The popular Artisans Market that runs throughout the summer in Red Lion Square in Stamford could be cancelled after the annual rent cost was put from £150 a year to £3,000.
The Artisans on Friday initiative started in 2008 to provide colour and vibrancy to Red Lion Square, which at that time was newly refurbished, and to showcase the work of local artisans.
But chairman of Artisans on Friday Allan Grey was dismayed to learn that Stamford Town Council was putting up the annual charge from £150 a year to £3,000.
He says the hike is so great that if it goes ahead, it will almost certainly mean the end of the market.
Allan, who lives in Oakham with wife Lorna, said: “I believe Artisans on Friday has more than fulfilled its original remit, and continues to bring colour and interest to locals and the many visitors.
“It has become part of the fabric of summer Fridays in Stamford and I think it would be missed by people if it were to go. The charge would mean it is just not viable to run it anymore, which would be a huge shame.”
The market was originally set up by Tim Lee, who was chairman of Stamford Chamber of Trade and Commerce, utilising a £1,000 grant by the Chamber to buy A-frames and tables, which are still used today.
Allan took over the running of the market about six years ago - and Stamford Town Council took Artisans on Friday as an official event four years ago to ensure the market had the necessary permits. An administrative cost of £150 was agreed.
Each stall holder pays a nominal charge of £5 to rent a frame or a table for their work, which was intended to ensure the market could cover its costs. This money is used to pay the running costs, for any repairs needed to the A-frames and tables, and the charge for someone to put them out and put them back. The A-frames and tables are stored at St John’s Church and Allan also makes an annual donation to the Churches Conservation Trust, which owns the church, for this service.
Over the years, the market has grown gradually and last year, averaged about 17 pitches a week. It runs for 21 weeks from May to late September but Allan budgets for around four weeks lost due to inclement weather.
Allan said he rigidly ensures only artisan original work is on sale so that it does not interfere with either the district council-run market or the town shops.
He said he was disappointed that no-one from Stamford Town Council had engaged with him to try and find a mutually-agreeable solution.
Allan said: “I understand that it is difficult times for councils and they must find money from somewhere but the town council is treating us like we’re run the same as much bigger events like the Christmas market.
“My real bugbear is that no-one will speak to us to find a solution. I was absolutely gobsmacked to get an email informing me of such a huge rise in the annual rent. I do not want the responsibility for generating such a large sum of money and I don’t think any of the other Artisans would either.”
Allan, who runs a photo restoration stall from the market, said he was also concerned about a project by the town council to install more benches and planters in Red Lion Square which would allow for less space for the Artisans.
But he said: “It feels like the town council are trying to make things difficult but we would have made that work.”
Stamford Town Council’s events committee was due to discuss the issue at its meeting on Tuesday and it is believed it is also due to be discussed at the town council’s finance committee meeting later this month.
The Mercury approached the town council for a comment on the issue on Monday afternoon. This was acknowledged but a response had not been received as we went to press yesterday.