Gina Davidson: Goodwill to stall men? Aye right

The German market is an Edinburgh Christmas favourite. Picture: Ian Georgeson
The German market is an Edinburgh Christmas favourite. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IT is supposed to be a time of peace and goodwill. So when Edinburgh’s Christmas gets going I’ll have to stop being curmudgeonly about the city’s celebrations, join in and feel all “Christmassy” as I watch the ice-skaters and drink some gluhwein.

Oh no, sorry, I won’t be doing that this year because the Germans are not coming. The traders who have been flying over for the last decade to inject a little Bavarian bonhomie into the Edinburgh atmos – becoming as traditional as the Norwegian tree delivery – have been told in no uncertain terms they can’t put their winter blankets down on the stall spaces in East Princes Street Gardens.

While I laughed at their complaint that the whole event was becoming too “commercial” as pitch prices have soared by 50 per cent, literally pricing some out of the market, it’s never been anything but a financial enterprise and their wares have always been expensive. Despite that, the absence of the German market will be sorely felt by those of us who love a bit of Deutsch craftwork and the chance to eat our body weight in soft ginger biscuits.

The decision has been made by the new Christmas organiser Underbelly – the London-based company which has a very profitable symbiotic relationship with Edinburgh through its Fringe venues. It decided that these small traders who took a risk in coming to the city a decade ago to try and sell their wares and found a welcome warm enough – and financially rewarding enough – to keep coming back didn’t “fit the profile” envisaged for the Christmas markets.

Yet Underbelly’s vision is for a 138-stall European market, and the Germans are nothing if not fully paid-up members of the European project. So why dump them?

Also concerning is the fact that the organisers have apparently also told city traders there are no available spaces for them, despite there being plans for a 26-stall “Scottish market”.

Now there’s an odd idea anyway, given that this is the capital of Scotland and Scottish produce can be purchased all over the city, but let’s go with it. So where will those stall-holders come from if not Edinburgh?

Will they be London-based Scottish businesses with tartan ribbons round expensive trinkets? I can’t imagine for instance that the Gold Brothers will be there as they surely wouldn’t fit “with the profile envisaged”.

But in that single phrase, we have the whole reasoning behind who gets a pitch and who doesn’t. The faces of some regular stall-holders obviously just don’t fit.

Given that Angel Events – sub-contracted by Underbelly to organise the market – runs similar events in Hyde Park, including a German market, why would it scrap the idea for Edinburgh when it’s good enough for Londoners?

Why would it change a tried and tested formula? Unless it just wants to deal with the same traders it already uses in London – probably keeps its costs down.

So much for individualism and “Edinburgh’s Christmas”. Of course, festivals change. There was a time when Edinburgh’s Christmas amounted to a trip to Jenners to see the enormous tree and the lights in George Street, and apparently the attractions organised over the last decade had been considered by some to have “grown stale”.

No doubt some of what Underbelly has planned for the winter festival will be fantastic. But there are traditions and people who shouldn’t be as easily discarded as used wrapping paper. To use a good Edinburgh word, behaviour like that is just shan.

Guilty should have to pay up

IS anyone surprised that property repairs department records dealing with statutory notices have gone missing from council filing cabinets? Given that the department was run as a mini-fiefdom with no-one in senior management aware of what was happening and there are now allegations of fraud and corruption being investigated by police, it should hardly raise an eyebrow that not everything was written down and filed in the appropriate folders.

Around £1 million may have to be written off. If fraud is upheld, those responsible should be made to pay back the proceeds of their crimes.

I’m on a breed to know basis

IT was a fantastic coup for Edinburgh Zoo to be allowed to host a pair for a decade – in the sense that it has provided a vital financial boost to the institution as visitor numbers rose. A baby panda would have been like winning the golden ticket.

It’s not happened yet, but I for one would be delighted to only hear about it when a cub is actually born. I’m so over all the panda-monium.

ROCKY ROAD AHEAD

TRADERS in the West End are delighted that the tram works have gone and their businesses somehow managed to survive the last five years . . . just in time for a cost of living crisis to hit the tills.

Ashes report delay is a sensible move

IN three months Dame Elish Angiolini’s report into the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal will be made public and the parents involved should hopefully, finally, have some answers.

The timing of her report has been put back to January to ensure that yet another Christmas is not rent with the emotional upset that it will undoubtedly bring. Last year the scandal only came to light a few weeks before Christmas, cancelling the event in many households affected. Pushing publication back is the right thing to do – parents have already spent a year wondering why their children’s ashes were buried rather than being returned to them. Let them enjoy Christmas as well as they can without reliving their loss again.