I’ve been told so much about this market and for once, believe it or not, the news was good and from many sources too – if you discount the fact that they were all from our Best Of Welsh & Borders producers. The news I’ve been getting for the past three years, despite fork2fork’s £800k pay cheque for a two year campaign has been nothing but disheartening. Even previously reasonable to good markets have seen a depressing downturn of trade. Fork2fork have a lot to answer for in my view as far as markets are concerned, but so have wag. Wag can’t just hand over £800k – plus another £100k for this year and then opt out apart from their ‘religion’ of ticking boxes. I’d like to see questions answered about such a failure, but that’s as likely to happen; now the relevant boxes have been ticked, as me being elected President of the USA!!!! Yes it is that far-fetched.
Anyway back to my Swansea story, I’d been pestered so much to visit that last Saturday Ian and I did just that and you’ll be delighted to hear that it was one of the best markets I’ve attended for literally years, yes years. One street had been officially closed off to house the stalls and there were large clear notices as you were coming into Uplands about the market and the street closure. The only problem we did have was parking, but patience and scouting the side streets paid–off. First stop was a coffee in one of the very busy independent shops approaching the market and the service and quality was a great start. Then onto the market and it was busy, not just numbers of people, but people actually purchasing from the good variety of food and drink stalls with some good quality craft stalls interspersed between them. Obviously with parking an issue, I’m guessing the visitors were mainly local but you’d all age groups there families to grannies and granddads to groups of friends enjoying the buzz of Christmas shopping. It took us ages to get around the market as we stopped to talk to some of our producers if they’d got time to chat. Uplands had even got live music going and they were brilliant. A group called Fiddlesticks playing violins to cellos with players’ ages ranging from possibly 7 or 8 – 60+. It really gave the market a marvellous atmosphere.
Now the final surprise for me was to see a stand that was actually run by the local councillors and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to quiz one of them, John Bayliss as to how their market was buzzing when others in Wales were not. John is one of 4 councillors representing Uplands and between them they have got behind this market, with all of them on hand, from the supervising of setting up, during and the breaking down. What a brilliant idea, as the councillors were there during market opening hours to answer questions and queries from the people of Uplands. No way has this been easy for them and I heard again the scenario of market organisers putting up their signs and then the council following behind taking them down!! Co-operation, communication I could go on, but sure you too have heard it before, and not just from me!!!! John and his fellows have had many battles with Swansea bureaucracy but they now found a way to work together for the benefit in this case of Uplands market. So I’m pleased, but to my simple mind this is what Swansea council as a whole should be doing anyway not creating an internal battlefield to the detriment of Uplands.
There is no need for this pathetic Council red tape which I hear from many Farmers’ Markets when all they are trying to do is sell Welsh food and drink. But this is a market in the old fashioned sense of the word with a cross section of products, food and non food. I appreciate it is difficult for wag food as they cannot be seen to support non food, so as I’m assuming wag food will be of no assistance then I can only suggest market organisers contact ALL their Assembly Members, including Labour ones and get them to ask questions and make a fuss. It’s a tactic I’ve resorted to because I too am fed-up of battling or as I call it knocking my head against the wag and council brick walls.
One has to ask the question if local Welsh food is being sold at a market such as this with success then this model needs to be copied and both councils and wag to change their criteria for help. Surely if businesses are doing well, whether their products are food or non food, that’s more important for local councils and wag. Also help from these bodies does not necessarily mean a monetary hand out, but cooperation about such things as road closures, banners, publicity and logical, but good environmental health.
I really have enjoyed putting up a cheery post for a change.