In Praise of Stalybridge’s Handmade Market

Why East of the M60 says the town’s Handmade Market is something to treasure

View of Handmade Market (black and white)
Popular: MWL Events’ Stalybridge Handmade Market.

Since 2013, Stalybridge’s Handmade Market has become a popular fixture adding footfall to the Cheshire town. Each event, always well attended as demonstrated by the pictures seen below.Prior to this year, the market was hosted on a monthly basis. Recent changes to markets policy by Tameside MBC has seen the market hosted on a less frequent basis. This has been met with consternation by businesses and residents within Stalybridge. A grouse which has pricked the consciousness on social media sites and community groups.

Since its arrival in Stalybridge, the Handmade Market has gone from strength to strength. MWL Events, its organisers, have since added similar events in Bolton, Leigh and Chorley. Stalybridge’s market is the only one where a modest (50p) admission is charged, which goes to Willow Wood Hospice.

Hand Made Stall
Everything from handicrafts to handmade cakes.

The prime mover, Katherine Brookes, is a creative person herself and a stall holder. She sees the markets as a labour of love. For the people of Stalybridge, this not only enhances the town’s retail offerings. It also offers a genuine alternative for the people of Tameside.

The Muffin Mistress
‘Nuffin But Muffins’ – The Muffin Mistress. (For the benefit of our readers, not the oven bottom variety).

Over the last two years, the stall holders have become regular fixtures at the Handmade Markets. Robinsons’ Bakery from Moston have assumed their regular position at the back of the Civic Hall’s space, opposite the coffee stall (unlimited coffee for £2.00). Adding another dimension to the day is live performances from local musicians.

View of Handmade Market, side view
Hive of activity: the Handmade Market as seen on the 19 September 2015.

From 10am to 4pm, one can enjoy as much coffee as possible, talk to stall holders, help Willow Wood Hospice, come away with a hand crafted birthday card, or buy some pies for supper. Ever popular is the Saddleworth Pie Company, whose stall ran out of pies and left early on in my visit.

View of Handmade Market
Jams, Jewellery and Handicrafts: a general view of the Handmade Market in Stalybridge.

With the regular stall holders and in spite of less regular visits, there is still the same continuity enjoyed with full time market halls and open markets. Going off the footfall of my previous visits there is probably enough to sustain a weekly presence, not only a reversion to its previous monthly schedule.

Katherine Brookes and John, Stalybridge Civic Hall
The prime mover behind Stalybridge Handmade Market: Katherine Brooks, MWL Events, seen with John from Willow Wood Hospice.

Without the success of Stalybridge’s market, the greater use of occasional craft markets throughout the borough wouldn’t have taken off the same. This year saw good footfall at Tameside’s ‘pop-up’ markets over this May’s Food Festival (particularly at Stalybridge and Ashton).

It is also further proof that shoppers would like to see something different to the usual chain stores. A top from Next or Tesco could easily be bought online. An occasional market demands your attention. It compels you to make an effort and see real people instead of pixels. Not only that, the sensual nature; the smell of food, the sense of tactility when looking at hand made goods. Even if you leave empty handed, enough inspiration to consider selling your wares or trying a new handicraft.

MWL Events’ Stalybridge market and its fellow events in Leigh, Chorley and Bolton epitomises the above. Long may they continue.

MWL Events‘ next Handmade Market at Stalybridge Civic Hall will take place on the 21 November 2015. Admission is a 50p donation for the Willow Wood Hospice (free for children). For further details, visit mwlevents.co.uk.

S.V., 21 September 2015.

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