Huge support for city’s first Christmas festival

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival.

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival. - Credit: Виталий Сова - stock.

Plans for this year’s Meraki Christmas Festival have won the support of businesses, organisations and individuals across the district.

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival.

A small group of residents are attempting to prevent the Meraki Christmas Festival. - Credit: Andrey Kiselev -

They have highlighted the positive benefits to the city centre for residents, visitors and retailers.

St Albans Business Improvement District manager Helen Burridge responded to the campaign to prevent the festival: “We are entirely supportive and proud of all the work Meraki do for St Albans, and we haven’t received a single negative comment or concern from our 500 member businesses.

“The positive impact of the Christmas Festival over three weeks would bring audiences, money and footfall to the city, benefiting our businesses and our community in what is an incredibly difficult trading environment this year.

“We are incredibly disappointed that no more than 10 householders have the money and time to use their energy to such a destructive and negative end. We are proud to represent over 4,000 employees in the city centre and we will make our voice of positivity and festive spirit heard loud and clear.”

Alison Berneye, chair of St Albans Visitor Partnership, said: “Meraki is well established at delivering high quality community events, with two successful summer festivals under its belt. It also had a welcome presence at the Christmas market in 2016 with a beautiful entertainment tipi which was very popular with adults and families alike, providing a stage for community groups, school choirs and local artists and musicians to perform on, adding some wonderful Christmas atmosphere to the market.

“These sorts of events attract many visitors to the city, which is good for the local economy, as well as providing festive fun for the local community.

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“I know Meraki is working hard to make sure St Albans has a fantastic Christmas. We wish them well.”

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks landlord Christo Tofalli said: “A handful of houses don’t represent the community and shouldn’t have the capability to hold back this festival. This is a community event and will bring thousands of people to the city at a time when we desperately need them.”

Cllr Salih Gaygusuz, district council portfolio holder for business and community, said: “Previous Christmas markets in St Albans have proved to be very popular with residents and visitors alike. They are also of great benefit to local businesses, adding an estimated £1 to £3 million to the local economy.

“Meraki has contributed to previous SADC Christmas markets, and the feedback received about their efforts and input has been great. Much of that was really positive feedback from residents.”

Joe Tavernier, head of community services at the district council added: “The council’s community services team has worked with Meraki as part of our Christmas Market event in previous years. Their input really helped bring that extra bit of sparkle and magic that makes a Christmas event special.”

Many other local residents have already submitted comments in support of the plans.

Pauline Gillingham said: “How [a few local residents] can imply the public park is an extension of their back gardens is unbelievable. And how such a minority can be allowed to threaten the entrepreneurial efforts of a small company trying to bring such a great event to the centre of the city for the benefit of the whole community, is beyond comprehension.”

Kelly Constantine added: “I have just heard the ridiculous news that Meraki is not being allowed to host its whole Christmas fair in the park due to some complaints of people near the park. This is a public park designed for the enjoyment of the community and the festival will be a massive bonus for St Albans. The park does not belong to these people and I am sure the Meraki team would do all they could to make it as least disruptive for them.”