Herts Ad Comment: Commercial versus community

Herts Advertiser comment

Herts Advertiser comment - Credit: Archant

Increasingly the lines are becoming blurred between commercial events and community events - and no more so than the situation that has arisen at this year’s St Albans Christmas Market.

Instead of local musicians, choirs, schools and performers putting on a programme of events at the market in the Vintry Garden, a company called Meraki has come in and offered to do the whole thing for free as a way of plugging a three-day festival at the Redbourn Showground next summer.

So it’s goodbye to the local performers who were prepared to give their services for free and hello to a company which can offer what the council sees as a far more advantageous package with, as Meraki itself says, a daily schedule of high quality entertainment and a range of activities.

But will it really make a difference to the success or failure of the Christmas Market - and what is going to happen next year when there is no handy company like Meraki wanting to promote a forthcoming - and commercial - event.

Do the council really think the performers they scorned this year are going to come running back when nothing else is available - of course they aren’t.

Commercial and community overlap is becoming a problem of our times - one that any marketing company worth its salt is quick to use to its advantage. Last summer for instance, two music events were billed as being Harpenden festivals when in fact, they were organised by companies for whom the town was probably just a - lucrative - pin on the map.

The St Albans district has a thriving arts scene with all types of music, theatre and performance represented. It deserves the support of its council and not to be snubbed by an outfit which has its own agenda - however good it might seem to a cash-strapped local authority hoping to boost a Christmas Market which it hopes will swell its coffers.