How Uplands Market Came To Be
Dr Ben Reynolds
Christmas-time 2012, Noah’s Yard – rain lashing down outside, two (very nice) coffees in front of us and two urban regeneration consultants having their umpteenth conversation about how it would be great if someone would do a street market in Uplands. Staring out at Gwydr Square, through increasingly thick rivulets of water running down the window an outdoor market still seemed a good idea. ‘Nobody else is going to do it, so, why don’t we?’ Uplands Market was born.
It took about 6 months to get from that point to being ready and able to run a market. Not everyone we talked to thought it would work: ‘there aren’t enough good quality traders – it will be ‘full of tat’; ‘you can’t close the road there – it will be traffic chaos’; ‘it will require a huge subsidy’; ‘it’ll never work all year round’. But we help other people do good ideas for a living, so we though it high time we did one of our own and put our money where our mouths were. So, we pressed on.
Cut forward to July 2013 and, with some excellent support from Uplands Councillors (at that time) Nick Davies, Neil Woollard and John Bayliss, and our AM Julie James along the way, and by way of start-up funds from our own company and from SCVS, the first market took place with around 30 stalls selling street food, craft and local produce. It was a sensational success with huge crowds and bumper sales. By the following month word had spread and we had 200 stallholders on a waiting list – we’d doubled in size by just the second one, needing us to hastily redraw layouts, and work out timings for set up. It’s grown again since – we’re using pretty much every bit of space we can now and in peak months getting up to 75 stalls. It’s a big market – we’re told (we’ve never checked) the largest regular one in Wales outside of the one-off food festivals. And it’s something we’re really proud of.
It’s been the success it has thanks to wonderful community support, not least several local volunteers who don high vis vests once a month to put out road cones and directing traffic.
That success sparked a second market in the Marina, and eventually a third in Morriston and various one-off events in between. We’ve also recently developed an indoor street food event – the hugely successful Street Food Friday events at our Unit Nineteen project in Wind Street.
The outcome has been a sustainable social enterprise – a not for profit company that exists without grant subsidy, which celebrated its 4th birthday in July 2017. It has created a job for a graduate, increased footfall and spend on market days; raised profile of the areas it operates in with national media coverage and through creating that most elusive of aspirations – a brand that people really love; given opportunities for local producers (some of whom have outgrown us to supply other outlets or set up in their own shops); been listed by the Telegraph as one of the top 10 street markets in the UK alongside places like Borough Market in London; the Welsh nominee for the BBC Food and Farming Awards best street market; and twice been runner up in the Observer Food Monthly Awards.
What does Noah put in that coffee?