THE search continues for a new home for Bangor’s popular artisan outdoor market ‘Market Fresh’ which has been cancelled for the foreseeable future.
There was widespread public disappointment when Sharon Regan, the organiser of Market Fresh, announced her ‘difficult and painful’ decision to ‘park’ the market.
Previously held at Bangor seafront’s former Project 24 area, the market was a financial lifeline for local creatives, makers, bakers and artists who sold a range of goods from ceramics to foods.
Building on the success of the popular monthly Art on the Rails event held at Queen’s Parade, Sharon held the first Market Fresh back in 2019, with an array of food and craft stalls, music and children’s entertainment
During the difficult days of the Covid-19 health crisis, the market also provided a social shot in the arm for the borough’s residents as social distancing regulations were eased.
However, the Market Fresh team was forced to find an alternative home when Bangor Marine secured £9.8m levelling up funding to deliver the Marine Gardens part of the long awaited £50m Queen’s Parine redevelopment scheme.
After a ‘long and hard’ search the Market Fresh team initially relocated to the green area beside the British Legion, at Hamilton Road, but after just a couple of months encountered a host of problems including no council funding, long grass and reduced footfall.
Keen to address those initial problems, Sharon conducted a customer feedback survey with an overwhelming majority of people saying they ‘loved to go to Market Fresh when it was down at Project 24’.
She said: “It was clear what people missed was it being at Project 24, they said it felt like a day out because we had a variety of hot food stalls, a picnic area and entertainment.”
Sharon explained the council support received by Market Fresh was ‘site specific’ and tied to the regeneration of the town.
“The council funding paid for musicians and the children’s entertainment, they would also have provided the manpower to help put up the gazebos but the funding was site specific. It was linked to regeneration and Project 24 so when we left that council site the funding stopped.”
As well as a loss to the local community, the decision to park Market Fresh is a blow to local traders. “It was a lifeline for traders,” said Sharon. “They weren’t people who were just doing a hobby, they were all small local businesses, so they have lost income.
In a bid to address initial problems with the grassed area, Sharon explained they took the decision to ‘shrink’ the market down and use the British Legion complex.
However, in its reduced format Sharon said the market began to feel ‘cramped’ and there were additional problems with such a small team trying to erect heavy gazebos and picnic tables.
Said Sharon: “Reading the customer feedback I could see that there were several issues with the site and people really wanted what they had at Project 24 but we couldn’t deliver it at that site. The feedback has given me a clear picture of what people want and I haven’t given up on finding a location but there is nowhere obvious.”
Sharon explained that a kind offer to use the car park at the former Flagship Centre was sadly unsuitable. “There is a two metre height restriction and the majority of our traders’ vans will not fit in. The fish and clothing vans could not have got in over the ramp.”
Sharon said delivering the market without funding will be difficult, particularly as people want live music and entertainment. “The budget was coming in over £500 and that is lot of stall holders fees,” she said.
Looking to the future, Sharon is keen that the popular Market Fresh stays in Bangor. “The driving force was to bring footfall into Bangor. The last thing I want to do is to pull people out of the town, I want people to come into the town.”