Page 11 - MarketTimesOctober2020
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MARKET TIMES • OCTOBER 2020 11 Thanks Dominic — you’ve put
 us on the map!
 ANY boost to footfall is a godsend for market traders in these difficult times. But the good traders of Barnard Castle in County Durham could not possibly have foreseen that their market would benefit from the publicity generated by the dodgy decision of the Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings to visit the town “to test his eyesight”.
At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, with lockdown in full operation, news broke that Mr Cummings had apparently broken the rules of the lockdown he had helped to devise by travelling from his London home to a property on his parents’ farm in Durham while he and his wife had suspected symptoms.
Then witnesses described spotting him with his family some miles away in Barnard Castle.
For many days the news agenda was dominated by the controversy and the town was in the eye of the storm.
But once lockdown lifted and the town began the uphill task of getting back to normal, traders began to see more visitors to the town, which many had not heard of before. That has boosted local businesses — including the market.
Town Clerk Martin Clark, who only took over the role in March, said there had been a definite increase in footfall in the town which seemed to be the result of the Dominic Cummings publicity.
“It does seem to have put the town on the map and we are getting a lot more visitors. It’s not uncommon to see tourists taking selfies in front of the Barnard Castle town sign, and it’s fair to say that many shopkeepers and traders have smiles on their faces these days.”
Martin said that one of his first jobs as town
clerk was to order the closure of the market in line with the COVID-19 rules in March, which was a very sad situation.
“Barnard Castle is a lovely town with a good sense of community, so it was heartbreaking to see a great market and so many good shops and businesses closing down for lockdown,” he said.
The Dominic Cummings controversy arrived out of the blue, he said, and within hours the national media had descended on the town.
“We had journalists and cameras here, and we even made the news in America and Japan,” he said.
Barnard Castle is a beautiful, quiet market town in County Durham, most famous for its ruined castle and the Bowes Museum.
But for more than a week it was one of the most famous towns on the planet and that fame seems to have attracted new visitors and tourists.
Martin said his team worked hard to get the town coronavirus compliant so that the market and most businesses could open up again.
“The town is definitely busier these days, which can be a problem, but visitors and locals are supporting our market and shops, so in the end all the publicity certainly hasn’t done us any harm.”
And traders are glad to be back behind their stalls for the popular Wednesday market.
Flower and plant seller Suzan Vaughan said: “Barnard Castle is a lovely town and our customers are very loyal. A lot of people were unhappy about the decisions Dominic Cummings made but these are very difficult times with a lot of uncertainty and I am just grateful that the local people are so supportive and they have kept us going.”
  Suzan Vaughan

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