Traders insist the Marlborough jazz festival gives them the financial blues

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

Traders in Marlborough, already hit by the closure of the Pewsey Road bridge, have protested that the forthcoming International Jazz Festival in the town will also cause an unwelcome financial hit to their business.

They banded together to ask Wiltshire Council’s highways department to prevent the closure of the High Street for the three day event in July, after carrying out a survey following last year’s jazz festival.

“Due to closing the A4 there were constant reminders on the radio advising motorists to say clear of the town,” jeweller David Dudley wrote on behalf of the traders. “By 11am on Saturday barriers were up closing the High Street, so that the Italian restaurant could lay its tables.

“We fully support the great atmosphere that was generated but suggest that this could all be set up down the Parade instead, and so keep the A4 open.”

Mr Dudley claims that takings for retailers were 50 per cent down, traders losing as much £500,000 in revenue during economically difficult times.

But that figure is challenged by former Marlborough mayor Nick Fogg, organiser of the Jazz Festival, which this year features performers from 24 countries and will be held on the weekend of 15, 16 and 17 July.

“We close only New Road, the top end of The Parade and the bottom end of Kingsbury Street,” says Mr Fogg. “The number of businesses directly affected are very, very few. And the businesses that are affected are almost all completely beneficiaries of the jazz festival.

“It’s a great opportunity for the various pubs, restaurants and other businesses to show their awareness of the hundreds of people who come into Marlborough, and will hopefully return to make use of its services.”

He points out that the Arts Council estimates the festival brings in an additional £700,000 into the town over just one weekend, and adds: “Yes, there are winners and losers in every situation, but it’s just shame they just don’t recognise the winners.

“It the traders haven’t got the initiative actually to capitalise on the large number of visitors thronging the town, then their businesses aren’t all that viable anyway.”

Wiltshire highways have insisted that the highway authority is “only a consultee” in the process of closing Marlborough High Street, the precedent having already been set over many years with road closures for the traditional Mop fairs.

But the traders believe a free Park and Ride scheme on the Common would be an “excellent” alternative. “We all support the jazz festival but the event must support us too,” insists Mr Dudley.

“We are asking Marlborough Town Council to help us keep the market town of Marlborough alive.”