How to set-up a busy street market in less than 12 months

Some of the produce on sale at the new Crystal Palace market yesterday

Some of the produce on sale at the new Crystal Palace market

Compare and contrast.

Yesterday, for the second week, a busy and buzzing street market was staged in Crystal Palace, at Haynes Lane, off Westow Street.

Around a dozen independent traders, selling locally sourced products, had stalls at the market. More are expected to take pitches in the future. The essentials of the market include the principles of Fair Trade, and good, local produce.

The Crystal Palace Transition Town group got this market off the ground in less than a year.

They did this without a six-figure grant from the government.

They did so without needing any endorsement or assistance from a television celebrity.

The new market has proved to be an immediate draw for local families

The market has been an immediate draw for local families

It was achieved through the hard efforts of unpaid volunteers and by spreading  “word of mouth” digitally, online, via Twitter and Facebook, with some outlay on acquiring stalls and some printing and associated costs.

So many people attended the market on its first staging a week ago, that many of the traders were almost out of stock by 1pm (Memo to our loyal reader: Make sure you get there early when you go along next Saturday. The market’s open from 10am).

The Crystal Palace market has had no financial assistance from Croydon Council, though it has had support from the council’s head of markets, Fiona Woodcock, who “has been extremely helpful”, according to one member of the Transition Town team.

Elsewhere in Croydon, it has taken a group of business-owners nearly a year (they blame council “red tape”) to place an ad for a paid, part-time market co-ordinator to take over responsibility for Surrey Street and Church Street from… the council’s market manager.

The initial start-up costs and staging of the new Westow market are being borne by Crystal Palace Transition Town members, with the aim of it being financially self-sustaining within a fairly short time. That’s a bold, community-minded thing to do, and quite entrepreneurial, too. They could have done something like “crowd-sourcing” – a sort of online begging – for this genuinely community project. But they opted not to.

Saturday mornings won't be the same in Crystal Palace this summer

Saturday mornings won’t be the same in Crystal Palace

Colourful “murals” have been painted on the brick walls of the street where the market is based – though at no cost to the organisers or stall-holders, and certainly not involving the five-figure sum that has been spent on the artwork in a foot tunnel the leads to the “Old Town”.

The Westow market is similar in many respects to the farmers’ markets staged fortnightly a few miles away in Wallington, and elsewhere across south London most weekends. On Railton Road – where the Brixton Riots took place 30 years ago – they stage a regular antiques and bric-a-brac market for the fashionistas that have moved in to Herne Hill. “Such fun!” as Mary Portas would undoubtedly gush.

There was a period when a “French Market” was pitched in North End regularly. This seems to have drifted away. And while, obviously, any market of stalls offering local produce would need to compliment, rather than compete with, the established traders and stall-holders in Surrey Street, that need not be impossible to manage. But no such market is held in central Croydon regularly.

“All of the traders were very pleased and the feedback from several who had been involved in other start-up markets said that they had been blown away by the awareness, numbers, professionalism and friendly vibe of the market,” one Crystal Palace organiser told Inside Croydon.

“Other Crystal Palace retailers on the triangle were very pleased too and were reporting that they were busier, too.

“It was a fantastic friendly community event which Crystal Palace turned out in mass to support. Many of those involved in the organisation and promotion of the market were tremendously moved by the community’s supportive response. It’s a fantastic foundation to build a regular weekly Crystal Palace food market and we look forward to welcoming everybody again each week.”

Crystal Palace's new market even has a cake stand, though the public has not had to pay for the ovens in which the products are baked

Crystal Palace’s new market even has a cake stand, though the public has not had to pay for the ovens

The food writer, Rachel de Thample, who lives locally, has been involved, offering recipes which use some of the produce available.

Others in the group who turned this project from a concept to such a successful reality have included Karen Jones and Laura Marchant-Short.

They should be congratulated and encouraged. Imagine how much busier the market might be had the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, not broken his promise, twice, of a Tramlink from central Croydon?

Or how much easier it might have been for the local volunteers if they’d had the benefit of even £8,500 towards their start-up costs?

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2 Responses to How to set-up a busy street market in less than 12 months

  1. I’m delighted to see Fiona Woodcock receiving acknowledgement of her considerable street market experience and her positive attitude. She has been beavering away in Surrey Street for many years – long before Mary Portas hopped smartly onto the high street band wagon.
    But Fiona’s efforts have been constantly diminished by the intransigence and Luddite attitudes of some street traders who seem to think the rest of us owe them a living.
    I recall how patiently she argued for greater variety in the market, despite obdurate objections from ‘fruit and veg’ traditionalists.
    Why is the Crystal Palace market proving so successful in such a short period of time and without ‘help’ from Mary? It must be the enthusiasm and hard work of the people running it – from organisers to individual stallholders – and their determination to respond positively to the real needs of potential customers.
    Now that’s what I call enterprise!

  2. I call it community spirit.
    “Many people are good at talking about what they are doing, but in fact do little. Others do a lot but don’t talk about it; they are the ones who make a community live.”
    ― Jean Vanier, Community And Growth

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