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Bad News for the College Green Plaza

Dublin City had planned to pedestrianise the College Green area from the TCD front to approx. where H&M and Starbucks are and turn this new City Centre Plaza into a public amenity. (An article is here.) It would have been the first and only City Centre event space and in my opinion it is the perfect location for a PROPER Christmas Market in Dublin.

But the planning authority, An Bord Pleanala, was not in favour of it because it would have a negative effect on traffic and would cause unacceptable conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians.

At the moment College Green can only be used by buses and taxis and getting taxis out of this area would – in my opinion – be a good thing.

By the way: The only chance a Christmas Market has in Dublin if it a) is in a central location and b) is organised and run by Dublin City, NOT an event management company and definitely not by DublinTown.

The next steps that Dublin City will take regarding this, have not been revealed yet.

Ireland and Christmas Markets – It can’t be THAT difficult!

In Germany and Austria and a number of other European countries nearly every little village has some sort of Christmas market and if the place has more than maybe 40k inhabitants, then they often have a very impressive market. And oddly the Christmas Market in a 40,000 people city is MUCH better than any markets in the 1.5 mio city of Dublin. So what is the problem? Why can’t anybody get it hacked in Ireland despite years of trying and trying?

I have my own theories and they might be wrong, but what do you think about this:

I get the impression that in Germany and Austria etc the markets are firstly for the visitors, secondly for the traders and only in third place are the organiser’s interest. This probably has to do with the fact that it is usually not an Event Management organisation that is in charge of the market on the continent. In Ireland it is different: The first priority seems to be given to the organiser. Then they will consider briefly the traders but would love to get rid of them and only in third place ranks the audience, the customers.

But Christmas Markets are not and should not seen as a get-rich-quick scheme for organiser. Only when that changes we have a chance to see a proper Christmas Market.

There are a few unfixable problems:

Food and Gluehwein will never be as low priced as outside of Ireland. A cup of Gluehwein seemed outrageously priced at EUR 6 and it is! In Lidl you can get a litre of Gluehwein for that price. But listen to that: In Germany you pay for the same cup ONLY around EUR 2.50, BUT the bottle in Lidl is only EUR 1.50. So if we compare the price per cup with the price of the bottle then we don’t do horribly bad here. Why is the bottle so expensive here? Mainly taxes!! Thanks, deas government for even ruining our Gluehwein addiction. ;-)

And another problem: There seems to be a serious shortage of high quality craft traders in Ireland. At least of Christmas compatible and “sellable” craft!

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But, I hear you saying, are the Christmas markets here really that bad?

About 10 years ago the first market appeared at George’s Dock. At the time a German company was hired to run it and they did a reasonably well job, but it was a new concept and visitors were not as plentiful as they should. After about 5 years (and I am probably not 100% correct with my timings) they were not hired again. Instead an Irish company event management company thought they could do a better job and things started going downhill: The white plastic tents were introduced. They create as much Christmas atmosphere as a Tupperware bowl. That Irish company tried for 2 years and failed. Then another Irish Event Management company got involved and just lasted one year and then there was no market last year at George’s Dock.

That’s when the era of the City Centre Christmas market began! The era lasted one year and was a disaster. In principle it was a very good idea to move the market away from the far-out-the-city IFSC to the centre. But squeezed on the footpath next to Stephen’s Green was a totally wrong place for it. Stephen’s Green would be super, but here shows up another problem: We have NO single suitable space in the City Centre of Dublin that would allow the set up of a Christmas Market Village (not just a string of stalls). Smithfield or the Point Village would be suitable regarding the space, but the location is totally unsuitable.

What else went wrong last year? Well, Christmas Markets need to have a VERY strong food and drink (at least Gluehwein) component to keep people there for a while. Only if people stay there you create atmosphere and you get others to meet them there. But Dublintown (the organisers of last year’s market) decided in their wisdom to give the “catering contract” (totally wrong approach!!) to one single company. So no competition, no variety, no excitement about the food. In addition, Dublintown was worried that the restaurants and traders in the city (who they represent) would suffer from having a too strong food and drink component. And finally: They thought more about marketing the Christmas Market than making it good!

Which brings is to the “I believe (TM) Christmas Tree & Village”. WHAT? Who in their right mind thinks first about trademarking the name of a Christmas Market (on top of that this name “I believe” is totally nonsensical!) and why is it not called Christmas Market, but “Christmas Tree & Village”? So the tree is more relevant than the village? And the village is not really a market? And the “I believe” part is trademarked? Seems like a PR agency ran riot!

The right approach? Create a deadly Christmas Market and you won’t need a fancy or even trademarked name because it speaks for itself! The Nuremberg Christmas Market as one of the most famous and best known in the world, is called “Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt” (Christchild Market). Nothing fancy, no trademark. No silly PR or marketing. It is an amazing market that speaks for itself WORLDWIDE!

More nonsensical claims at the I believe market? Sure!! What about the “Rockefeller-style” Christmas tree? What is “Rockefeller-style” about the tree? The tree is about half as high as the one at the Rockefeller Centre in New York and the lights in Dublin are as boring as hell. NOTHING that even comes close to the magical Rockefeller Centre tree. Empty promises! Like the claim about the importance this market will have in Europe within 5 years. The claim is that it will be one of the top markets in Europe within 5 years. Why does that matter? By the way: It will have NO importance in the international context and it is not relevant either. If they had focused on doing the best possible Christmas Market instead, it would be a success. But that was seemingly forgotten.

