Take a walk through Stratford’s Christmas market
STRATFORD’s Victorian Christmas Market filled the streets with people for three days but was canceled on its last day due to snow and ice.
The decision to halt trading on Sunday (December 11) sparked anger from many visitors who had traveled from far and wide to try one of the country’s largest Christmas markets.
For many Christmas lovers, the prospect of a Victorian market on snow-covered streets was idyllic, but for council leaders and market organizers it was a health and safety issue and too much of a risk.
It wasn’t the only seasonal problem for Stratford’s citizen leaders, as traffic jams filled the streets around the city center, with hour-and-a-half delays reported by drivers stuck in queues.
This came despite assurances last year that traffic management would be improved for 2022.
Last year Stratford Borough Council said: ‘As this is a free event in the city centre, it is very difficult to estimate attendance; However, given the number of visitors, city councils will consider what additional measures can be taken to manage traffic flow and parking in and around the city ahead of next year’s event,” they said.
But what lessons have been learned? Ambulances and emergency services struggled to find a clear route through the stop-and-go traffic, and for many local residents, it was quicker — and less stressful — to get into town. Banbury Road, Warwick Road and Shipston Road came to a standstill while exhaust fumes filled the air, even on Sunday as people arrived in town and found market traders packing up their belongings.
However, for the three days that the market was open, the town was packed with shoppers eager to get Christmas gifts, sample the many food stalls, and get some Christmas entertainment.
Stratford County Council issued a statement this week to explain the decision to end the market a day early.
It states: “The Stratford-upon-Avon Victorian Christmas Market was once again extremely successful, attracting a significant number of visitors to the city
“An improved traffic management plan was put in place for this year’s event, which included the use of Stratford Park and Ride in Bishopton. As a result, it was reported that access to and from downtown car parks was much faster than in previous years. We will continue to try to improve traffic management but are constrained by the limitations of the existing road network.
“On Sunday around 6.30 a.m. heavy snowfall began in the city center, which was not forecast. In accordance with the event management plan, a tour of the event space was conducted at 7.30am. Senior officials from the event security contractor, Stratford District Council, Stratford Town Council and market operator LSD Promotions Ltd took the joint decision to cancel the event around 8am for health and safety reasons.
“LSD Promotions Ltd informed traders of the decision and the SDC updated all forms of social and other media.
“SDC car park staff have been dispatched to the main car parks to inform visitors of the cancellation of the event. Warwickshire Police urged motorists in the Stratford area to avoid travel unless it was absolutely necessary. There have been reports of several road accidents on the main roads leading into the city, including one involving three cars at once.
“It is too early to comment on the impact of the Victorian Christmas market on shops and businesses, but overall feedback has been very positive.”
The multi-frequency on Sunday would still have been positive for many inner-city businesses, but there were still questions as to whether the cancellation of the market was the right decision.
Stratford resident James Charlett told the Herald: “The Christmas Market looked like it was going to be a huge hit and the town was on the move which was great.
“We were visiting friends on Saturday and at 11:45am traffic was backing up past the Mercedes workshop – there was a 1.5 hour queue to get into town.
“The market closure was an absolute disgrace. We walked around town at 11am [on Sunday] and it blew. Despite the snow, the roads were clear, it was perfectly safe.
“I spoke to one of the dealers who was on the verge of tears. She said the dealers were not consulted and they were all set up when the decision was made. The city was probably busier than on Saturday. There were no health and safety issues as all other businesses including the Maybird and all restaurants were open.”
It wasn’t the first time the Victorian Market has been canceled due to the weather. The third and final day – a Sunday – of the first-ever market in 2017 was canceled because snow was forecast the night before.