Exmouth: Christmas market with not much Christmas spirit?

”There’s been mixed reaction to the “cracking” Christmas market, which took place at Exmouth Ocean on Sunday, December 3. Some visitors enjoyed the event, describing it as ‘an enjoyable day’, ‘fab’ and ‘a lovely time’. But others said it was a ‘health and safety nightmare’, with ‘no emergency procedure for elderly, infirm or young mothers’. One visitor went further, saying they thought the people of Exmouth had been ‘shortchanged’, and describing the event as a ‘creaking Christmas market’.

In response, LED, which organised the event, has admitted that the market had “a few teething problems”, but say that for its first event of this nature “about 5,000 people attended what was generally perceived to be a great event”.

The ‘cracking’ Christmas Market, with additional entertainment provided by Exmouth Town Council, was promoted as a replacement for the cancelled Christmas Cracker. With entertainment on other floors, the market itself took place on the top-floor Ocean Suite and outside terraces.

Visitors found there were problems with access to the market, as there was only one small lift, reserved for those with limited mobility and mothers with buggies. Consequently the stairs became clogged and LED staff restricted the numbers who were allowed in. At times it’s understood that crowds were three deep on the stairs, and the lift broke down, allegedly trapping a person in a wheelchair.

Visitors took to social media to praise and criticise the event. One community group described the event as ‘a really enjoyable day’, and that customers were ‘generous and appreciative’. Other comments included ‘fab’ and ‘a fun day’. However, one visitor, who did not wish to be named, was unhappy, flagging up over-crowding, uninspired stalls and mulled wine – served by LED – that was cold. It was not a particularly inspired craft market with nothing to distinguish it as a Christmas event. The bar was offering a festive menu, but when you’ve got cold mulled wine, how festive is that? “I think it was very sad. The people of Exmouth have been short-changed. A cracking Christmas market? More like a creaking Christmas market!”

LED Leisure has defended its festive offering, saying it was a ‘super event for Exmouth’. “In response to the few negative comments that have been received by the Journal, LED Leisure welcomes constructive criticism as an opportunity to improve,” said Peter Gilpin, chief executive officer, LED Leisure. “As our first event of this nature, it was probably inevitable that there would be a few teething problems. Despite these few problems, about 5,000 people attended what was generally perceived to be a great event – so no wonder there were queues to get in at some times of the day!

“We received many compliments from visitors, who despite the wait loved the Christmas gifts, sweets, music and entertainment. Between them, Ocean and the Pavilion had over 90 stalls, including some that were accommodated from the cancelled Christmas Cracker event from the Strand, at fairly late notice. Stall holders were also very complimentary – they were busy all day!”

Mr Gilpin also thanked Lisa Hamer, Janette Cass and their respective teams at Ocean and the Pavilion ‘for putting on what I think was, overall, a super event for Exmouth – 5,000 people having a great time on Exmouth seafront in December; whatever next?!’ “