Sunday, 23 August 2009

Sleepless at 2am

I am really worried about the future of my business. On Saturday, I felt compelled to pack up my stall at three in the afternoon, at least an hour and a half earlier than I would do normally, during the busiest trading time. I am certain I have lost quite a lot of money as I usually do between a third and a half of my business in the last couple of hours of trading. Oftentimes, people who have been round in the morning, come back and purchase after looking around at other options.

The reason I felt I had to leave was a group of intimidating looking people dragged a bench into some open space behind my stall and sat down swigging alcohol. I think they may be homeless but I thought I knew most of the homeless people in Cambridge as I always a buy a Big Issue but I didn't recognise any of them. They had two large dogs with them and they kept barking at my little terrier, Missy. Consequently, she wouldn’t settle down in order for us to sit peaceably behind the stall. I couldn’t talk to customers and deal with Missy.

On the Friday, the craft market is also open during June to August but I only trade on a Saturday. Apparently the same people were there nearly all day; they had a fight amongst themselves and the police had to become involved, statements were taken from the stallholders.

The market manager called in the police on Saturday as soon as the people arrived; two officers saw their dogs menacing at Missy, Missy was very well behaved in response and the police also saw that. The market manager has asked me to write a strong letter of complaint about it - not sure who to at the moment. I am worried if I write a letter about it, all the Council will do will ban dogs from the market which may stop those people appearing in the market but that will spoil it for everyone else – ie other stallholders who also bring their dogs with them and also customers with dogs who usually enjoy a problem-free stroll around the market. I certainly don’t want to leave my dog at home, it would mean her being on her own from 7am until 6.30pm in the evening, which she isn’t used to as I am at home all day during the week making my beads and jewellery.

Anyway, the police started to leave with the people still sat there behind us, I asked the officers why they weren't moving them on and the police just waffled at me. Another stallholder also complained about them being there so the police stayed a bit longer but didn't do anything to get rid of them. Some stallholders have credit card machines, we all have personal belonging and it's really unnerving to have people sat behind you.

If it's happened in the past, ordinarily I have felt able to approach people and point out nicely that we don't feel secure about it and most understand but I didn't feel able to ask these people considering how violent they had been the day before.

It's 2am in the morning and I can't sleep for worrying about what I'm going to do. They left after I had packed up and gone and apparently were heard to say "see you next week" to a couple of stallholders.

I don't get enough business from the internet though I could perhaps open an Etsy shop and do more on Ebay but even then, I feel I would have to get a job. I haven't worked at a "proper" job for 4-5 years - I was in web design/system support before and I haven't kept my skills as up to date as an employer would demand and so the prospect is not a good one.


  1. Sue, that's awful. I can't stand when the police are so blah about things.

    I wonder if they are the group of people that Chris and I normally see. Over the road from Parkers Piece, at the top of Mill Road, there is a little park with some swings and lots of trees, next to the Church of Zion. There are normally a bunch of homeless people there with their dogs and they are so intimidating and rowdy that if they're there on the bench, Chris and I normally walk round the park instead of walking through it. They haven't been there for the past few weekends so I wonder if they've been moved on and have set up camp over in your neck of the woods? They weren't in the normal place yesterday. Hmmm.

    You stallholders should get some kind of petition going or something. You can't work there with that and also, it may put customers off from going to the market.

    As for getting another job, well, I'm with you there. I've been self employed since I was 18 and I think it would be near on impossible for me to go back to working for someone else. Saying that, I am having more and more days at the mo where I feel as if I could .....

    There's a lovely little shop in the 'old' bit of Cambridge that sells handmade jewellery and it specialises in selling lampwork and glass stuff. It's really a very nice shop. Can't think of the name but it's on a little corner and gets lots of passing footfall. Maybe they might take some of your work? Sorry I can't be more specific - my geography is atrocious. I think it's at the end of Trinity Street. The Baron Of Beef is nearby.

    Don't give up Sue (although it's easy for me to say that - I know how youe feel and it's not nice) because your work is great and you shouldn't let these people force you out.

    Big hug

    Laura x

  2. Laura, you are a sweetheart for writing this, thank you. It has helped make me feel heaps better. Been talking to the Market Manager this morning, things look more optimistic by the light of day! There are quite a few things going to happen about this which may do the trick.

    I don't know what was going on in the morning yesterday but we saw all sorts, two ambulances going past plus a fire engine several times all with blue lights going, Geoff saw police divers going into the river Cam near Fen Causeway when walking the dog at around 9.00am, the sausage stall seller at the end of Sydney Street said two police patrol cars arrived and armed police got out and arrested a homeless person outside his stall (I think it must've been a taser rather than a real gun ... I hope!) and there was loads of shouting coming from the Round Church area. Goodness knows what anyone visiting thought. The police need to get this under control else it will affect tourism.

    Apparently a year long Section 30 Agreement banning these people from the town centre expired about a month ago which is why they are were out and about in such numbers - it sounds very much like they may well be the same people that you have seen in the past.

    There's a meeting next week between the Market Manager, the Council, the police officer in charge of homeless people etc. and hopefully they'll come up with an action plan.

    Apparently it will take some time via the machinations of the Magistrates Court to get the Section 30 agreement reinstated but the wheels are in motion. The benches are going to be put away under lock and key in the meantime and the police will be increasing patrols. Plus we will have a card with a telephone number on it to call and the CCTV will then track movements around the craft market.

    I'm definitely going back next Saturday and will have to play it by ear from then onwards.

    Usually the most hassle I get in Cambridge is from the peaceful Iranians collecting signatures and money (don't know what for!) outside the bookshop on Trinity Street - all they do is say "excuse me" and there's no problem when I just ignore them.

    I don't think I've seen that shop you mention, I will have a wander down the other end of Trinity Street and see if I can find it! :-)

    Thanks again for your kindness.


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