THEY have caused chaos and forced shops to close, but now the answer to tram trouble in the West End has been revealed – a Madonna “flashmob”.
Revellers heading to the Queen of Pop’s Murrayfield concert on July 21 are being urged to gather in the struggling district for an impromptu dance to her hits.
Tram chiefs are to hold the flashmob in an attempt to boost the fortunes of ailing businesses in the area.
Project bosses have released £70,000 from a contingency fund for a publicity drive to revive the area, with the event on the list of key pledges.
However, traders who have been pleading for signs to inform shoppers the district is open for business today urged them to sort out the signs first.
Traders said the simple option had been shunned in favour of staging a trendy event, at which prizes will be handed out.
Tram chiefs also plan to promote the West End through Facebook and intend to run an advertising campaign.
Grant McKeenan, who runs the Copymade shop in West Maitland Street, said: “My biggest complaint is that there are no signs in Haymarket or Princes Street saying ‘business as usual’. In fact, the only signs up are those that tell you to avoid the area.
“I’m hugely sceptical about these flashmobs, and I hope they’re not spending money on nonsense.”
Michael Apter, chairman of the West End Association and owner of the Paper Tiger stores, said traders would rather have improved signs.
He said: “We’ve been asking for directional signage explaining where the works are since Christmas and we are still waiting for that.
“Stores are closing every day, people are losing their jobs, losing money left, right and centre because of the works.
“We do need a stream of activities and promotions and the adverts on the buses, the railways, are welcome, but there are some basic things the council could do to help but seem incapable of doing, such as putting up a few signs.”
Tram chiefs launched the £175,000 Open for Business scheme in an attempt to attract shoppers back, but traders have derided their efforts and have pointed to frequent delays.
Last month, the Evening News revealed how tram chiefs had taken over the former Sugacane sweet shop, which said it folded due to the works, and is transforming it into an information shop at a cost of £160,000.
Among the measures announced today include advertisements on Lothian Buses and ScotRail trains, with regular street markets planned.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader-elect, said: “I would encourage businesses to work with council officials to help build the best case possible for a review in rates.”
Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, claimed the package of measures was well received by local businesses. He added: “We have listened to what local traders say they need through the West End Focus Group and we look forward to delivering this creative programme in the coming months.”
Open for business
New Open For Business pledges include:
• Advertising packages with Lothian Buses and Scotrail along with newspaper, radio and magazine adverts.
• West End festivals, regular street markets, Madonna “flashmob” event
• New Facebook community page developed
• West End On Tour – an initiative to showcase West End businesses at large city centre workplaces
• West End Passport – a booklet showcasing what’s on offer in the West End
• Promotional links with the Edinburgh Wheel to help promote businesses and drive footfall to the West End.