First Person - with Allan Crow

Allan Crow
Allan Crow
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IT’S not an optical illusion, you’re eyesight isn’t deterioriating ... the Links Market is getting smaller. And smaller.

It may well still lay claim to being Europe’s longest street fair - not sure who measures such things these days - but does it still retain its allure?

I like the market. I don’t love it - I’m too old - but the bright lights, music, noise and smells are unique, and they drag us all back to our childhoods.

They evoke memories of great days out with our pals as teenagers, of days spent as a young family watching the kids go on the teacups, of shots on the ghost train, waltzers and dodgems, and of walking home with a goldfish in a plastic bag, and candy floss all over your coupon.

The market tends to divide folk - it’s got a love-it-or-loathe-it Marmite appeal - and there is a fair degree of ambivilence among businesses.

‘‘Might as well stick it on the moon for all the good it does,’’ one prominent business leader once told me, while others will simply factor in a drop in takings for the duration and thole it.

Low profile

Given it’s been coming for over 700 years, if the market doesn’t generate economic spin-offs for the town by now, then it probably never will. What is spent on the Esplanade goes straight into the operator’s wee booths and out of town.

But, in a good year, it pulls in a crowd equivalent to T In The Park, despite a low profile - mention the market to anyone outwith Kirkcaldy and you’ll get blank looks. It’s as if it’s our own wee secret rather than a major tourist draw as few people out of Kirkcaldy seem to have heard of it, far less made a conscious effort to come across and enjoy some of the rides.

I often wonder what a first-time visitor might make of the Links Market in 2013.

Would they understand its history and significance?
Would they note, as we do, the landmark moments when the Esplanade is closed off, the static caravans take up their spots, and the weather turns rank rotten - all signs the market is about to hit town.

And I guess they wouldn’t notice that, year on year, it contracts that little bit more.

When I went as a kid, the market stretched right to the tip of the roundabout outside the old B & Q.

Then it started edging back and now it barely nudges much further than the Basin.

Re-invention

Last year there were gaps - stalls and shows that were permanent fixtures seemed to vanish. Rising fuel costs and the recession were to blame.

One year deeper into these bleak times I wonder how the traditional market operators will fare this time round.

If they put their prices up people moan. If they don’t people still moan - the perception of ‘value for money’ is a circle than can never be squared.

But, let’s be honest - a family trip to the market ain’t cheap.

Maybe we’re harking back to a different era when the rides DID cost 50p, but, back then they also had bare knuckle boxing, and freak shows where you could see the bearded lady, and the seven-foot tall giant. Different times. The bearded lady faced redundancy years ago...

Maybe like the circus, the market has to reinvent itself in order to endure.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to import the atmosphere and buzz of the German Market which brings Princes Street Gardens alive every Christmas - and place it in Volunteers’ Green?

Could we bring those evocative sights and sounds from the market into the heart of the High Street, drive people from one to the other and back again?
As I said I like, rather than love, the market, but it has a place in our town and we should nurture it.