The posters for the West Norwood Feast call it a “people-powered” market – so what exactly does that mean? Well, to put it bluntly, it means the Feast would never have happened without dozens of local people who have thrown their time, energy and passion behind it.
In January, myself and the rest of the Space Makers team started hosting weekly open meetings on a Tuesday night. Through these meetings – which happen at The Railway pub by Tulse Hill station, 6.30 till 8.30pm – residents and local businesses got involved and soon took the lead in organising the different parts of the market.
After two successful markets, we’re learning how this process works – and starting to map out the roles involved. In the weeks ahead, we’ll also be setting up a Community Interest Company which will begin to take over the formal running of the market from Space Makers, as we all work to make the Feast a sustainable long-term part of life in West Norwood.
As we head into that process, we’re looking for more people to get involved and become part of the Feast gang. If I say we’re looking for “volunteers”, that word doesn’t really reflect the passion, initiative and leadership which characterises the group that has come together over the past few months. I asked my Twitter friends for better words and they suggested “changemakers”, “doers”, “remakers”, “catalysts”, “fertilisers” – all of which get a bit closer to the truth.
Whatever the right word is, there are lots of ways you can get involved – and, as the existing gang will testify, it’s a great way to meet more people who live near you and learn more about all the great stuff that’s already going on in West Norwood.
The following isn’t a complete list – just an outline of some of the ways in which you can help – and if any of them catch your imagination, then please come and join us this (or any) Tuesday at The Railway for our weekly meeting (6.30-8.30pm).
There’s a lot of physical work involved in a market! Feast days start at 6.30am, loading the van with stalls and setting them up at the four marketplace hubs. There’s a second shift from 4.30 till 7.30pm, packing the stalls back into the lock-up. If you fancy a work-out once a month, then this could be the role for you!
At the heart of the Feast is a vision of making West Norwood a better place to live – and an idea of the marketplace as something warmer and broader than just a space for buying and selling, an age-old sociable institution where you come to hang out, meet people, hear stories and songs, learn about what’s going on in the area. We need people who can help tell that story – on the internet, to journalists who get in contact with us, to potential funders, and to other businesses and organisations who want to understand what’s going on.
These people are legends. Each of the four marketplace hubs – the Food Fair, the Retro Village, the Gardener’s Corner and the Artisan’s Market – needs a couple of people to take the lead, find great local stallholders and build relationships with them, handle bookings, tell people where to go on the day and generally hold it all together. We already have some amazing people who’ve led the hubs so far, but we could do with some extra leaders or potential leaders – particularly for the artisan’s and food markets.
We’ve got the beginnings of a success on our hands. Thousands of people came to the first two Feasts and the feedback we’ve had is terrific. So how do we turn this into something viable for the long-term? There’s enough trade being created for local businesses and for stallholders as a result of the Feast that we’re convinced we can find some business models that will enable it to become self-sustaining. If you’ve got a head for numbers and a nose for deals, we need your help to make this a reality.
The Feast is more than just a place to shop, it’s somewhere you can spend a day hanging out, listening, playing, learning, meeting people. A big part of this is the entertainment and workshops. We’ve been working with some fantastic local organisations – including the Portico Gallery, Nettlefold Hall, the South London Theatre and the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery – all of whom have been involved in organising and hosting activities. But we also need volunteers who can help us find musicians, performers and entertainers of all kinds to make the Feast a great day out for old and young.
Finally, one of the simplest and most important roles is that of the ambassadors who represent the Feast, acting as its eyes, ears – and mouths! This can include spreading the word in between market days – for example, handing out leaflets outside the railway station – as well as helping out as a steward on the day itself, keeping an eye out for any issues, answering people’s questions and generally representing the Feast.
So there you are, there are lots of ways to get involved in our people-powered market and help it to thrive. If any of this has caught your imagination, please come down and meet us at The Railway pub, by Tulse Hill station, this Tuesday (or any other Tuesday) from 6.30 to 8.30pm.
We look forward to meeting you!