Links Market: a unique Kirkcaldy tradition that flies under the radar

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The Links Market’s a curious thing. It’s an event that can draw numbers on par with T In The Park and has a history virtually no other event in Scotland can match, but it barely registers on the radar of folk beyond this neck of the woods. It really is a Kirkcaldy tradition - one we’re ambivalent about too.

Like any long-running spectacle, it’s not the same today - but nothing is if we measure our excitement levels against the first visit when we were wide-eyed nippers queueing for our first toffee apple or candy floss.

The funfair brings colour, noise and spectacle. It usually also brings rubbish weather, so you need three extra layers if you want to go on the big wheel.

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My days of piling into a dodgem and imagining I was James Hunt on the start grid of an F1 race, or egging on the waltzer operators to spin us faster are long gone.

Kirkcaldy Links Market opening day in 2022 (Pic: Scott Louden)Kirkcaldy Links Market opening day in 2022 (Pic: Scott Louden)
Kirkcaldy Links Market opening day in 2022 (Pic: Scott Louden)

My other half and I took a stroll along the Esplanade at the weekend as the set-up began. It was fascinating to see the scale of the operation as lorries eased into position, and the workers crawled all over the rising structures of roller coasters and thrill-seeking rides. It was akin to watching a giant Meccano set coming to life.

We’ll go for a daunder along once the market is teeming with life, but that’s about it.

Our interest has waned, but that’s part of the cycle of life here - the dodgem seats are there for the next generation to fill. The market remains a rite of passage for teenagers who swarm in huge numbers as darkness descends and the music is pumped up, while also being a smashing day out for families.

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

The market remains very much part of the town, but it is diminishing as well as changing. 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 included the freak shows, of donkey rides along the Prom, motorbikes riding the wall of death, and traders flogging china and packs of towels from vans parked in between the slot machine stalls. Their patter was very much an integral part of the market. Today they are absent and silent.

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 is still like no other.

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But, as it contracts, so too does its ability to captivate. Regardless of whether it still is Europe’s longest street fair, it feels dated when placed against the festive markets and continental fairs which have popped up in our major cities. Is it time for a re-boot for 2024 and beyond?

Maybe Kirkcaldy needs to be more than just a host, and look at what it can create around the market. Not everyone wants to scream and go faster, so is there is scope to bring the rest of the town centre to life while the funfair is in full flight? Love it or loathe it, we have something incredibly special here every April – we just need to make the most of it.