Embarrassing for Kelso

I read with interest the Provost Report in the October edition of Kelso Life.

The reason for my interest was the apparent lack of interest in his comments on the recent St James’ Fair. Indeed, more words were given over by the provost, John Bassett, to an appeal for more members for the fair organising committee than were given to any comment on how the event actually passed off.

Can we assume that the provost shares the same views as myself and many of my friends and colleagues in Kelso? The view being that this year’s fair was nothing short of a glorified car boot sale and, frankly, an embarrassment to Kelso. How this once-fine event has been allowed to disintegrate in quality is disgraceful and something needs to be done immediately to significantly improve the quality of the event in time for 2015.

Next year’s fair, with the renovations to The Square finally completed, presents an ideal opportunity for Kelso to showcase itself to everyone in the Borders and generate new business and visitors to the town. If the quality of the fair in 2015 is the same as this year, it will be an opportunity lost and one unlikely ever to be repeated.

The fair is supposed to be a celebration of trading in the town from the 13th century, as well as a celebration of all that modern-day Kelso has to offer. To this end, the organising committee needs to do more to bring back a local feel to the whole event. Granted, this year’s fair was hamstrung by the late pull-out of the international food stalls which undoubtedly left a big hole in the quality of the event.

Questions, however, need to be asked of the existing committee as to why they were able or allowed to pull out at such short notice.

Next year the focus of the fair needs to change completely in order that we get it back to its once-fine state.

We should be encouraging big business such as The Roxburghe and Cross Keys hotels, and Floors Castle to join the stall holders at the next event in order to help raise the profile of the occasion. Local business owners and charities should be invited to the organising committee as well as offered free-of-charge pitches to set up stalls in the streets to advertise and sell their various products.

In terms of the weekend entertainment, we should be encouraging the many local bands (of which none were on display this year) to be able to showcase their talents in The Square. For the children, surely we could put some imagination into the activities and have stalls with Victorian-style games and a few sets of stocks where we could lock up local “villains”.

We should continue to invite (at a cost) traders from outside Kelso and get back to the days of having traders in both Woodmarket and Horsemarket.

I truly hope the committee invites fresh blood on board with innovative ideas that can reinvent St James Fair in time for 2015.

I suspect, however, that it will remain a jobs for the boys set-up which will continue to meander along doing just enough to create an event that nobody will enjoy and eventually die a death, something that would be a massive shame and a slight on the great town of Kelso.

Alan McElrath

Rennie Court