Backing local events is a win-win situation for St Albans

PUBLISHED: 12:15 19 November 2014

ChristoTofalli, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

ChristoTofalli, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

Archant

Christo Tofalli from Ye Olde Fighting Cocks writes on behalf of St Albans Visitor Partnership

“I have never seen a city that so brilliantly encapsulates 2,000 years of British history!” said Boris Johnson when he came to St Albans to support the new museum and art gallery project, which is planned to go into the Town Hall building in Market Place.

He did, it is true, then add “apart from London”, but hey, we’ll take coming second best to London, which is currently the most popular tourist destination in the world!

And Boris was literally here for only an hour – he didn’t see the half of it. Imagine if he had been here a few weeks ago when the Food and Drink Festival was on, and yours truly did a live cooking demo from just outside the Town Hall.

Or if he was here the other week, when our first Literary Festival was on, attracting more than 60 authors to St Albans, or next week, when our second Christmas Market opens.

Our European-inspired Christmas market brought 45,000 visitors to the city last year and this year they are saying it is going to be bigger and better so who knows how many more it will attract? It’s also just 20 minutes on the train from St Pancras, making it the nearest ‘European’ Christmas Market to London, meaning that people don’t have to even leave the country to enjoy a traditional German-style Christmas Market!

And this is one of the key points about St Albans: we are on the mighty London’s doorstep. Which some people see as a hindrance, but I see as a good thing. This is because my pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, attracts international visitors all the time, because it is the oldest pub in the country, and near to London. So I know that this is in fact a major advantage for us – we just need to get better at maximising the benefits of this proximity, by turning it to our advantage. We need to step out from behind London’s shadow, and claim a chunk of those 18 million visitors to the capital for ourselves.

And one way we can do this is to take events like the Christmas Market and support them, shout about them, and exploit them for our own ends! There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s a win-win situation. Local businesses can and should benefit from things like the Christmas market, which by the way is going to nearly double the number of traders this year.

So Ye Olde FIghting Cocks is going to get involved with the market by supplying some musicians to perform at some of the allocated music slots, because this year the market is going have a structured programme of entertainment and music to get people in the festive mood.

We are a pub that is all about music. We have a music academy here where we teach kids and adults the guitar, and we also have an open mic night every Friday, which is the only one in St Albans to be professionally filmed (by local company Chiswell Studios). And we are just a stone’s throw from the market, so hopefully some of the people visiting the market will like what they hear and pop down to the pub one evening to see what the fuss is all about. See? Win-win. There are lots of other ways to support the market and get a slice of the action yourself.

The more we local businesses support these events, the more visitors they will attract, and the more local businesses will reap the rewards.

Which, I believe, is what the Visitor Partnership is all about too – and which is why my business is going to join it and get involved.

As anyone who knows me will know, I’m always in!

To get involved in the Christmas Market, contact liz.marcy@stalbans.gov.uk
To find out more about the Visitor Partnership, contact charles.baker@stalbans.gov.uk

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