Bank holiday rain failed to put a damper on the fifth Sheffield Food Festival last weekend – but a row has broken out after Moor market traders voted not to open the new building for the event.
Numbers were inevitably down on last year’s record 244,000, though Monday’s sunshine brought out the crowds to enjoy the mix of food, fun and festivities.
However, the thousands who made their way to the event’s new home on The Moor were disappointed to find it closed on Sunday and Monday.
Council officers and event organisers had wanted to open it, giving festival-goers a chance to look round the £18m showcase building – and to generate income for the 90 stallholders, some of whom have complained about poor footfall.
Andy Ward, head of Sheffield Markets, took to Twitter on Sunday night to lay the blame squarely at the feet of traders.
Other local retailers demanded to know why the market had remained closed, despite the event being moved to accommodate it.
“Our choice was to open, but needs trader agreement,” said Mr Ward. “Only 22 of 90 wanted to open.”
“I can’t understand choosing to lose that income for Sheffield economy,” said Eddie Andrew of Our Cow Molly.
“Nor me!” replied Mr Ward.
He later explained that tenants had to agree before regular hours could be varied and 75% had voted against opening on Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday – despite the prospect of attracting new prospective customers. “It was an opportunity lost,” he said. “Why should we always make excuses for what’s unforgiveable?”
But many traders are not convinced of the benefits of opening for the food festival – or on Sundays, as is being mooted in an attempt to attract more customers.
They say they already work long hours six days a week.
Meanwhile, organisers were pleased with the success of the food festival. Numbers are not yet known, but are thought to be good considering the torrential downpours that blighted the first two days.
“It all worked out well in the end and was a very successful event. We had a fabulous day on Monday – I’ve never seen The Moor look so busy,” said Niki Baker, who champions the festival on behalf of Sheffield Hallam University.
“There were challenges this year - we had less time to organise things as we moved the date forward. But we’re very happy with how it’s gone and we’ve had some very positive feedback.”