Petition launched as Mart rolls into King’s Lynn

PUBLISHED: 17:04 12 February 2013 | UPDATED: 17:04 12 February 2013

The Mart has arrived in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

The Mart has arrived in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

Preparations for King’s Lynn Mart were in full swing tonight, as campaigners started a petition to safeguard the two-week-long fair.

The Mart, which opens on Valentine’s Day, has traditionally run for two weeks since being granted a Royal Charter more than 800 years ago.

But this year it will be closing two days early and West Norfolk council wants the fair, which takes over the Tuesday Market Place during its stay, to be reduced to eight days.

An online petition has been started in support of the Mart remaining in the town for two weeks.

Organiser Harry Overton said: “I want this petition to be for the people of King’s Lynn. The council has said that there isn’t support for the Mart and we need to show that there is.

“I’m fully in support of the Royal Charter. They’re saying that the Mart isn’t the same as the charter intended but it has evolved.

“The Royal Charter as it was set out is as a market fair but is essentially the same, it has just been modernised. There is still food being sold,

“The council has used the Royal Charter to promote the mart and the town before so it’s very disappointing.”

More than over 100 names have already signed the online petition. They included Julia Whitmore, from Lynn, who said: “We all enjoyed it as children and teenagers, my children all enjoyed it, now I want my grand-children and their future children to enjoy it to.”

Fellow signatory Robert Kemp-Small, also of Lynn, said: “I believe in King’s Lynn keeping its heritage, the showmen have always brought fun and excitement to King’s Lynn and form a history of their own, it would be a great shame to lose a great bit of British history.”

Marc Whitcombe, from Brighton, said: “We’ve always liked the fair when visiting my parents as it’s somewhere all three generations of our family can enjoy. If it wasn’t there I think we might end up spending our day in another town.”

Donald Gray, chief steward of the Mart, who grew up in West Norfolk, said: “All the showmen love coming to Lynn, it’s got the history.

“It’s the first recognised fair of the year and the charter dates back to the days of King John.”

West Norfolk council, which is behind moves to shorten the Mart, said: “The petition process allows people to demonstrate their strength of feeling on key issues and if adequately supported will prompt debate of the matter at Full Council.

“The changes that have been adopted were the recommendations of a task group which included representatives of the Showmans’ Guild. Before making its recommendations the group consulted with interested parties.”

The changes were proposed after an investigation into the death of two-year-old Rio Bell, who died after he was hit by a car in King Street, near the Mart, last February.

The Mart will be opened by the mayor of West Norfolk, Geoffrey Wareham, on Thursday, and will end on Sunday, February 24.

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