I went to the Ramadan market on Coventry Road – and saw more police than visitors

webnexttech | I went to the Ramadan market on Coventry Road - and saw more police than visitors

As I turned onto Coventry Road to visit this year’s Ramadan market in Small Heath, I was immediately greeted by the sight of three uniformed police officers patrolling the busy stretch. They were not the only officers present either, also in attendance were anti-social behaviour enforcement officers and even the council’s environmental officers – but where were all the visitors? Usually a hive of activity, on our most recent visit, the Ramadan market was a shadow of its former self. It had just gone 8pm, at this time last year, throngs of people lined the streets to sample the street food, browse the gift stalls and sample the unique spirit of the market in the run up to Eid. But as the hours passed, the atmosphere remained subdued, with only a handful of stall owners setting up shop, and barely any visitors. What had happened to the Ramadan market that attracted customers from across the country last year? It’s too early to tell, but after walking up and down the street speaking to stall owners – there’s one pretty strong theory. READ MORE: Ramadan market traders call for support saying ‘only in Birmingham’ For many Brummies, the carnival-like atmosphere of the Ramadan markets is the best of Birmingham – a unique melting pot of cultures and something to be celebrated. To disgruntled locals, the markets spell an increase in litter, anti-social behaviour and traffic congestion. But at 9pm on Wednesday night (March 13), we saw neither of those things. It would be unfair to say the market was deserted – there were a few stalls present and a few setting up for the night – but there was nowhere near the same buzz that the event has come to be known for. Passers-by would glance over at the various stalls, but this was not the same market once dubbed a holy land for food vloggers. It’s possible we might have visited too early, but the market was a hive of activity at the same time last year – and Muslims are breaking their fast considerably earlier this Ramadan. So why the drop-off in attendances? It’s hard to know for sure, but it would be fair to assume the number of police officers and council representatives present might have had a part to play. As we walked up and down Coventry Road, we were alerted to a heated debate taking place between a stall owner and a Birmingham City Council Environmental Health officer. “We need a solution – work with us,” the stall owner pleaded, “people are scared to open.” The pair were surrounded by a dozen locals, as well as a number of police officers. Further down the Coventry Road, one of the few stall owners open for business told us how a number of their fellow traders had allegedly been moved on by police over licensing issues. “Some say you can trade, and some say you can’t,” they told us on the condition of anonymity. “They’re not allowing us vendors to get a licence and they’ve had a year. We have called all the numbers we found online and they are dead ends.” Another stall owner, Ahmed, 28, agreed, telling our reporter: “I am not licensed but I’ve applied for the last three years and they won’t let us have it.” His message to the council was: “Please give us a solution, don’t just tell us to stop.” Whether or not licensing issues have affected attendances at the Small Heath market remains to be seen, it’s possible the market might pick-up in the run-up to Eid. But based on the exasperated comments of stall owners this week, it appears many of the issues raised over the past few years around regulating the market remain unsolved. Last year these tensions boiled over, and ugly scenes saw police officers chased away from the markets by angry crowds. While there was no such behaviour on our most recent visit, the heated exchanges we saw between stall owners and enforcement officials make it clear that there is still resentment bubbling away under the surface.

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