BALLYCASTLE traders as well as members of the general public have expressed concern that the emphasis of the Oul Lammas Fair appears now to have been switched to the sea front.
According to a number of shopkeepers in the town the traditional focal points like The Diamond and, in particular, the Fairhill have lost out because of the lack of stalls as well as the near demise of horse trading.
Many attending this year’s Fair bemoaned the lack of activity in and around this part of the town and said the change in health and safety policy as well as animal welfare issues for the trading in horses had completely changed its focus and, as a result, had ripped the heart out of the event.
Significantly, many horse dealers who had been going to the Fair for years turned up again but without any livestock claiming it was a complete waste of time.
A major concern expressed by some traders was that the main emphasis of the Fair appeared now to being directed towards the sea front where there was a hive of activity.
One town centre trader told the Times: “Look at how many pitches were down the Quay Road and the entertainment value at the sea front. That’s all fine and good but it affected our footfall. We don’t want the Fair to change because for decades it’s always been in the centre of Ballycastle.”
It is understood that a survey was carried out during the two-day event to ascertain what people would like to see in the Fair and one thing appears certain: that people want more stalls down the Fairhill.
Cllr Donal Cunningham, who was unaware of the survey, said: “Many now don’t venture down the Fairhill which, in days gone by, was the most popular attraction with most of the banter and craic.
“It is important that the new Council continues to engage with the local community and encourages the promotion of the Fair in a way that commands local support. St George’s Market operated over the two days atthe seafront and this was a very popular attraction. Many people have suggested the need for a rejuvenation of the offer in Ballycastle Diamond and Fairhill Street, traditionally seen as ‘the heart of the fair’.
“Having successfully managed the animal welfare issues surrounding the horse sales perhaps we need to think about extending an agricultural theme for Fairhill Street in a way that meets the approval of the residents of the street.
“Another suggestion is for the Diamond to have an extended programme of open air entertainment and more attractive stalls. All suggestions for the fair should be considered as the fair belongs to the local community and its future will be shaped by them.”