A baker from Needingworth who sells thousands of cakes a week to customers from all around the country has been banned from the St Ives farmers’ market for “inciting violence”.
George Hepher, 23, from Needingworth, has been a regular stall holder at the market, selling homemade bakes, under his brand George's Bakery for the past four years.
However, on Tuesday (October 1) George found out that he had been banned from the market by St Ives Town council for "inciting violence", following a "machete joke".
George said: "We have had ongoing problems with the St Ives Town Council over our stall on the market.
"A couple of months ago they had said to us that our stall was blocking the other stalls, and that we needed to move to a different plot. But where we had the new stall, the sun was melting all of the bakes.
"So we wanted to ask to move, and asked if we could reach a compromise. The town council was very difficult and said that we could have two separate stalls, which obviously wouldn't work. People travel from all around the country so I don't want to let them down."
George, who has 24,000 followers on Instagram, said he then wrote a
"jokey" post on Facebook.
George said: "Because we'd had people writing in and still had no action taken, we asked people to bring down at the next market their placards, strongly worded letters and we joked about bringing a machete as well.
"I now realise that this was bad choice of words from me, but the town council won't give me chance to apologise. St Ives is my home town, and my dad even has a shop in St Ives, it's a shame that I won't be able to trade there anymore.
"I just feel really upset for all our customers who are going to miss out now. We'll just continue trading at Ely and Cambridge instead."
Alison Benfield, clerk to St Ives Town Council, said: "The decision to ban George's Bakery was not taken lightly but was proportionate to the comment made in the post on September 21 at 8.14pm.
"Any person or business that appears to be inciting violence publicly against an individual or body is likely to be investigated formally - even if said jokingly.
"Within the recent social media post that resulted in this ban, George's Bakery appeared to be inciting violence against the town council and its staff by suggesting people attend the next market with machetes.
"The post was amended to remove reference to machete during the morning of October 2 but it had remained in place until that time. In the current climate of knife crime, there is the chance someone may have read the uncensored comment, not consider it to be a joke and act on it. The police were contacted regarding this comment, noted the full text and considered that the council response to the comment was entirely appropriate and balanced and they will be following up formally.
"The town council has acted professionally in accordance with its own code of conduct, requiring members and staff to treat all with respect. It also has a responsibility to protect its staff, traders and members of the public in the event of any perceived threat or danger."
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: "On September 21, an officer from St Ives local policing team received a complaint in connection with a post published on an open Facebook page regarding a stall at the St Ives farmers' market. Officers engaged with the person who published the post and provided words of advice around the use of the word 'machete' within the message. The post has since been edited and the reference has been removed. No further police action will be taken."