Local performers shunned at St Albans Christmas Market

A local band performs at the St Albans Christmas market - but this year it will be different

A local band performs at the St Albans Christmas market - but this year it will be different - Credit: Archant

Local performers who have traditionally performed at the St Albans Christmas Market have been shunned in favour of a company that is promoting a summer festival at the Herts County Showground in Redbourn next year.

St Albans Christmas Market

St Albans Christmas Market - Credit: Archant

The decision has come as a shock to performers who had been approached to perform on the busking stage of the market which opens in the Vintry Garden on November 24.

After being asked if they wished to take part and a programme drawn up, they were then told that St Albans council had received an offer from a company called Meraki which wants to use the Christmas Market to hold a miniature festival to showcase artists who will be appearing at a three-day festival at the county showground in summer 2017.

Initial indications were that Meraki might be willing to accommodate the majority of the local performers who had already been signed up but the company decided it would not be able to and instead has offered opportunities to be included within the summer festival.

But Alison Macfarlane, of St Albans Folk Music, which traditionally provides performers on the Christmas market, said it felt as though they had been pushed out the way to promote a commercial event at the showground, the date of which they had not been able to ascertain.

She said that arts development officer, Grae Wall, had got his programme lined up ‘with the usual suspects’ and then it appeared that Meraki had come in offering better facilities at no cost to the council.

But she pointed out that although some acts had received a small remuneration in 2014, there had been no payment last year.

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Alison explained that the Christmas market provided a platform for local acts which, last year, included folk, jazz, pop, school choirs, classical and comedy. She went on: “It is a way for local performers to get known and then suddenly, there won’t be any room.”

She said that it showed how the ‘successful music scene’ in St Albans was not receiving any support from the council and added: “It is a snub for local musicians.”

St Albans council’s head of community services, Debbi White, said: “Meraki has agreed to stage a fabulous 25 days of entertainment at the Christmas Market.

“It will run from 11am each and every day until the market closes and will feature musicians, comedians and other performers as well as films and craft activities.”

She described the deal as an “exceptional package that comes at no cost to the council, bringing quality music and entertainment to the event” and would include in the line-up “some notable bands with a higher profile than we could normally afford”.

Accepting that the occasion was being used to showcase the Meraki summer festival, she insisted that many acts would be drawn from the locality including schools choirs and community performers,

Ms White added: “In striking this deal, we have given great thought to the interests of local performers who may have been hoping to be included.

“We are looking at creating some exciting, alternative opportunities for them to perform at other events over Christmas and the coming year.”

Kerry Marks, managing director of Meraki, said the Christmas Market mini-festival would feature some of the country’s top musicians appearing alongside emerging local artists and a selection of community groups and charity organisation.

She added: “The festival stage is a showcase of the acts you will see at the summer festival in 2017. With just one stage, we have not been able to accommodate all of the local performers but we are working hard to create opportunities within the summer festival for these acts to be included.”