NORTH-East traders, buoyed by being voted the nation’s favourite, have set out their vision for the continued success of their 'People’s Market'.
A jovial atmosphere accompanied the opening of the first Darlington Sunday People’s Market to be held since it won a 'Britain’s Favourite Market' award on Thursday.
Established in August last year and following recommendations from Mary Portas, the People’s Market has flourished in its first year and now boasts 120 traders on its books.
But far from resting on their laurels, organisers say there is more to come from the award-winning scheme which is joining forces with a community-led arts group to make the market even more diverse and attractive to customers and traders alike.
Peter Wilson, Darlington Council’s markets developer, explains: “We are teaming up with Darlington for Culture to create an even greater mix of stallholders and all the entertainment that goes with it.
“We are expecting it to overflow into the Dolphin Centre and attract even more people to come and try the market.
“It is going to be about two community groups working together in partnership to make sure that Darlington Sunday People’s Market continues to be a beacon for others.”
Alex Blackham, co-founder of the Sunday People’s Market, praised the tenacity of traders who turn out in all weathers and said even more work would be done in the future to help first timers get involved in market trading.
Darlington market stalwart Robin Blair, who has worked on his family’s grocer’s stall for half-a-century, is delighted that the future of the town's markets is looking bright.
He said: “Markets must not be left to die.
“We have got something special in Darlington with the outside market and the covered market, and congratulations go to everybody involved – it’s particularly good to see young people getting interested in the market because they are its future.”
Ruth McGee, who sells vintage gifts under the name Daisy Grace Vintage, had never traded at a major town centre market before she joined the Sunday People’s Market last September and she has never looked back.
“I absolutely love it,” she said.
“It seems ridiculous because I only have one stall, but when I read about the market winning the award I was absolutely over the moon and felt so proud to be a part of it.”
Darlington Sunday People’s Market opened following the national Love Your Local Market campaign backed by Mary Portas whose Government report recommended that markets become the test beds for prospective shopkeepers to try their hand at running a low-cost business.
In a time of financial austerity which has seen many familiar retail names disappear from our high streets, Darlington’s Sunday People’s Market is a beacon of hope and a shining example of what can be achieved when traders, residents, community groups and the local authority all work together for the good of their town.