Home   Bury St Edmunds   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Call to 'rediscover ambition' over Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre replacement after shoppers' disappointment





Calls have been made for greater ambition over the replacement for Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre after some shoppers were left disappointed.

A linked set of events were held over the November 24 weekend which were run by a new partnership after West Suffolk Council decided not to host the nationally acclaimed fayre that attracted about 130,000 people to Bury.

Although the activities, which included stalls at the cathedral, arc and The Apex, pulled in the crowds and gave Bury’s businesses a boost, many visitors were disappointed with the scale of the event, with some brought on buses from out of town expecting a full scale fayre.

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre attracted about 130,000 people to the town. Picture: Andy and Suzanne Abbott
Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre attracted about 130,000 people to the town. Picture: Andy and Suzanne Abbott

A letter sent to West Suffolk Council and seen by SuffolkNews' sister title the Bury Free Press from a visitor, who knew the festivities would be slimmed down, said they felt sorry for the thousands of people that came to Bury under false pretences.

They said: “We spoke to quite a few people over the weekend including shopkeepers and they all said that they were disappointed that the event wasn’t taking place and they had received lots of complaints.”

It has led to calls for more aspiration over a future event including from Conservative Cllr Richard Rout, who said he made it clear last year as the pandemic eased that the ambition should have been to return to a full Christmas Fayre as it was a huge draw for Bury and the repeat visitors it brought was truly remarkable.

Bury St Edmunds Cllr Richard Rout. Picture: Mark Westley
Bury St Edmunds Cllr Richard Rout. Picture: Mark Westley

He said: “This year, I’ve lost count of the number of people either misunderstanding what was happening or disappointed with what is a much more small scale series of events.

“The Christmas Fayre wasn’t perfect and there was room for improvement but the answer wasn’t to walk away from it.”

Cllr Rout added: “We need to rediscover our ambition for Christmas in Bury and ensure that we return to our position as a premier festive destination.

“The planning for next year needs to start now and it needs to start from a place of aspiration and scale not fear over red tape.”

The Christmas in Bury St Edmunds Partnership includes the arc shopping centre, Our Bury St Edmunds BID, Bury St Edmunds Town Council, St Edmundsbury Cathedral and West Suffolk Council.

Mayor of Bury St Edmunds Peter Thompson. Picture: Mecha Morton
Mayor of Bury St Edmunds Peter Thompson. Picture: Mecha Morton

Cllr Peter Thompson, Mayor of Bury St Edmunds, said although many were disappointed the Christmas Fayre wasn’t held, there were valid reasons for it.

He felt there was now a chance to evaluate whether this year’s event was a net gain for the town or a net detriment.

Cllr Thompson said: “Some visitors were expecting more of a premium experience, more of a destination experience, and some were disappointed with the scaling of what was on offer.

"However, the initial feeling was that the businesses in the town were benefitting as there was more spent in independent retailers.

“If we want to offer a Christmas market, for me, it’s got to be a gold standard experience.”

Sophia and Sebastian Webb with Oscar Long and Inka the Polar Bear during this year's festive events. Picture: Mark Westley
Sophia and Sebastian Webb with Oscar Long and Inka the Polar Bear during this year's festive events. Picture: Mark Westley

One trader, who has been based in the town for 24 years, said they had their best weekend of trading so far this year but it would have been busier if there had been a full-scale Christmas Fayre.

Lesley Bancroft, who runs Buy the Light in Whiting Street, said: “It’s always been a cracking weekend for us so we did miss it.”

She said although this year’s event was never advertised as the big fayre, it was ‘a bit bitty’ and some visitors were disappointed.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton

Mark Cordell, chief executive of Our Bury St Edmunds, said when the council decided not to organise a Christmas Fayre, it was an obvious disappointment but respected its right to make decisions regarding what it delivers, with the hope there would be contingency plans to deal with potential consequences.

The message about the events was understood by those living locally but not by many of those travelling from further afield, said Mr Cordell.

He noted the number of visitors exceeded expectations and the emergency closure of Tayfen Road contributed to traffic.

“There has been considerable negative feedback from some who did attend, which has predominantly been about transport related issues and expectations around anticipating the usual fayre and clearly many were disappointed with what they found,” said Mr Cordell.

He hoped that any negativity some visitors might have towards the town would be short-lived.

Mr Cordell added: “Visitor numbers to the town, that weekend, were very high and with less stalls in the town many of our businesses had very busy days.”

West Suffolk Council previously said it advised coach companies that previously brought visitors to the fayre of the changes.

The council was approached for comment with a list of the issues raised.