Vegan markets on hold, but organiser says they’re Covid safe

Boba's Plants is one of the retailers unable to open during lockdown. Picture: Sarah Zeneli

AS ENGLAND enters its second week of the new lockdown, some local businesses are beginning to feel the impact.

Wokingham’s market scene has been profoundly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with local markets adapting to meet government guidelines.

And for one organiser, it has led to them cancelling this month’s events.

“We decided to cancel all of the upcoming vegan markets during the lockdown period,” said Sarah Zeneli, founder of Sparkle Vegan Events.

“After consulting with each of the town councils and looking into the government guidelines, we realised there just wasn’t enough leeway for all of our traders to set up stalls.

“Too many of them weren’t considered essential.”

Sparkle Vegan Events was planning to run a variety of vegan markets in Wokingham, Woodley and Bracknell as stall holders prepare for the festive season, but the new lockdown has put them on hold for now.

“It’s a shame”, Ms Zeneli continued, “because a lot of our stall holders have either made or bought in Christmas stock already and it’s now a financial burden.

“So many small businesses already lost so much money throughout the first lockdown, and to be put in that situation again for the second lockdown is particularly hard.”

Not all markets are set to close throughout the lockdown period, however, with Wokingham Town Council launching its own ‘Lockdown Market’.

In a post on Facebook, the organisers said: “We’re open but some of our traders aren’t allowed to trade due to Government guidelines.”

The Lockdown Market will continue to run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays throughout November on Market Place in Wokingham town centre.

While Wokingham Market is still going ahead during lockdown, Ms Zeneli wants all markets to stay open.

“Essential items should cover a wider range than just food,” she said.

“We’ve worked really hard to make our events Covid safe, including implementing lots of safety measures like hand sanitising stations and social distancing.

“Our traders have all made sure that they are Covid safe too, and we’re outside in the fresh air where there is a lower transmission rate of the virus.”

The events organiser is calling for markets to stay open under the same rules as supermarkets in cases where traders are following all of the safety guidelines.

“This is peoples’ livelihood, including our own. We can’t carry on like this forever,” Ms Zeneli added.

While the vegan markets in Wokingham, Woodley and Bracknell are paused, people can still get involved and shop with Sparkle Vegan Events’ local stall holders.

Throughout November, the company is running a ‘trader spotlight’ campaign where it will be promoting a variety of small businesses and informing customers on how to support them during lockdown.

“All we can do is keep our fingers and toes crossed that this lockdown will only last for one month,” Ms Zeneli said.

“We hope we can still host the December markets in the run up to Christmas.”

Responding to the lockdown restrictions on markets, Wokingham Town mayor, Cllr Tony Lack said:

“Our market sits at the heart of our town and it’s been delightful being out and about with our traders these last few months. With this latest lockdown I can confirm that the Government guidelines have changed in respect to who is deemed an essential trader during this time and the definitions are changing constantly. Food products of any kind, take-away street food, pet food and plants and shrubs are permitted but household products not.

“A timely decision had to be made regarding the monthly Vegan Market. At that time, only limited Government information was available which permitted just 3 traders to attend. The decision was therefore taken to cancel with the hope that come December, this lively market would return once again.

“Our Market Manager is in contact with all our traders, updating them on the guidelines and helping promote any who are able to trade online during this difficult time. We look forward to hearing what will be happening come December 2nd and hope that guidelines permit the safe return of all our markets.”

For more on the vegan markets, log on to: www.facebook.com/SparkleVeganEvents

For more information about Wokingham Town Council’s Lockdown Market, visit: www.facebook.com/WokinghamMarket

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