorities – operators of most of the country's local marketplaces – either upgrading facilities or opening up their running to local community groups and private businesses to revamp the market offer"
But not in Boston, it seems.
What we need are better ideas.
Not that long ago a teenage market was started in Kettering with support from the borough council and was so successful that it is now being copied in other areas – Sleaford will be hosting its second such market in May with 16 traders and the same number of performers.
An organisation called “Love your local market” celebrates our market culture, during a fortnight in May each year.
More than 1,200 markets took place in 2015 celebrating over 7,000 events and market days
It’s now in its fifth year – but we don’t think that Boston has ever taken part – and are we members of Namba?
Worst Street’s Daily Beano recently ran the headline “Calling all  antiques traders,” – with the story: “Boston Borough Council is looking to see if there is any interest from traders to hold an antiques fair in Boston Market Place.”
This is not how it is done.
Companies which organise fairs of all kinds can easily be found – and if Worst Street tries to organise its own, it will assuredly end in tears.
Shortly after Christmas, we paid a visit to Buxton in Derbyshire whose population is just one third that of Boston.
Across the year, the town’s Pavilion Gardens will host afternoon dances. farmers' markets, Saturday bazaars, craft and jewellery shows, an artist and designer fair, garden plants and craft shows – plus seasonal events including an Easter extravaganza, spring spectacular, evening food and drink festival, summer fete, family festival, special summer outdoor market, the Great Peak District Fair and Buxton beer festival, a grand bazaar and Buxton Christmas lights switch on.

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