‘Not a lot we can do’ - Organisers ‘sad’ as only two traders turn up to market relaunch
PUBLISHED: 15:50 05 June 2020 | UPDATED: 08:48 06 June 2020
A Norfolk town’s market reopened for the first time since lockdown despite a lack of traders turning up.
Downham Market Town Council reopened its market on Friday, June 5, under social distancing measures enforced by Phoenix Events (East) Ltd.
The reopening has sparked debate in the local community with some questioning the town council’s delayed approach to getting traders back while others say it should remain closed until the current situation is clearer.
Discussions to reopen have been ongoing for weeks and the council decided to trial the market as part of a “phased” plan, which would see five food stalls return initially. However, only two traders turned up on Friday.
Elaine Oliver, town clerk, said: “We did have five stalls but people did not want to turn up, all we’re trying to do is comply with regulation and our insurance company.
“We’ve been working on it for weeks and by Wednesday night we were down to two traders. If they don’t come there’s not a lot we can do.”
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The town’s mayor Becky Hayes visited the market to show her support to the traders and deliver the council’s home-made face masks for the public to use.
Mrs Hayes said: “We’re sad a lot of stalls didn’t turn up. I think people thought we weren’t prepared enough.
“People have been glad to see it open and pleased with how its managed and working.”
She rejected claims the market was going to close, saying the council is in fact looking at ways to expand it.
She added: “Over the coming weeks we’re hoping to get back more stalls and extend opening times.”
The two stalls that returned to the Town Hall car park were The Norfolk Cheese Company and traditional fishmonger Rout’s of Wisbech.
Nina Narramore, owner of The Norfolk Cheese Company, has traded at Downham’s market every Friday for the last two years.
She said: “I’m glad to be back but there are so many restrictions.
“It’s been fairly busy but it’s such a shame it couldn’t work for the other traders.
“Our little market has a lovely community spirit and I missed it.
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“People have been really lovely, welcoming me back. I think people are just pleased for some sort of normality.
“People have been buying a lot more from me, I forgot how much people love cheese.”
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The business has been trading at Wisbech market for the past four weeks and has been offering door-step delivery during lockdown.
It is also planning to launch an online shop in July.
Michelle Lincoln, who runs the Rout’s of Wisbech stall, said the wet weather affected people turning up to the market.
She said: “For us it’s been busy, for the first day of opening I found it quite good.
“I was told five stalls would be here. It’s a trial day, so if everyone had turned up, we would have seen what it would have been like.
“It’s the first day back and for the weather to be like this, it’s a shame.”
Staff at Phoenix Events began work at 6.30am to put in social distancing measures such as a walkway and two metre distancing, in line with guidelines.
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Adam Harding, director, said: “It has been weird as the barriers are usually used for running events so it’s definitely been a change of purpose.
“We did get a comment from someone saying ‘Is this a pop concert?’
“It’s nice to see people back. The market is generally a place to enjoy and a social thing for most people, so we’re pleased to help get that going again.
“We came across an old couple who hadn’t been out for anything, so this gave them the confidence to get out and back into the community.”
Mr Harding said that the day had not been without its issues and a man had turned up trying to remove part of the equipment that was in place.
Mrs Oliver said: “There was an altercation and staff had to put up with abusive behaviour.
“We have worked really hard and did all we can do, so it’s hard when we get all the abuse.”
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