So the meeting to review the markets has been put back to a special meeting in Matlock on 22nd March which is excellent news. It still leaves a challenge for the groundswell of opinion against closure to coalesce and find leadership for a winning plan.
There are ideas; lots of ideas but who should lead this? The traders themselves are trying to unite but they are starting from a position of weakness working hard to protect their livelihood. Vic Thorpe has done an excellent job in publicising and getting support but requires a more holistic solution.
At the meeting with the Town Council a set of ideas for revamping the Ashbourne Market were laid out by the traders which received enthusiastic support:
1. Nostalgia weekends – Easter, August Bank Holiday and the Queen’s jubilee. These are very popular in the North East and could include tea dances in the Town Hall, military parades, reenactment groups, school projects etc. There is lots of potential here with a proven formula and playing to Ashbourne’s strengths
2. Craft Fair on Thursday and Saturday once a month mixed in with the normal market and also utilising the Town Hall. Ashbourne has lots of talented craftspeople in the town and surrounding area. The popup shop just before Christmas showed what could be done.
3. Farmers Market once a month on Thursday and Saturday. This would not clash with the ones in Bakewell and Belper to make it possible that some of the stallholders could also come to Ashbourne.
4. Charity stalls. One on a Thursday and two on Saturday offered to local organisations. This automatically draws support from the organisation members friends and family as well as offering support.
5. Themed markets for Shrovetide, Highland Gathering, Christmas and Remembrance
6. Antiques Fair with a two day event and stalls spread through the Town rather than closing off streets. This would encourage the use of Ashbourne accommodation and restaurants
7. Reduced rates for perishable goods stalls and incentives for them becoming permanent stallholders
8. Better signage I.e. Market this way or on the car park ticket machines
9. Advertising in the Ashbourne Telegraph and local radio informing who is on the market and what is being sold. New traders to get a free spot on local radio or newspaper
10. Privatisation of the market. Possibly by a private company. This has been done before in towns such as Bolsover
There are conversations taking place and great creativity but the thing missing is organisation and leadership. Who is the right organisation to take it forward? A local entrepreneur taking it private? Local organisations picking up the idea of the nostalgia weekends e.g. the Lions? The Ashbourne Town Partnership – this addresses some of the issues on their agenda? Does the town council pitch for some of the Portas Pilot funding?
Will any of the current conversations materialise into a credible plan going forward?