Comment: Why Kirkcaldy’s Links Market could be on borrowed time

The thrill of the Links Market (Pic: Michael Gillen)
The thrill of the Links Market (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Every year my interest in the Links Market wanes a little bit more, but, it never fully disappears.

The market has been a part of Kirkcaldy for seven centuries, and retains huge appeal and loathing in equal measure.

Links Market 2019 (Pic: Michael Gillen)

Links Market 2019 (Pic: Michael Gillen)

It’s a rite of passage for teenagers who swarm there in huge numbers as darkness descends and the music is pumped up.

The lights and noise are the equivalent of giving a lifetime’s supply of Smarties to toddlers and wee kids who have never had sugar.

And it’s a smashing day out for families, even if trying to steer a buggy through the crushes is a scary experience.

Sure, you can moan it’s too expensive , but no-one forces you to fork out a small fortune to be hurled several hundred feet into the air while hanging upside down.

Traffic problems? A bit of a non-issue – the town continues to function, folk get round with a wee delay here and there.

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For me, the market’s decline goes much deeper.

When I first came here in 1986, the shows and stalls stretched all the way from B&Q – where Morrisons now sits – right along to Volunteers Green.

My first memories of the Links Market include the freak shows – shaking hands with a giant – of donkey rides along the Prom, packed bingo stalls, motorbikes riding the wall of death, and even traders flogging china and packs of towels from vans parked in between the slot machine stalls.

It was magical. A feast for all the senses.

It felt like Kirkcaldy’s own carnival – one which brought tens of thousands of people to town, but which remained unheard of anywhere else. A 700-year old secret unveiled just once a year!

The waltzers and dodgems still take me back to my childhood – powerful memories of hanging on for grim death as we spun 360, and collided head on – while the scent of candy floss, toffee apples and burgers remains unique to the market.

But, as it contracts, so too does its ability to captivate.

I doubt very much if it is still Europe’s longest street fair – and it feels slightly tired and dated when placed against the festive markets and continental fairs which have popped up in our major cities.

But the market IS part of Kirkcaldy’s DNA. It soaks up huge revenue – cash, literally, in hand – but the spin-off for nearby businesses is very limited, so how do we make it work for all?

As we look to transform our waterfront, its traditional home, we need to start a potentially awkward conversation.

If the road is cut to single-carriageway, if more development is added, then where does the market go? Is it time to bring it into the Town Square, and maybe create a genuinely family-friendly area for young ones, and then look at what to do with the thrill rides? Should we open it up to a continental market?

The market has adapted over the generations and can do so again.

We have something incredibly special here – we just need to make the most of it.