I am VERY passionate about Christmas Markets and if you are a Dublin Event Guide Reader for a while, you probably know that already. I can absolutely not get it why Dublin is incapable of having a good Christmas Market and interestingly, it seems that Galway, Cork, Waterford and Belfast ARE able to have a market that people like and that reliably happens year after year.
This year, there will not be an outdoor Christmas Market at all in Dublin and that is frankly just not good enough for a City that is quite dependent on tourism. I wrote a long piece about the failed St. Stephen’s Green Market in 2014 and about the “I believe in Christmas” market in 2015, that decided the “I believe” part of the name should be trademarked and that called itself “Christmas Tree & Village” not Christmas Market here: www.joergsteegmueller.com/2015/12/08/ireland-and-christmas-markets-it-cant-be-that-difficult/
Both markets were designed by Event Management people, NOT by Christmas Market experts and both markets didn’t deliver. After just one year the “I believe” market is gone again with the result that in 2016, Dublin has NO Christmas Market. Yes, there are some weekend markets with a Christmas theme, but this is not what tourists are interested in and it really isn’t good enough for us living in Dublin either.
So why are they failing? Because the focus is wrong, the location is wrong, food and drink doesn’t get enough attention and they are every time run by the wrong entity/organisation.
1) Focus: The outdoor markets in Dublin have never focused on the visitors, they always seem to focus in maximising the money taken as fees from the traders. This means that there is no proper product selection, but you sometimes find the weirdest “non-Christmas Market-worthy” products at stalls.
2) Location: George’s Dock is a nice venue, but for a Christmas Market it is too far out. It has to be in easy walking distance from the City Centre so that people can drop in and out during their shopping and then finish the day with good food and drink at the market. Dublin has a problem because there is no place in the City Centre. But you need a square or plaza of some sort to build a Christmas village. A long row of stalls (like at St. Stephen’s Green) will NEVER create the atmosphere that is needed.
There are in my opinion two suitable locations already in the City Centre, but only one of them might get the ok from the responsible authorities. In future I see one other area that could be suitable, but it will take a few years until it is available.
3) Food and Drink: It is soooo important to have good food and at least Gluehwein at a Christmas Market. At St. Stephen’s Green, Dublintown screwed up by giving the contract to run 2 or three food outlets to ONE Catering Company. Boring delivery, no variation and no competition. The food and drink offering was totally underwhelming. At some of my favourite markets, I would say at least 50% of the stalls are food and drink stalls. Alcoholic Gluehwein, but also non-alcoholic Glueh”wein” are sold and the food variety is vast. Result: People stay there until late and have their dinner at the market and meet with their friends for an evening out.
4) Organisation in charge: In Dublin it seems that every time the task to run a market is completely handed over to an event management company and the real organiser is getting out of the way. The result is that it is run exactly as any other event, not as an experience or something somebody is passionate about. In all towns I know, the Christmas Market is run by the Town/City Council who have passionate employees working on it really hard. In Dublin, Dublin City Council couldn’t care less about a Christmas Market in Dublin and IF they did care, they would just get an event management company again and not be involved themselves. The passing of responsibility to people that don’t care about this event more than the next 25 that they have to manage has to stop. Dublin Tourism or the Events section in Dublin City Council should run it with the explicit intention to make it an amazing experience for the visitors AND to run it from now for at least 10 years EVERY year not primarily to make money, but because a capital of a European city is expected to have a good quality market in the pre-Christmas period.
There are a few other little bits that are mentioned in the post that I linked to above, but if these few points get the right attention, we could have a great Christmas Market for the long term future. Without giving attention to them, we will have one failure after the next, like we did for the last 5 or so years.
Did I mention that I am very passionate about Christmas Markets? Now you see! ;-)
P.S. I just found what must be one of the most delusional quote of the season, considering the poor show of Dublin: DublinTown CEO Richard Guiney said: “I can’t think of anywhere that does Christmas as well as Dublin.”