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‘Devoid of ambition’ – Calls to start Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre from scratch

PUBLISHED: 19:00 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:15 13 November 2018

Thousands flock to Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre each year - and is among the biggest in the country Picture: GREGG BROWN

Thousands flock to Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre each year - and is among the biggest in the country Picture: GREGG BROWN

Recommendations for the future of Bury St Edmunds’ Christmas Fayre have been slammed as “devoid of ambition” – with calls made to start 2020’s event from scratch.

One of the recommendations for the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre is to rotate stalls each year Picture: GREGG BROWNOne of the recommendations for the Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre is to rotate stalls each year Picture: GREGG BROWN

A summer task force assessing the future of the fayre reported its findings in a report to St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils’ scrutiny committees this week.

The recommendations were for the council to back running the fayre itself for the next three years, while considering sponsorship opportunities going forward.

It also proposed containing food stalls in one area and rotating stalls annually.

But at St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s scrutiny on Wednesday, councillors gave a scathing assessment of the plans.

Richard Rout said the future plan for the fayre was Richard Rout said the future plan for the fayre was "devoid of ambition" Picture: SCC

Richard Rout said: “Broadly I find it devoid of ambition.

“We are taking all our best stalls and putting them in one place, which actually is a large health and safety risk and some of the other stalls rely on the footfall from browsing.”

Councillors said the whole of the town’s Christmas offering needed to be reviewed and joined up to create a “Christmas in Bury” experience, rather than just a four-day fayre.

Paul Hopfensperger has been involved in the fayre for more than 15 years, having previously worked with the town council.

Paul Hopfensperger said a major rethink of the fayre's offering was needed after next year's event Picture: PHIL MORLEYPaul Hopfensperger said a major rethink of the fayre's offering was needed after next year's event Picture: PHIL MORLEY

He said a wholesale review needed to take place with businesses, town councils and tourism bodies, to develop an event more in line with European Christmas markets.

“I don’t support this decision because I think we still go it wrong,” he said.

“It’s good that everyone enjoys it but they don’t know any different [from what has been in previous years].”

The committee backed the proposals subject to an annual review in order to allow an event to go ahead, but called for a thorough review next year which could establish it from scratch.

The joint executive of both councils will decide whether to back the recommendations, as well as a three year action plan when it meets at the end of the month.

Diane Hind, committee chairman, said there had been disagreements over whether the fayre should be four days or more.

But the task force had tried to come up with recommendations which reflected the broad appeal, she added.

This year’s fayre runs from November 22-25, featuring scores of stalls for food, drink and gifts, as well as funfair, Santa’s Grotto, street entertainment and farmers market.

New for 2018 are the Haart community stage in the Abbey Gardens, toy making workshops at the Guildhall and the Elves Wonderland in St John’s Street.

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