Thanks for all the support the campaign has received so far. We have 196 signatories to the Petition on the Derbyshire Dales website http://bit.ly/yYZ4nY . Not only is this a sizeable number with 7 days to go but the names are from local people, retailers, and business people from the town. There may also be a few to add from paper petitions too.
Importantly, the letters in the Ashbourne News Telegraph were unanimously supportive of the value of the market as it is but also its significance to the MARKET town of Ashbourne. The Town Council have been tremendously supportive to the campaign and have publicly expressed “100% support for the market” as well as sitting down for sensible discussions with the traders. Bramall’s stepped forward and offered their loo for the traders. I’ve written to the Town Council, the Ashbourne Partnership and the DDDC to give my ideas on the way forward.
Even if 100% of Ashbourne residents support the idea there is still the basic underlying issue. The cost of running the market at its current size is more than the rental for the stalls and this is in the face of the demand placed on Derbyshire Dales District Council to reduce its costs dramatically.
There have been some important developments in addition to the news above. Through the period, new traders have appeared and some have stayed. Saturday’s market had 15 traders and a steady footfall of visitors and this was without some of the regulars. In total, the number of individual stallholders who have appeared in the last 2 months will be around 25 but unfortunately many only stay for one or two weeks. This will be due to the lack of footfall or immediate success. The market does work for the regular traders and so this can be overcome. The two main shortfalls on the market currently are food providers (snacks and coffee) and greengrocers. Nevertheless this potential of new people coming forward needs to be nurtured and incentives put in place to encourage their ongoing commitment – every stall is additional revenue at no extra cost. Turning support from signatories into pounds, shillings and pence would also help but this relies on a good market.
In addition to those who attended there has also been interest from food producers and crafts people in having a stall but information on what commitment is needed, what cost and what insurance is not easy to come by. If there is an FAQ and signup somewhere this needs to be more prominent and publicised without eating into the marketing budget. This is potential being flushed down the drain.
The existing traders and the identified potential combined with the expression of local support, to me, indicates there already is a feasible case for maintaining the Ashbourne market even at its current levels. DDDC could take the view that it would be better to turn its cost reduction sites to other areas as the amounts of money in maintaining the market are trivial compared to the task in hand. A better solution gives a win-win to everyone and the clues on how this could be achieved were evidence again last week.
The Ashbourne Telegraph covered Shrovetide superbly again but in amongst the coverage of the games were the side stories about other related activities. Shrovetide is growing due to the ancillary activities taking place. I loved reading about Councillor Steve Bull visiting local schools, throwing up a ball for the kids, and then the children paint their own balls followed by a treasure hunt to find them in local shops around the town. There are also new church services to bless the Shrovetide ball. In recent years Sellors have introduced the synchronising of time for the marshalls and offering engraved watches to scorers. These each add weight and opportunity around something which is part of the town heritage – drawing people into the town centre and its shops. More people in the town means more demand for accommodation. We are good at this around all our events and the organic expansion spreads the load across those with a vested interest as well as the organising committees.
If only we could do this on a wider scale, adding a clearer commercial plan to our tourist attractions. This is where the appeal of the Portas Report Town Team comes. It’s so obvious that there should be structure and a plan for the Ashbourne High Street but it seems that there is a view that if we set up the attractions the rest will come. I’m not blind to the fact that many towns are stumbling at this point. Many towns are looking at applying for Portas Pilots but can’t get the organisation structure in place – look on Google at Boston, Diss and Dorking for this. But my question would be – how can we not have this in place? How is anything going to progress without it? Question 1 on the very short application form is around expressing in less than 300 words what your High Street strategy is. Seems straightforward enough to me but could any organisation in Ashbourne do this. Regardless of whether we apply or not the decision should not be based on whether we could even fill out the form!
Thank you again for your support. In the final push over the next seven days please make sure your signature is there if you feel like I do and then also point your friends in the direction of the link too. As ever all ideas are welcome! Share them with the Ashbourne Telegraph, the Council, the Partnership please.