‘Stall holders and small firms are all essential services’

May 25, 2020


FAMILIAR FACE: John, who can be found as Farm Clayford on Facebook, has been coming to to the Saturday Wareham market for years on behalf of New Forest Bacon and Local Meats.

WELL PRESERVED: Bob is a regular stallholder on the Wareham Quay market on a Saturday morning and is a local supplier of jams and preserves, particularly Mrs Darlington.

MARKET PRODUCE: Sausages from the New Forest, preserves from Dorset and tomatoes, oranges, raspberries, lettuces and cabbages were amongst fresh produce I picked up from the Wareham market on the town’s quay that has re-opened after a seven year gap.





SINCE coronavirus or COVID-19 changed our lives in the middle of March much has been made of what actually constitutes essential services.

Over the past seven weeks, we have seen the crucial roles farmers, doctors, nurses, supermarket workers, hauliers and medical suppliers of personal protectice equipment (PPE) when we all had to go in lockdown, but why that should be conflated with other sectors of the economy that hut to shut down.

‘Civil servants used essential service label to divide and conquer’

Isn’t a barber, a nail salon, a public house, garden centres, car washes, a restaurant and other hospitality services, aren’t these essential services? Many might think this is a wilful attempt to divide and conquer by saying who is and who isn’t an essential service.

Added to that from a health perspective, dentists and opticians have been shut for weeks and their diagnostic abilities can detect cancers, strokes and other life-threatening conditions through doing routine checks up on their caseloads of patients.

Behind every one of these businesses a man or woman trying to provide for their families and for the past seven weeks, that is exactly what has happened to the regulars of Wareham Market and also Holme 4 Gardens up the road.

‘Market regulars denied income for 7 weeks’

With the lockdown rules slightly eased, I was able to get out and visit the town for the first time in several weeks and found out that the stall holders were only allowed to operate for the first time as from last week.

In that same trip around the Purbecks, I visited the garden centre on the road to West Lulworth who had also recently re-opened after a while shut down. Garden centres were allowed to re-open at the beginning of May.

A brief visit to the Arne Reserve has seen the car parking area closed off. How are you supposed to fight off any infection if you are locked in your home and denied sunlight, particularly the given the crucial aspect of Vitamin D?

Compared to recent visits I had done in the past, they were visibly less relaxed due to the social distancing rules that they have to enforce on their customers. Despite these circumstances, they were doing their best.

But the market was a bit different, the customer experience was better and the communication was more relaxed, not forced. With some of exceptions, many of these stall holders are on the market stall calendar that operates during the week.

‘Most markets use cash, not cards’

Bob, who supplies preserves and jams, and John (also known as Clayford Farm on Facebook) of New Forest Bacon and Local Meats and operate in cash. Some stalls may operate a chip-and-pin machine at a market but it is likely to be the exception rather than the rule.

Margins will be tight so assuming that they can afford a chip and pin machine with a contactless icon might not be practical.

Whilst this lockdown has been in place, it has been noticeable to me – and will be to others – of the seeming indifference from politicians to small business and its integral role in being the hub of community life.

‘Corporate business made power grab during COVID-19 lockdown’

Simultaneously, it is clear to anyone who can see beyond what the mainstream media’s coverage of this crisis of the commercial power grab that has ensued by large DIY chains and supermarkets who have been able to absorb the costs of bringing in the social distancing rules and the security that comes with it.

With small firms or family businesses unable to operate, they haven’t been able to trade in this current climate or afford these extra costs other to enforce them themselves.

In the UN’s Agenda 21 Document that promotes sustainable development, regular readers of this site in recent years will know that I have been trying to raise my concerns about this global blueprint for the world given that local representations for them such as Dorset Agenda 21 and Somerset Agenda 21 are stakeholders with local authorities and named at the top of press releases from councils, as far as 16 years ago.

‘Read up about Agenda 21 and what it means’

They have never been present at local events and shows to explain why they don’t believe in them because the document they follow doesn’t mention them having a future. Councils locally have been unwilling or piecemeal in their efforts to back villages, hamlets, small towns and suburbs.

So if we can find ourselves out of this dystopian nightmare, we need to reach out to those of us who are self-employed, family firms or small business and find them as soon as possible.

‘Social distancing harms friendships and mental health’

Social distancing inhibits social contact. We are social beings, not Social isolation has proven to be terrible for mental health and well-being as well as physical health. The suicide rate has expotentially increased since the lockdown came into force. You can’t build any immunity to a virus if you have no social contact.

In a small way I hope this opinion article gives a ray of light of what is actually happening behind the scenes. Take the opportunity to visit markets and small firms, and see what they do for their communities.

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