Trader bids farewell to Bury St Edmunds market, saying Christmas Fayre cancellation was 'the nail in the coffin'
A familiar face on Bury St Edmunds market has pitched his stall for the last time, citing the cancellation of the Christmas Fayre as a major factor in his decision.
Darren Old’s card stall was on Cornhill for its final day on Saturday after he decided he could not ‘wait and see’ for another year.
It means the trader – who had owned the stall since 2002 – will have his weekends free for the first time in more than two decades.
“A lot of people came to say goodbye which was good, as I wanted to say goodbye to all my customers, and I received lots of farewell gifts. It was emotional,” said Darren, 47.
Market trading is in his blood as before taking on the card stall, Darren helped out on his father’s watch stall.
When he heard the card stall owner had ‘had enough’, Darren said he would buy it.
“I thought it would be something to last me a few years and tide me over, but 20 years later I was still there,” said Darren.
“There have been a lot of changes in that time. The older generation of market traders moved on, retired or passed away, but the younger generation hasn’t come through to replace them.
“My brother on the watch stall – who’s 42 – and I are probably some of the youngest traders left.
“Now, we also need more coaches coming back on a Wednesday. They are not coming at the moment and it has an impact on the market.”
But Darren said the cancellation of the Christmas Fayre was ‘the nail in the coffin’.
The long-running Christmas Fayre was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.
This week, event organiser West Suffolk Council said no decision had yet been made on the 2022 fayre.
“The fayre was 50 per cent of my November turnover. Over the years I have probably lost 10 per cent of my turnover, but because of the Christmas Fayre we got that back. To lose 50 per cent in November and then not really get an answer from the council on whether the fayre would be back this year meant I couldn’t carry on," said Darren.
“Everyone knows what an advertisement for the town the fayre is. If you speak to every market trader, I bet every one would say they had customers throughout the year who first visited Bury for the fayre.”
Now Darren, who was on the board of the National Market Traders’ Federation for nearly 10 years, will enjoy his weekends off and devote more time to his rental property maintenance business, which flourished during the pandemic.
“I’m going to miss my customers as I know a lot of people. My wife used to dread going shopping as it takes us hours to get round the supermarket.
“I shall also miss the income, but time with my family is definitely more important,” added Darren.
In a statement, a West Suffolk Council spokesperson said: “It is entirely wrong to suggest any decision has been made with regard Christmas events in 2022.
"We and our partners will be evaluating the success of the work that took place to put on a mix of events for Christmas 2021 and looking at our options.
"We are sorry Mr Old feels the way he does, but the pandemic meant it would have been irresponsible to encourage 130,000 people into the town centre, especially at a time when so many other locations across the UK and Europe were cancelling their events due to rising Covid-19 cases."