By Tomos Evans
Traders at Cardiff city centre’s Christmas market have expressed disappointment at Cardiff Council’s decision not to hold their annual Step into Christmas event this year. The event, which formally turns on the city centre’s Christmas lights, was not held for financial reasons.
Rhiannon Roberts, one of the traders at the market, told Gair Rhydd, “There was no footfall, more or less. I know it was raining again but normally the first Thursday of the markets is a really busy day for all traders and everyone I talked to said that it wasn’t a great day at all. We still made sales, but you could see the difference.”
In previous years, the Step into Christmas event has seen celebrities such as former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Billie Piper switch on the lights.
Rhiannon continued, “I think that it did have an impact that the Cardiff switching on the lights didn’t happen. I’ve done this event for years and every time there’s a buzz, there’s entertainment. The children come out, the adults come out, obviously they buy with us at the market. But, also, it’s just a nice vibe and everyone’s out to celebrate the start of Christmas and we definitely saw something change.”
In terms of the plans for next year, Rhiannon said, “I’d like [the event] to come back, really. So, entertainment again. Penarth, Barry – they all have the switching on of the lights so it would be nice for actual Cardiff, the capital city, to do something big.”
Non Watts, another of the Christmas market traders told Gair Rhydd that, unlike Rhiannon, “It didn’t affect us personally”. However, she added that “It was disappointing that the city itself was unable to put something on, regardless of the weather, as there were many children around”.
Instead of the usual Step into Christmas event organised by Cardiff Council, the city centre’s lights were instead switched on by Floodlight Services, a company based in Talbot Green.
Mikey Roberts took his six-year-old daughter to the city centre to see the Christmas lights being turned on, as he has in previous years. He described it to Gair Rhydd as “a big let down”. He continued, “The atmosphere was flat and not like it has been in previous years which was a shame”.
Mikey adds, “I’d like next year’s version to be similar to previous events, and not like this year’s no show! I’m sure shops in the city centre would have made a lot more money with a bigger crowd in the city centre”.
A Cardiff Council spokesperson said: “Step Into Christmas was removed from the events budget last year to help the council bridge a budget gap of approximately £25 million, and while we appreciate it will be missed by some, there’s little doubt there is a host of wonderful Christmas activities taking part in the city throughout the season for all the family to enjoy.”
The spokesperson added that, despite the poor weather conditions on the day, “our monitoring footfall shows there were more people in the city centre this year compared with the Step Into Christmas event in 2017.”
They also said that “It’s important to point out that Cardiff is still recognised as having one of the strongest Christmas offerings in the UK that people can come to and enjoy across the whole festive season and not just on one day or evening.
“The council is intent on trying to make the Christmas experience in the city one which can be enjoyed across the season and a number of events have been planned in the run up to Christmas to help traders.”
These events “are in addition to all the other great reasons to visit the city over Christmas, including the enhanced Winter Wonderland, Santa’s Grotto in Queen Street, the fantastic Christmas market and Christmas lights – including the spectacular reindeer – and of course the Christmas tree outside the castle. It’s important not to forget the Christmas shows we put on at St David’s Hall and the New Theatre, and of course the chance to experience a Victorian Christmas at Cardiff Castle.”
With the Christmas spirit in full swing, many in Cardiff are left wondering whether Step Into Christmas will be stepping back into Cardiff next year.