Rent costs threaten Lammas Market

The Lammas Market in St Andrews (Photo by Peter Adamson)
The Lammas Market in St Andrews (Photo by Peter Adamson)

The historic Lammas Market is in danger of folding as rent costs are forcing showmen to reconsider the St Andrews event.

That was the stark warning given to the town’s community council this week.

Members were considering a report from Keith Jackson, Fife Council’s parks and community events officer, which said gap sites at this year’s market had prompted a review of the event in order to sustain it.

And he added: “The future can now be considered to be under threat. I have met St Andrews councillors and highlighted the danger of the event folding.”

But he is keen to have the fair on a sustainable footing and is working with the Showmen’s Guild on the market’s future.

Mr Jackson sought support from the community council for a move to cut rents to encourage showmen to come to St Andrews, while seeking a return from them, for example, in labour or advertising costs.

Fife Councillor Dorothea Morrison told the community council that Mr Jackson wanted the community’s support: “There is a real fear that some of the more exciting rides may not come back to St Andrews,” she warned.

Income from the event goes to St Andrews Common Good Fund, and from a profit of just £2000 in 2008, profit rose to £19,500 last year.

Figures for this year are not yet available but are expected to be lower after the event was hit by poor weather.

But the community council declined to support the move until they had more information on the sums involved.

This despite council member Penny Uprichards urging fellow councillors: “I think we can support a case for a reduction. Lammas has been plagued by terrible weather over the last few years and it is very discouraging for them - people don’t turn up because the weather is so poor. We are being asked to support this, not to decide whether there should be a reduction.”

However, Kyffin Roberts wanted more information: “It doesn’t seem you would want to reduce charges at this stage. I would like to know how costs compare with other areas.”

Showmen are, however, committed to the Lammas Market: “It is one of the most important fairs in Scotland,” Alex James Colquhoun, chairman of the Showmen’s Guild in Scotland, said.

“It is something we are really keen to continue, but a number of things, including the weather and changes to school holiday, have really hampered it over the past few years,” he added. “We are very committed to it. We have talked about different ways of bringing it forward or revamping it. If Fife Council can freeze the rent, we can start filling the gaps, get it back to what it was, and it will keep going.”