A letter of Valediction to Lincoln Christmas Market, from Andy Jupp, Lincoln Christmas Market trader and director of www.paperstarlights.com
To whomsoever it concerns: Lincoln Christmas Market is Dead.
Whatever comes next, whatever position we take, we owe it to one another and to the Market itself to lay it to rest.
We have all of us been instrumental in making Lincoln Christmas Market what it is. Showmen, traders, charities, visitors, residents, management.
We should reflect on what we have all achieved together.
Whatever the words “ Lincoln Christmas Market “ conjure up for us – excitement, fear, joy, hassle - it is true. And there lies the rub : Lincoln Christmas Market was unique because it was the sum of its parts.
Lincoln Christmas Market is to the Christmas market industry what the Glastonbury Festival is to the festival industry. It is an event of deep cultural significance and clarity.
For the last 27 years I have traded at the market. Firstly from the side of a rust red van on Westgate, then for so many years at the bottom of the Lincoln Castle ramp at the entrance to Stokes and the lawns.
We traded every year since then, except for the infamous year of the snow, and the yet more infamous year of the no snow.
And here’s the thing – I shall be a poorer man for this. Financially, yes, of course. By the type of percentage that would change a local governments fiscal course. One of those rare occasions where trickle down economics actually works.
Photo by Lorna Jenkinson, 2018.
But much more than that, coming to Lincoln has for me, as I know it has for so many, become a way of life. A landmark and marker of my life, it has shaped me, and I it. It is a community of people who will never exist again. One of the largest expositions of independent businesses ever in the UK. A coming together of disparates, finding common ground in one colossal mutual effort to invent and create a public event - a carnival of indies creating the largest free family festival in the UK. The sum of so many parts – with generational investments in infrastructure, staff, supply chains.
Lincoln Christmas Market will always be the Christmas market. Its character was without match. I challenge us all to define it. A coming together of so many parts. Invisible to most, the event was such a success because of the effort of so many.
I acknowledge you all, and thank you for the comradery, support, and pints. The joys and disasters, frustrations and rewards.
I never got the chance to take my Victorian top hat off to you, one last time. I shall miss the Oom-pah, the gluhwein and sausages, and the smiling faces of old and new customers.
And yes, I shall miss the crowds. The endless stream of friends and families pouring through the cities pavements, shops, restaurants, hotels and pubs. Spending money, spreading joy, and ultimately, sadly, getting in the way.
Lincoln is where the industry started in the UK, and at a time when we desire authenticity more than ever, its untimely passing will be felt by, and have consequences for, many thousands of people. The golden goose is gone.
So we shall grieve for ourselves, and for it. We shall miss the mayhem, the endless vans, and confusion. The risks we all took, the adventures we’ve had, the friends we’ve made.
It is most unusual, to experience the death of a tradition. Traditions are what they are because they continue. And because they grow deep roots and become a culture.
I consider it a privilege to have been a part of one of the largest mobilisations of independent businesses in the UK to have ever taken place. And I shall grieve for not just the 4 days, but the shape and pattern it gave to my life.
At the back of Lincoln Cathedral, a statue of Alfred Lord Tennyson stands, contemplating the flower in the crannied wall. Every morning on the way to market I would sit and contemplate with him, momentarily. But it is other words from Tennyson that comfort me now :
“ I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all. “
Whilst the public narrative has to look to the future, for so many thousands of people the end of Lincoln Christmas Market is an end to a way of life.
What would be the real tragedy is not to realise and embrace the cultural capital that exists within the market - the knowledge, professionalism, skills, equity, passion of every stake-holder.
So let us for a moment ignore the folly and recriminations. Let’s take a deep breath. Relax. Breathe in, breathe out.
And let us shout out together with one last Hurrrah for the Best Christmas Market ever in the UK.
And then let’s get to work.
God Bless us All ! Everyone !