Letter: Christmas in Soham

As a long-standing committee member of a dedicated group who need to overcome many obstacles to bring the annual event to the people of Soham and district, l would like to reply to Mr and Mrs Finlayson’s letter regarding their ‘late night shopping’ disappointment.

Firstly I would like to stress that this event has not been ‘late night shopping’ for over six years. The reasons being that it had proved too costly for the shops to keep open during the Street Fair.

The public weren’t buying; shoplifting was a rising problem and staff overtime payments compounded their decision not to open. These are valid reasons for not participating.

There is an enormous amount of work behind the scenes to organise this one annual event, procedure and health and safety have to be followed.

When we do close the streets, the signs have to be put out and diversions made by persons holding road work licences. Each year we have to prevail on someone who has a licence to leave their own jobs to come and do it for us as we are not allowed to do so ourselves.

When the roads are closed off the amount of verbal abuse the attendants get is shocking, even though it is put in all the local papers, official traffic notifications are displayed at each end of the street and hand delivered notes are always posted through the letter boxes of residents and business all along the effected streets.

This is a completely free evening for all who wish to take part. The various groups who had stalls outside and in the church, raised money for their own funds and were very satisfied.

Soham Town Council kindly donates funding for the fairground rides, which were free to every child who wanted a ride. As only two of the rides turned up, this is now a matter for the committee to discuss with the vendor.

As to the lack of stalls, l would like to explain to you that every local club, school and organisation invited did attend and we wish to thank them all for their support.

The majority of stall holders who were absent, chose not to attend at the last minute due to the bad weather forecast we encountered on the day, which would have also affected public attendance. We can only apologise for their lack of support.

Wicken Brass Band always supports us and plays at our Street Fair as the chairman of the Street Fair Committee, along with other members of the band, are Soham people.

Soham Brass Band have always declined our invitation to attend.

St Andrew’s Church was full of stalls, activities and also housed Father Christmas and his grotto, which were both very well received and attended, raising hundreds of pounds which we always plough back into buying Father Christmas gifts for the following year.

The whole event is done for free and I do not think it is known how much effort is made to continue to make it free to all.

We receive no funding for the event other than for the fairground rides as stated above; in fact all the Christmas street lights are bought and funded through one local couple’s year-long slog of personal fundraising.

We are a small group of only six committee members who strive very hard to try to bring the people of Soham together on this one night and are saddened that you feel it was disappointing.

However, you or anyone else from this community could address the situation by joining us and bring your own ideas to the table. We will be delighted to have you as part of our team.

Please contact us on www.sohamtf.co.uk.

Mrs E Johnston

Committee member

Soham Christmas Street Fair