Ever wondered what it takes to set up your very own market in one of the busiest cities in the world? You’d think that you would have to have at least a little experience in running a market stall perhaps, or that a little business acumen would help.
That’s before you’ve even identified the site, applied for the correct licenses, and any money has exchanged hands.
For Camberwell Market, launched last Sunday, it turns out that it takes a restless freelance theatre producer with a passion for community and good food.... and a sharp learning curve!
It was starting to take shape
Will Herman has almost single-handedly turned a fleeting idea into something tangible, as anyone who visited the opening will tell you.
I met with Will and my first question, perhaps a little cynically, involved my assumption that it would be a nightmare to try and get permission for something like new market.
Will offered a surprising answer.
“I was expecting lots of red tape and bureaucracy from Southwark council but they couldn’t have been more helpful.
“I went to them saying that I didn’t have clue about this and that it was just an idea. How would I go about it?”
One form filling exercise later and the idea had reached the consultation stage. At this point Will solicited the help of Barbara Pattinson, chair of the SE5 Forum in Camberwell, who provided him with a who’s who of Camberwellians. Their support and connections would prove invaluable.
“I thought rather than the council do the consultation in a way that I won’t have any kind of input in it, I’d do it myself. I designed the questionnaire, got established on social media, designed a logo, and that process made it into a ‘thing’– it was starting to take shape.
“There’s something strange about a logo – as soon as something has a logo people are more willing to engage.”
Will’s own survey garnered nearly 300 responses in the first week alone, partly down to the help of local organisations such as the Art College promoting it. This would help his eventual application.
Will had first earmarked an area behind the back of Morrisons that would become home to his vision. It was Barbara who persuaded him that the redevelopment of Camberwell Green would be an ideal vehicle to hitch his market to.
The whole process hasn’t been without its fair share of problems. As little as a month ago Will believed that the whole venture would have to be called off.
“The idea first sparked because I had a gap between contracts (Will is self-employed) where I had loads of time. Inevitably I got bored and that's how the whole thing came about! However I then suddenly had a load of work on.”
As has been highlighted earlier Will has pretty much single-handedly made Camberwell Market a reality. Admin alone – arranging meetings, responding to emails, and drumming up interest from prospective stallholders – is time consuming – especially when trying to juggle it with a day job. Will could barely keep up.
It was his girlfriend, Tash, who steadied the ship.
“We were sitting in the park and I touched upon the market. She turned to me and said ‘I didn’t want to mention it but it’s really sad that you haven’t spoken about the market in a while’.
“It was her saying that which made me remember how happy I had been planning it all and coming up with idea.
“Now we’ve arrived at the stage where I HAVE to do it – I’m committed. We’ve got traders signed up and flyers with dates on them!”
I've learnt the importance of feeback
So what makes Camberwell Market any different from other similar ventures?
"I suppose what makes it different is that it’s completely open to suggestion and ideas from anyone. I didn’t set out with a plan of what it should be, and this ethos hasn’t changed. If there’s a gospel choir who want to come and perform, great! If someone wants to come and run yoga class for kids, great! It’s that organic growth that I hope will set it apart and make Camberwell Market a destination and an exciting place to be on a Sunday!
“One bit of advice I got from Kerb Market at Kings Cross was to start small – keep it simple and grow it from there. I’ve got this master vision for the market but I’m trying to keep it simple and get the basics right.”
There is more to this market than the wares on offer. Will has a vision driven by a strong sense of fostering community cohesion. He hopes that one day soon the market will offer volunteering opportunities, a food waste scheme, and a community hub where people can showcase their talents.
So does Will have any of his own advice for any budding marketeers out there?
“I've learnt the importance of feedback. It's easy to sit in your bedroom dreaming up big plans but without the opinions of family, friends and strangers you may miss a key flaw or opportunity. Even down to asking your mates to proof read your emails.
“The thing I've enjoyed the most is getting to know so many locals through the planning, whether it's getting advice on recycling bins or convincing a pub landlord to let you put up your posters in the toilets! London is a big city and it's easy to get 'lost'. A project like this makes you realise that it's really a cluster of little towns each with their own community.”
If you fancy some reasonably priced street food, or a new option to while away your Sunday, the market takes place every week from 10am to 4pm at Camberwell Green.
They even brew their own beer…
If you feel that Bermondsey is missing out or that there is a pocket of Dulwich that could use a market and would like some support then get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org