This is my first official week as Market Manager for the St Kilda Esplanade Market. I arrived just in time for the launch of this snazzy new website (for which I can take none of the credit) and have been tasked with writing the opening blog. A daunting prospect in my fourth solo hour of the job.
So, I thought I’d share with you some of my initial thoughts about our iconic market.
Firstly, stallholders are a pretty impressive bunch. They work from home, making their craft week in week out, then each weekend at some ungodly hour, often before the sun has peeked out over the horizon, they have gotten out of bed, packed their wares into their vehicles and hit the road, headed for market. I had a stallholder at a market I used to run in Tasmania who gets up at 3.30am to make the trip to town to set up for two markets (I thought my 6.00am start was impressive, turns out not so much). So while you and I are still reading the paper in our dressing gowns, or considering we are in Melbourne, ordering lattes from aesthetically pleasing cafes from a cross section of the worlds best dressed wait staff, the stallholders have already done half a days work. Also, it’s probably raining, or 35 degrees, or the wind is blowing at 40 knots an hour (another thing you learn about when you do markets: knots. I’ve formed a much closer relationship with the guy on the help desk at the Bureau of Meteorology than I’d ever envisaged).
I’ve had a fascinating time meeting the one hundred and thirty stallholders at the St Kilda Esplanade Market and learning all about their rich and extensive history. Did you know that some of the stallholders here have been here since the very beginning in 1970? That’s forty-two years of trading, every Sunday. Many others have been there for at least a few decades. I was walking through the (rain drenched, grand prix disrupted) market last weekend and saw a sign up from one the stallholders announcing her retirement from the Market:
I walked away from my first market wondering what she’s seen in her time at the Market, how many boxes she’s made and sold, how many customers she’s seen come and go, what stories and secrets she holds of the Esplanade, of its visitors, of her handmade boxes?
There’s Bill who has been teaching me about the difference between crafting and assembling, Leo who sits week in week out at the top of the market with his paints out, patiently waiting for the people to wander up as far as him, Vince who empathises with all of my daily ins and outs having been the president of the Stallholders Association in a previous life.
Maybe you’ve been coming here since you were small. Or you visited with your relatives who were in town over Easter (ticking off two items on the tourist must do list – visit St Kilda and attend a makers’ market, two birds with one stone, nicely done), or perhaps you’ve never been to visit us and you’re reading about us for the first time. Either way, we’re worth a visit, even if just to meet Bill, Vince or Leo.
When the St Kilda Esplanade Market started in Melbourne there was no Sunday trading and there were no other makers’ markets of its kind. In its prime the market hosted up to 250 stallholders, running down both sides of the Esplanade. Today we find ourselves in quite a different landscape. Makers’ markets are increasingly on the rise, craft is cool again (can we call my generation of women neocrafties?), we read Frankie and learn to pickle things from our Grandmas. And still, forty years on, every Sunday before the sun rises the stallholders are packing their wares and heading for market.
The Market welcomes new stallholders to the Esplanade, it continually grows and redefines what is craft (terrarium – craft or plant I ask you? Cactus – plant right? But what if it’s planted in a plastic dinosaur? Then craft?), it witnesses the cycles of popularity – a long time stallholder remarked in a meeting the other day that he remembers when every other stall was a pottery stall, now it seems jewellery is seeing its hey day.
So it is an exciting time to joining the St Kilda Esplanade Market, navigating this new landscape we find ourselves in. As such it makes sense that I start by doing what all Gen Y Market Managers are surely good for - launching new (remember, not taking any credit) websites, along with Facebook and Twitter (feel free to like and tweet away). I’ll launch websites and talk of social media, but I’ll listen extra closely as I tread the footpath of The Esplanade, listen to the stories and knowledge of many Sundays past, stories about craft, about longevity but mostly about that indefinable magic that is an authentic makers’ market. .
And would you look at that, I’ve made it to solo hour seven in my new job.