February 13, 2024 4.00 pm

Conservatives vow to bring back Lincoln Christmas Market — if they win the local elections

A year has passed since the Labour-led city council decided to cancel the popular four-day event

By Local Democracy Reporter

The local Conservative group has pledged to restore the beloved Lincoln Christmas Market if they gain control of the City of Lincoln Council in this May’s local elections.

Nearly a year has passed since the Labour-led City of Lincoln Council decided to cancel the popular four-day event due to concerns about overcrowding. While some viewed this as an opportunity for a fresh start for the city, others continue to plead for its return.

The event, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2022, attracted around 320,000 visitors, with costly crowd control measures required in the future for safety.

| Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

In place of the market, the City Council introduced a new programme of year-round events and activities, including a small two-day festival named Lincoln Live for local bands, the Monsters Invasion, featuring inflatable monsters atop various city buildings, and an ice sculpture trail.

However, the latter of the two in particular, faced significant criticism from local residents and businesses, with some arguing that the inflatable monsters ruined the city’s views, and that they failed to draw in tourists from outside Lincolnshire to spend money in the city.

Monster Invasion in Lincoln. | Photo: Andrew Scott

Now, Thomas Dyer, the local Conservative leader, has insisted that, should his party come into power, he would revisit plans to hold the market, given the Labour leadership’s apparent reluctance to reconsider their decision, despite the upcoming retirement of leader Ric Metcalfe.

“The Conservative group have been clear that if we were able to form an administration on the city council, we would ask officials to work with partners to formulate plans for a safe and workable Christmas Market,” said Councillor Dyer.

“As we enter a period of city council elections, I will continue to make this point — ultimately, this will be a decision for the people of Lincoln to make in May this year.

“With the upcoming retirement of Councillor Metcalfe, from what I have heard, his potential successors are not likely to divert from his current policy position on this matter.”

Conservative Lincoln MP Karl McCartney has also been campaigning since 2023 for the return of the Christmas Market in 2024.

Although the poor weather might have deterred some people, the Bailgate area of the city was noticeably quieter on what would have been the opening day of the market last year.

Coffee Aroma owner Andrew Carnell. | Photo: The Lincolnite

Andy Carnell, owner of Coffee Aroma on Guildhall Street, reported that the week, which would have coincided with the market, was statistically his worst from September to January. He added, “It’s not going to kill us, but statistically, it was the worst week.”

Specifically addressing the Ice Sculpture Trail event in December, he insisted it was “too small,” stating: “They were never going to draw in any crowds because they weren’t big enough to have an impact.”

Dave Cutten, 61, owner of ABC Clearance on the High Street, also reported that footfall was “way down” compared to 2022.

“It was noticeable,” he commented. “Whether it was due to the absence of the market or the weather, I can’t say, but it definitely had a big impact.”

Mr Cutten is actively working to organise his own Christmas Market to fill the void left by the City of Lincoln Council’s decision, starting from the lower end of the High Street and potentially expanding upwards.

The 61-year-old aims to recreate the essence of the original Christmas markets from over 40 years ago, with a stronger focus on craft stalls instead of food and drink offerings.

However, he has decided not to submit a formal planning application until Councillor Metcalfe retires in May, fearing that any proposal made prior might simply be rejected.

City of Lincoln Council refused to specify whether any form of Christmas market, even a scaled-back version, would feature in their new events programme for 2024/25.

A council spokesperson said: “Our year-long events schedule started in September 2023 with Lincoln Live, followed by the Monster Invasion in October and the Ice Trail and wider Christmas celebrations in December.

“Our next exciting event, as part of this programme, is the Lincoln Festival of History which takes place 4 – 6 May. Following this, we will be announcing our new schedule for 2024/25.”