Local street traders claim they have been left out in the cold at Derry’s Christmas Market.
Thousands of shoppers have been enjoying the city’s first effort at hosting the event which opened last weekend. However, some of those who trade in Waterloo Place and Guildhall Square all year round have voiced their anger at being unable to have their slice of the brisk Christmas trade.
They say they cannot afford the cost of a stall in the Christmas Market, which is managed by Dublin-based company VSC Events at the request of Derry City Council. They further state that even if they could afford the price tag, there would be no space to accommodate them on the dates they wish to trade.
Kathleen Campbell, of Diane’s Wee Quilts, said: “Local traders who trade here throughout the year in the Walled City Market are being pushed out. Christmas time is when we hope to make up for lost trade but this year we can’t trade in the run-up to Christmas. On top of that local traders cannot afford the fee of £200 for two days, we usually pay £50.”
Photographer David Montgomery added: “Christmas is usually our best trading of the year but this year the council decided to follow Belfast and have a Christmas market with traders brought in from outside the area. We’re being frozen out. It’s a combination of being priced out and pushed out. It’s totally unfair.” he said. He added that traders fear they will face a similar scenario during the City of Culture year.
Vanessa Clarke, of VSC Events, said that it was very unfortunate that “only a certain amount of space was available on the site” but that attempts were made to accommodate everyone. She said that many of the local traders expressed an interest in trading over the same period of days and that it was not possible to accommodate everyone as other traders had signed up for the full duration of the market.
She added that it must be remembered it is “year one of the market” and that problems can arise during a first attempt. She explained that the cost of a stall at the market reflected the costs of organising the event.
A spokesperson for Derry City Council said that a key element of the market is the inclusion of local traders, adding that around 40 per cent of the retailers come from the city and North West region. “The Council, recognising the opportunity for Walled City Market traders to be part of this unique city experience, negotiated a discounted rate for them to join the market on suitable dates.
“The Council has also met with and continues to work closely with all of the traders to resolve any issues that have come up relating to cost and location to ensure the success of the market for everyone involved.”