I could go on about the outrageously Après Ski table rent and the continued failure to include the CHQ building more, but I want to mention some of the good things before I will take a chill pill (You might have gathered that I am very passionate about Christmas Markets. Maybe I should offer my services as a Christmas Market consultant? ;-) )

There are definitely some good sides about the Dublin Docklands Christmas Market (trademark whatever you want of this):

For the first time the trader selection seems to be well thought out and comes close to what a Christmas Market should be. The layout of the platform in George’s Dock is good and if the white plastic tents were replaced with proper wooden huts (and there are right and wrong ones!!) it would come closer and closer to a good Christmas Market. More traders are needed and some Christmas music would help, but the decoration is quite pretty.

Sure the food trader (again seemingly in one hand) situation has to get sorted as well, competition and more variety is needed, also for the Gluehwein, but that is a relatively simple change. The opening hours are good and the entertainment programme that was originally promised seemed good as well, unfortunately though, I haven’t found a website where this programme of live entertainment has been listed for people to see. With such a marketing focus event this is a big oversight.

Is the “I believe” Market salvageable? Yes! Fire the marketing company and involve people that have been at least ONCE at a European Christmasmarket and it could be really good in about 3-4 years. However, because the NO 1 interest is still the organiser, I have doubts that it will make enough money to keep them interested that long.

If you read till here: WOW! ;-) This concludes my rant and if you want to share your opinion with me, send it to dublineventguide@gmail.com

No Christmas Market at St. Stephen’s Green in 2015?

Last year Dublintown pushed the Christmas Market at St. Stephen’s Green in a big way and with massive goals.

I quote “Dublin’s first city centre traditional Christmas market expected to attract an additional 600,000 visitors and generate up to EUR 20 million in revenue for Dublin businesses, creating 150 seasonal jobs.” and I remember even reading that Dublin will in a few years be a top Christmas market destination for tourists.

Well, it didn’t happen! Traders were very unhappy with the market, but on top of that it didn’t attract the masses and it certainly wasn’t a Christmas market any Christmas market expert would write home about. So many things were done wrongly! The location was wrong, the stall selection was wrong, the food business was the wrong one. I could go on and on. (Maybe I should provide my services as Christmas Market Consultant! ;-) Dublin needs one!)

Yesterday Dublintown sent out their Press Release regarding Christmas 2015 and there is no word about a Christmas market in it.

The mess that the Luas work causes doesn’t help at or near St. Stephen’s Green , but Dublintown (which is the trader organisation for Dublin) didn’t listen to Samuel Beckett who said “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” The experiment last year failed (to a degree), but it would be better to improve it than to give up, at least Mr Beckett thought so!

Dublin Christmas Light Proceedings – Odd from start to finish!

I don’t know where to start! There are so many weird and outright odd things about the Dublin Christmas Light Proceedings that I could write pages and pages.

But let’s start with the barriers in our city first. No, I am not talking about physical walls, they would be easy to take down. Instead I am talking about political, commercial and social walls! And they are here to stay!

Dublin City has THREE not one Christmas Lights event. Why? Because Northsiders can’t with Southsiders and vice versa and the traders organisation “Dublin Town” can’t do it with Dublin City and vice versa. So as a result there was a Switching on of Christmas Lights in Grafton Street on Thursday 13 November, one in Henry Street on Sunday 16 November and then there is the Christmas Tree in O’Connell Street, which will be switched on two weeks later on 30 November.
Doesn’t make sense in the slightest, but, hey, it is three mini festivals for people to go on the street, so I guess we shouldn’t complain.
Apart from that, the Christmas Tree Lighting is the main job of the year for the Lord Mayor and why would we need a powerless Lord Mayor if it wasn’t for switching on the Christmas Tree!?

They could press ONE button in the middle of O’Connell Bridge, but it seems that we are happy with the walls we have. – Oh, and I better shut up about the SEPARATE Christmas Lighting event just a stone-throw from the City Centre, at Smithfield, right?

The next odd thing is the timing and I am not growing tired from pointing this out year after year:
Bringing the Christmas Lights so much forward to mid-November can only be driven by the wish or hope to extend the Christmas buying period through this “trick.” The thinking must be that if people start buying two weeks earlier, they will spend more money throughout the 6 weeks up to Christmas. But is that really the case? I don’t know about you, but I still buy the initially intended number and type of presents for the people I need to get presents for. As it all culminates in that one event, there is no “buying more”. Even if the Christmas Shopping period (as defined by the lights) ran for 4 months, I would still buy the same number of presents. So a longer Shopping Period makes absolutely no sense from a commercial point of view with regards to present buying.

Where it might make sense is for people who come to the City and who normally wouldn’t come. No, this is not the country folk, this is tourists…in a few years time! Until last year Dublin City was void of a good Christmas Market. This year a new approach is taken and the Christmas Stall Row (It is one long row along St. Stephen’s Green, not a market in the usual sense.) still has to prove itself, but it could work and if it does, that’s a great thing. Mind you, though, visitors won’t know about it for a while because traditionally Dublin is void of good Christmas market and that is the reputation we have.

Will 600,000 additional visitors come to Dublin because of the Christmas market as Dublin Town claims? And will these 600k people leave EUR 20mio behind in shops, restaurants and hotels? Maybe in a few years time if the Dublin Christmas Market manages to become as good as the Nürnberg or Vienna Christmas Market, but until then, these figures are total nonsense.

BUT…Christmas is a great time of the year, so let’s enjoy it and let’s hope that the Christmas Market will be a big success!

 
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