Your chance to give your views on winter festivals- Kevin Buckle

I’m not a big fan of Edinburgh Council consultations, but their most recent one on the future of the winter festivals is certainly better than most.

Photographer-Ian Georgeson-
Owner of Avalanche records Kevin Buckle at his shop in the Grassmarket
Photographer-Ian Georgeson- Owner of Avalanche records Kevin Buckle at his shop in the Grassmarket

Often the questioning is clearly trying to steer people one particular way and leaving answers, especially critical ones, can be quite difficult.

However, this consultation on whether the winter festivals should go ahead next year, and if they do in what form, covers all the bases, from having nothing to having a much reduced offering to having much the same as before, but spread more widely.

One thing I think that everybody agrees on is that things can not continue as they are and Covid has only focused that need for change even more.

I found the form easy to fill out and certainly from my own point of view I stated the obvious need for full time local businesses to benefit and crowds to be spread more evenly across the city.

The situation is more nuanced than often people realise, especially when it comes to independent businesses.

Most of these businesses who trade all year simply want to people to come to their shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

What they don’t want or need is to be offered a further opportunity to trade elsewhere and often nearby, which only increases their overheads.

On the other hand there are independent businesses whose business model is not to trade all year but just to pop up in the good times and keep their heads down in the leaner months. They can often make enough this way to support themselves all year.

What, of course, the businesses trading all year feel about this is obvious and the situation is made worse when these pop-up businesses are not even local, and those complaining that they are losing valuable income are told that these extra stalls are necessary because they can’t cope - something that simply has no basis in fact.

Even within these pop-up businesses some have good reason to take time off. Artists, for instance, can not make all they need and trade all year, so it is quite sensible to take off the months between Christmas and Easter so that they can build up their stock.

Others treat having a pop-up stall as a hobby as they already have a comfortable income.

By far the biggest issue, especially at Christmas, is those selling goods cheaply imported from India and the Far East. All these businesses are independent but they need to be treated very differently, which rarely happens at the moment.

On the other hand, those shops that are part of a chain need to make money during the busy times too, and the number of larger businesses now failing points to that.

There are, of course, many other issues addressed in the consultation, which hopefully people will take time to fill in, but for businesses the need has never been greater for both change and support.

Winter Festivals 2022 Onwards