Traders going nowhere

Peter, Stephen and Karen Kay from Festival Market.
Peter, Stephen and Karen Kay from Festival Market.

They are a friendly and welcoming bunch at Morecambe’s Festival Market.

It can be hard work sitting on a stall when the cold weather sets in but traders are united in looking on the bright side.

Alan Greenhalgh runs a domestic repairs and spares stall, selling everything from vacuum cleaner bags to washing machine parts.

Having moved to Morecambe 40 years ago from Bolton, Alan has worked at the Festival Market since it first opened in 1996.

And while other traders have complained of a wash-out summer leading to fears over the market’s future, his experience has been quite the opposite.

“Business is better now than it’s ever been,” he says.

“In fact, we are never NOT busy.”

Bobby Cragg, who runs Rebecca’s Cafe on the market with his daughter Rebecca, agrees.

“The cafe does really well,” says Bobby, who also runs the Cash for Clothing shop on Yorkshire Street.

“The customers are great, we get some real characters.”

One such big personality is John Walsh, the market’s resident Rolf Harris lookalike.

John hasn’t been well of late, due to heart trouble. His wife Irene says he’s been in hospital five times recently for surgery.

But John still comes in to the market when he can and helps Irene out on the Williams Bakery stall.

“We get good feedback from customers about the variety of goods you can buy here,” says Irene, who sells freshly home-baked bread and cakes made with natural ingredients.

“Tourists say it’s a smashing market and wish they had one like it.”

Market life is a family affair for the Craggs and the Walshs, and it’s the same for the Harrisons.

Tom Harrison and his son Tom Jnr run Festival Flooring, a carpet stall, while Tom Snr’s wife Debbie looks after Bay Bedding. Tom and Debbie’s younger son Joe also helps out, and Tom’s neice Stacey Lee has a nearby gifts unit too.

Living and working together, say the Harrisons, has its ups and downs.

“We certainly have our moments and we never switch off from work,” laughs Debbie.

But Tom Jnr, 22, says: “Being a family, it also means we can rely on each other.”

The market is also home to the Kays. Karen runs the birthday card stall and husband Peter (yes, Peter Kay...and he’s from Bolton too!) sells crafts and jigsaws with help from son Stephen.

Longtime customers of Morecambe’s old Poulton market may remember the card stall run by Karen’s father Ken, a larger-than-life figure.

Karen, a trader all over the North West for 32 years, followed in her dad’s footsteps when she moved to the Festival Market seven years ago.

“I’ve always enjoyed the job and still enjoy getting up in the morning and coming to work,” she tells me, over a cuppa in Rebecca’s Cafe.

“I like choosing cards and the customers are fantastic up here. Most of them have been coming to Morecambe market for 30-odd years. They are more like friends. They enjoy that personal contact you don’t get in large stores.”

Alan Greenhalgh says the secret of the market’s success is you can’t find some of its goods anywhere else.

“Nobody else around Morecambe sells what I sell and at a reasonable price,” he says.

“You’d be surprised what I’ve got, although we don’t have everything.

“One time this little old guy came in and spent ages peering around the stall, looking at all the ‘hoover’ bags.

“I said: ‘Can I help you?’

“He looked at me and said: ‘Do you sell vests?’

Bobby Cragg says bargains can be found at his cafe too.

“You can get a cup of milky coffee for a pound and two chicken curries for six pounds, not bad eh?” he says proudly.

As for the Harrisons, their goods are in demand all over the country; Debbie’s bed sheets even selling to France and Spain.

Not everything in the market is rosy though and owner Lancaster City Council is currently looking at ways to improve conditions for traders and shoppers alike.

However, the traders have a great camaraderie and it’s heartening to see how they pull together.

And although times may be tough, their message is very clear. The Festival Market is going nowhere.

As Bobby Cragg says, with cheerful defiance: “We’re here and we’re stopping here!”