March 5, 2012
To Market, To Market
What does it take to set up a village market? Teresa Munn from Woolton Hill tells HugoFox News how her labour of love became something that’s enjoyed by hundreds of local people every month.
Vibrant colours, the bubbling sound of happy chatter, the smell of freshly-cooked cakes and hot coffee; there’s no denying that the Woolton Hill Village Market is a feast for all the senses. There’s a buzz in the air and a passion for local produce. It’s fair to say that the community spirit is almost tangible – and it should be, given that nearly a thousand people in the parish of East Woodhay said they’d like to see a market established in Woolton Hill.
Of course, when Teresa Munn’s hand went up to volunteer, little did she know it would be the only one! She was then approached by Sandie Bishopp who said that she’d help get it off the ground. Teresa told HugoFox News: “I thought it would be fun to do… although I had lived in the village for over twenty years, I’d been a commuter. But through working on the market, I have come to know many more people locally”.
Both Teresa and Sandie were passionate about creating a lively and interactive meeting place for the whole community, and they started work on creating just that. After a hard slog through the summer months, with both ladies working on the market practically full-time, the first one was held in September 2009. Since then it’s gone from strength to strength. Teresa sas:
“The most important thing we did at the start was to define a vision of what we wanted to create. We wrote our mission statement early on and that gave us the guiding principles for everything we did”. They set out to assemble a market that supported local producers, brought people together over a cuppa, allowed groups and societies to fundraise and that the whole venture would be not-for-profit.
Teresa says the whole process was quite straightforward, but very hard work, with both ladies having stood knee-deep in mud to sign-up local producers, handed hundreds of leaflets out to publicise the market, not to mention having to invest their own money to get the venure off the ground. And it’s been no easy ride, as Teresa adds:
“We have met the whole gamut of reactions to the concept of a village market from the negative “it won’t work” to uplifting positives such as “what a great idea, I will definitely be there”.” They’ve called on expertise from all kinds of angles, including advice from East Woodhay Women’s Institute as well as help from many impassioned locals who were keen to see the market go ahead.
Finding stall-holders might have seemed like a Herculean task given that they had no track record and no local contacts. They had to seek out local producers and persuade them to give the market a try. Teresa says: “Fortunately, Sue and Mark Hetherton of Hetherton’s Bakery in Newbury were very keen to support us. I (then) went through the whole Hampshire Fare food producers list…our problem was that established producers typically have a schedule of markets they attend already”. Luckily, Teresa and Sandie formed a timely link with Parsonage Farm, who were just expanding their outlets, and help was also on hand from the organisers of Hamstead Marshall and Inkpen markets.
Although the market was in its infancy, Teresa says that from the start they’ve had a strict criteria; the first being that the trader is as local to Woolton Hill as possible: “We always start our search in the village and move out to neighbouring villages and counties”, says Teresa. They’re also keen to provide opportunities for local people and seek-out those traders who want to sell and promote their goods at market for the first time. There also needs to be a good mix of stalls and that’s definitely what they have here. It all operates on a rotating basis so that there’s always a balance of arts and crafts, food and drink and activities – not forgetting of course, the obligatory coffee and cakes. They started with 11 stall and now there are 18 at each event. There’s also now the opportunity for local groups to run the tea room and raise funds each month.
The market continues to evolve. Sandie decided to resign at the end of 2010 and Jenny Veasey came on board. Last year, Diana Brunsden and Lorna Rains also joined the team.
Aside from the passion and commitment of this dedicated team, it’s the little things that make the market what it is. You won’t find instant coffee being served; it’s proper filter coffee in decent corrugated cups. They also have their own identity and logo so that bags and leaflets can carry their image. It’s the little touches that set the market aside.
The market always takes place on the last Saturday of the month with the next being the 31st March. For more details and further dates, visit http://www.wooltonhillvillagemarket.co.uk/.