This is the time of year when we hear of Christmas markets springing up in various towns. It seems to have been an idea originating from some European countries who have been creating these seasonal markets not just for a number of years, but reaching back into historic traditions. A colourful and happy addition to the mid-winter scene.
The idea has only very slowly been catching on in the UK and while, certainly, there have been markets with a seasonal theme springing up in the last few years, only a few have attempted to compete in variety, colour and general exuberance with those on the continent.
In pre-Covid times we have had “Christmas in Rye”, a highly enjoyable and successful event that has brought many visitors into the town. So why not combine this in the future with a proper Christmas market? The market could extend over at least a long weekend (say, Friday to Monday), the high street closed to traffic except as access for residents only to the upper part of the Citadel (via a two-way East Street) enabling the greater part of the high street to be pedestrianised and filled with stalls, maybe a central Christmas tree, existing shops, (with their Wanderland windows) and including tea/coffee shops and restaurants extending onto the pavements.
Rye, with its history and traditions is an obvious location for something like this. Other festivals have shown that visitors are quite prepared to travel significant distances to attend events here and there seems no reason to believe that such a market with quality goods, together with its associated events, should not be a resounding success, bringing much needed visitors and money into the town.
Of course something like this would require a dedicated organiser as well as funding to set it up and stick with it while its reputation grew as THE place to go to at Christmas.
But pedestrianising the high street for a few days would also demonstrate something else: namely, that it can be done. And if it can be done for a few days, why not make it permanent?
There will, of course be the usual cry from some traders that it will ruin their business if customers can no longer park outside their shop. However as few customers can do this anyway as existing parking spaces are invariably full, it is a somewhat spurious argument, particularly as pedestrianisation has shown itself to be a success elsewhere in bringing people into an area rather than driving them away.
Residents’ vehicles would be allowed access to transit the upper and lower ends of the high street (but not to park there) and delivery vans would also be allowed. The numbers of these movements would be relatively small and could be quite acceptable, as they are in many other pedestrian areas in towns around the country.
This could be a change that would benefit almost everybody. All it requires is the will to accept a change and, in the case of the Christmas market, an entrepreneur with the vision to get it done. A new year’s thought, perhaps for the town council and the re-vamped chamber of commerce.
Image Credits: John Minter .