Grassmarket gets a global boost in tourism campaign

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With complaints of drunken antisocial behaviour and the dubious honour of being named one of the Lothians’ worst areas for public urination, the Grassmarket has been dogged with negative publicity.

But that hasn’t stopped the famous thoroughfare featuring in a list of the UK’s “most vibrant city centres and piazzas” compiled by national tourism agency Visit Britain –alongside the likes of London’s Covent Garden and the upmarket Victoria Quarter in Leeds.

The historic market square, home to a wealth of independent shops, came 11th out of a total of 12 areas on a list drawn up as part of Visit Britain’s “You’re Invited” campaign, which aims to raise the profile of the UK in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Visit Britain spokeswoman Jo Leslie explained: “We chose the Grassmarket as it’s a great example of a funky shopping area. This is good news for the Grassmarket and hopefully, it will mean lots of people around the world will know about it as a result.”

The chart will accompany one of ten 3D artworks, which have gone on a worldwide tour to promote Britain overseas. Staff manning the installations will be on hand to promote the destinations featured on the list.

The news is sure to delight shopkeepers in the area who have seen the Grassmarket feature in the press for more negative reasons lately.

In August, a campaign to stop people relieving themselves in public was launched at a Grassmarket pub.

Just a few weeks later, fed-up Grassmarket shopkeeper Fawns Reid – whose window was smashed twice in as many months – told how businesses were suffering because of antisocial behaviour in the area, often fuelled by alcohol.

But Fawns, 52, who owns hat shop Fabhatrix at Cowgatehead and is the chair of the Grassmarket Area Traders Association, has welcomed the news that the Grassmarket has been recognised.

She said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have featured in this list and to be up there with such great venues in Britain – it’s really gratifying.”

Ms Reid said that the area had vastly improved following its transformation, completed in 2008, which saw the creation of a pedestrianised area in front of its cafes, bars and restaurants.

“Before, the relationship between the Castle and the Grassmarket was not obvious because there was a just a great big car park,” said Ms Reid.

“But now you can walk about, there’s seating in the square and it’s broken up with trees.”

The council’s economic leader, Councillor Tom Buchanan, added: “Anyone that comes to Edinburgh will find that the newly-refurbished Grassmarket is a very interesting and vibrant place to visit.”

dawn.morrison@edinburghnews.com