The 12 days of local Pressmasness: Too many Christmas markets



I accept I may sound like a festive humbug based on this headline, but bear with me. Earlier this year, a group of newspapers in the North East tried to prove that collectively they were more powerful than the sum of their collective parts, if that isn’t an abuse of a metaphor or two.

Anyway, the draw attention to a well-known problem within the North East – the regular fleecing of the region in favour of other regions when it comes to Government spending – various papers teamed up to run the same campaign at the same time. The early evidence is that the Government is listening.

I mention this because a newspaper brand which is in tune with its community is a powerful force. It’s an even more of a force when seen as a whole, especially for spotting trends which might otherwise go un-noticed. The volume of coverage on foodbanks is an example (and more on that another day).

Based on a search of Google News today for the phrase ‘Christmas market’ I can confidently predict that within a few years we’ll all be bored of Christmas markets. Why? Because they are everywhere!

I know it’s Boxing Day and this will sound Scrooge-like but given the sheer number of them these days, the arrival of Santa Claus on December 25th is just a likely to be greeted by the sound of flat-pack faux Alpine stalls being clattered away for another year is he is the sound of sleigh bells.

Of course, it’s hard not to feel festive when you see pictures like this from the Manchester Evening News: 

And Manchester and Birmingham do indeed put on very big German Christmas Markets. and they are very popular. So much so that there are few news stories on the Birmingham Mail and MEN websites which can compete with our local guides to these Alpine adventures. Once upon a time, they were quite rare. As far as I can tell, Lincoln’s is one of the oldest, at 31 years.

But they’re everywhere now. Swindon, Salisbury, Belfast, St Albans, Edinburgh (where even Santa got bored and quit this year), Wokingham, Bracknell, Nottingham, Exeter, Liverpool, Plymouth, Bristol, Glasgow and so on and so on and so on…. In Oxford, there are two!

That’s the power of the Press right there – instantly enabling you to spot a trend across the country, and in this case, it appears that Christmas isn’t Christmas without a bit of crush and the smell of mulled wine on every shopper’s breath. Why on earth does Rochdale need log cabins set up to sell stuff for Christmas?

A bit like Scrooge, I saw the future, about 10 years ago. Unlike Scrooge, it was in Blackburn, back when French markets were all the rage. The council was convinced they were a way to get people into town, then discover the regular market, and their footfall number problems would be a thing of the past. The local traders discovered otherwise – it brought people in, but they soon left again, often actually costing the 52-week-a-year traders business. And from memory, I don’t remember too many markets in France selling wooly coats in the summer.

And already the Press is beginning to report on similar festive concerns. In Leicester it’s a problem, while in Bath the markets are now too busy … and in Birmingham the buskers have been banned.

They bring in good stories though – such as the armed raiders attacking the one in Birmingham, a second Santa quitting in Edinburgh and the annual battle of the Bratwursts between Birmingham and Manchester.

But few will match this belter of a drunk Santa at a Christmas market in Poland.

The regional Press is immediate social history in action – an instants snapshot of the world we live in. One that has too many Christmas markets at the moment.


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