Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Liberation Day - Vive la difference?

My hairdresser - yes, I do still need to go to one, still have some hair clinging to the sides of my head - was delighted to discover that they needn't have transferred all their bookings for Saturday to the previous day (and cancelled those that couldn't be moved). I was in there last week submitting to the shears and explaining that they didn't come under the provisions of the Sunday Trading Law. While I was there watching the pathetic quantity of clippings tumble onto the floor, they had an assistant busily rebooking the diary for Saturday.

Presumably it's not illegal to get your eyes tested on Liberation Day either, in between shopping for an engagement ring, getting essentials from the chemist, a good book to take onto the beach, some flowers to give your beau, and sitting down to a fine meal in one of our many town restaurants. And food is on the list of things that are okay to buy on a Sunday (or on Liberation Day) too, so corner shops and supermarkets can open if they choose. There's no restriction on cleaners, gardeners, plumbers, decorators, builders, scaffolding-erectors - the list goes on and on.

A couple of months ago I was asked by Chamber of Commerce to allow our shops to open on the afternoon of Liberation Day, once the majority of the commemorations were finished. It was put to me that in these straitened times town retailers could ill afford to lose the trade that is expected on a busy Saturday in May, with extra tourists on the island to take part in the Liberation Day events. The compromise - closed a.m, open p.m - also had the blessing of the Dean and the Bailiff.

Having agreed to the request, I waited for the public reaction - I did not have to wait long. Lots of people, from members of the Parish's Roads Committee, to traders (large and small), to parishioners (young and old), to States' Members, told me by email, by letter, by letters to the JEP, that they wanted Liberation Day to be kept special. When I pointed out that the Sunday trading law (which includes Liberation Day thanks to an amendment to the law brought by Senator Routier) allowed a large proportion of shops to open ANYWAY, and that surely it was unfair that, for example, a clothes shop would be closed but a jewellers could open - the response was that two wrongs don't make a right; ideally we would - we should? - give future Liberation Days even more protection than they currently receive.

The Town Centre Manager came up with the compromise of designating the Sunday after Liberation Day as a fete or festival which would enable all shops to open under a blanket Sunday Trading permit. This is what happened last Christmas when all Parishes participated in the Fete de Noue, or Christmas Festival. Only the other 11 parishes weren't enamoured of the idea this May, so St Helier was left (as often happens) to plough its lonely furrow, and the St Helier Fete de la Liberation was born.

Quite why the Economic Development minister, Senator Maclean, has now declared the whole weekend a 'fete or festival' I'm not sure, as it's still up to the Constables of the individual parishes to issue Sunday trading permits, and it's not as if he's seeking to allow any more shops to open on Liberation Day than have currently got the ability to do so.

My guess is that there's going to be an awful lot of business going on this Saturday, most if not all of it perfectly legally carried out, either because the businesses concerned already have a Sunday Trading permit, or because they don't need one. In most cases it won't be motivated by greed, either, but because times are tough.

The question for the future is this: can Jersey's government do more to keep Liberation Day special? Or should it be left to the public to vote with their feet - to turn out in force in the morning to the commemoration in Liberation Square, and in the afternoon, to the slaveworkers' memorial at Westmount Crematorium. Isn't it all a bit reminiscent of the Pharisees, to insist that everyone shuts up shop? Thou shalt not buy or sell anything on Liberation Day, thou shalt not buy a shirt or a pair of shoes, thou shalt not take a taxi, thou shalt not get one's hair cut?


TonyTheProf said...

I think the afternoon and small shops (Sunday Trading rules) would be sensible.

You forgot the Puritans - another lot who worked to the principle that no one should have any fun or entertainment on a Sunday. As Joy Davidman put it: "One cannot escape the conviction that certain elements in the churches have themselves unintentionally done much to make the Sabbath unholy. It took the strict Puritans of England only ten years-from 1650 to 1660-so to disgust the people with legislated piety that they reacted into a licence undreamed of before... For many people today the name 'Puritan' has become a scoffing and a byword, synonymous with kill-joy."

At least there are finally big screens, on previous years all one could see was the backs of the stands for the dignatories - not very inclusive - and an appalling tannoy system that would not have been out of place on British Rail!

Anonymous said...

Every year the same greedy money obsessed discussion about Liberation Day!

Liberation from what?

When oh when shall we hear Jersey people and their pathetic political leaders demanding that Human Rights adherence shall be the basis of any celebrations?

If every Jersey household does not have a copy of the UN Declaration of Human Rights then it should have and perhaps just a few people might then undertand that such actions as the arresting of Stuart Syvret ( can't stand the man personally)demonstrate that Jersey has not yet been liberated at all.

This Island has still not ratified the UN Conventions to eliminate discrimination against women (half the population) or to protect the rights of the child (we ALL start out as children) and is still dragging feet on anti-discrimination laws and policies so far as gender, race, age and disability are concerned.

So we just moan about whether we can make a few shillings or not on May 9th!!!!! We probably don't deserve to be liberated. We should be ashamed for those that died so that we might be liberated.

TonyTheProf said...

Off-Topic, fun entry at


concerning your good self!

Censored by the JEP said...

(comments not published by the rag regarding Weighbridge and Liberation Square)

Dear Constable,
There's absolutely no need to join up two areas that are best left as they are with their own characters and are well served for pedestrian access with the zebra crossings (and the road was closed during the event anyway). People's Park is the place for really large events.

Perhaps you could go and stand there during the average working day and see for yourself just how well used the route is (and how much it's clogged up since all those extra crossings have gone in around the area). Do you get out much to see the effects of all the tinkering?

Why make all the traffic go around past the bus station and underpass roundabout and back just to head east via the tunnel? Why add on even more expensive time to taxi journeys from there?

While you're at it, perhaps one could explain just what was the point of widening the pavements and removing even more on-street parking in Don Street. Yet more pointless bollards for no good reason!

Anita said...

It's time Bank Holidays were done away with and a law passed adding those extra days into every employees annual holiday entitlement.

Why? Because in modern times they're helping create a second-class of citizen.

With Bank Holidays the shop worker loses one day of their already shortened weekend break, whilst the office worker gets an extended break, a 3 day weekend.

Some will say that the shop worker gets a day off in lieu. That's not the point. How many office workers would be happy to work every Saturday, get a rotating day off
during the week, and have to work Bank Holidays with a day off in lieu? How many would be willing to give up their full weekened break for that option? To give up their 3 day break come the Bank Holiday?

Scrap Bank Holidays. They are unfair and creating a second social divide on an already socially divided island. And as usual it's the worse off who are getting the worse end of the deal.

Anonymous said...

2 Town Deputies prosecuted and heavily fined but silence from the Constable!

What shall we deduce from this ? Do you agree with law breaking and will you be cancelling all parking fines for the rest of the year? I think not.

Stop sitting on the fence - give some guidance from the Parish point of view. Should they resign or not? Are you happy to continue working with them? Will you be proposing that the postal voters law is changed?

Its all very well dressing up in the fancy red gown but your job has its unpleasant duties too.

Paul said...

Simon, this holiday weekend has so far been HELLISH with noise in Saint Helier. Music and machines in gardens and from houses. Can you PLEASE consider the parish employing a noise marshall, or have the Honorary Police patrol for noise and knock on doors of noisy households?

Something NEEDS to be done.