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The End of Leeds Farmers’ Market

July 13, 2012

Last Sunday (1st of July) was the final farmers Market to be held in the outdoor
section of Kirkgate Market. Here we tell the story of the farmers market and
why we think its recent move to Briggate will be its end.

Leeds City Council started a Farmers Market in 2000.  It was held on the
first Sunday in the month in Kirkgate Market.  The intention seems to have
been to provide an outlet for small local producers; smallholders, market
gardeners etc.  In 2003 it was expanded to the third Sunday as well.  Most
of the producers seem to have been previously involved in a migration over
the month around Farmers Markets in towns in West and North Yorkshire.

By 2008/9 Leeds City Council was taking its inspiration from the National
Association of British Market Authorities and loudly trumpeting the success
of Farmers Markets while predicting the end of the Municipal Market.  It
looked like the future would be like a giant delicatessen.

The farmers themselves were pushing local production and closer contacts
with all retailers.  If it took small local farmers markets, so be it.  Most
of these producers were dubious about people who sold Greek olives,
Hungarian salamis.  In Leeds the most popular markets with local producers
were local ones like Oakwood and Headingley run jointly by community
organisations and local producers.

Last Summer Leeds City Council opened a market in Briggate on the third
Sunday of the month and closed the farmers market at the back of Kirkgate
market.  The farmers were not consulted or even asked their opinion of the
change.   The market had its name changed in all the council’s publicity to
the “Crafts and Farmers Market”.

Leeds City Council’s City Centre Management Group has heralded the move as a
great success. They claim that there are many more people taking up stalls
when the market is in Briggate. They have now decided to move the Farmers Market held on the first Sunday of the month to Briggate as well.  The Farmer’s Market will now die.

The Smallholder observations are that: “the market in Briggate is no longer a
farmers market. Most of the stallholders there seem to be selling craft
items (knitwear, greetings cards etc) with a small number selling jam,
cakes, olives”.  It is rumoured that Harvey Nicks want a stall to present
gourmet streetfood.

When asked, the stall holders gave the following replies as to why they did
not move to the Brigggate site on the third Sunday.

1 The first group of issues were public health.
Absence of washing or toilet facilities.
Absence of electrical supply for refrigeration.
General public health issues around the sale of meat, fish and fresh food
generally and waste disposal.

2 The next group of issues raised seem to be around the prohibition of
vehicle movement in Briggate between 9.30 am and 4.30pm. At present many
stallholders seem to depart from the open market site behind Kirkgate at
about 2.00 pm particularly the ones who trade in perishables, meat fish etc.
In order to get a stall set up, the vehicles have to be at the stall by
about 8.00 am. This means that small farmers from North Yorkshire may have
to leave home at about 5.30 am – as at present. But packing up at the end of
the day can not start until 4.30 pm, when they can bring a van into the
pedestrian area and load it. In general this seems to mean that they depart
at about 5.30 pm and do not return to their farms until as late as 8.00 pm.
Between October and March it will not be possible to feed and bring animals
and fowl under cover in daylight.

Leeds City Council seem to be delighted by the fact that there are a number
of stalls let in Briggate  However when asked they could not say how many
stalls they will lose as a result of the move.  They could have asked the
farmers how many of them would leave.

The reason given to the stall holders for moving the market to Briggate is
to increase footfall.  According to the farmers, increased footfall is not
generating a proportionate increase in custom. Many of the people on
Briggate are not interested in purchasing from the farmers market.  The
problem is caused by the failure over many years to promote Kirkgate Market
as a site.  The most rational response from farmers is to see the Farmers
Market as a self funding opportunity to publicise their other retail offers.

In general the City Centre Management response seems confused.  It has been
announced that from August there will be a market every Sunday at the open
market behind Kirkgate Market.  None of the stall holders seem to know about
it.

For the past year the Leeds City Council’s line seems to have been that
Kirkgate Market is too big and it should focus on food. “Fashion –
jewellery, clothing, knitwear should have no place.  Fashion these days is
undercut by Primark!”  So they start a weekly street market that does
exactly that.  There is already an arts and crafts market in Albion Place on
Saturdays.  How long before they have stalls selling uniquely designed
mobile phone covers on the craft market?  This is precisely what councillors
have jeered at in Kirkgate.

About a quarter of the stallholders at the Leeds Loves Food Festival were
local food producers and a number of them seem quite depressed by Leeds
City Council who will promote Moroccan knick knacks and German Markets – the
wurst,  rather than quality locally produced food, something that
supermarkets logistical systems make it very difficult for them to deliver.

The NABMA award for the best specialist or small market of 2012 went to
Brighouse Farmers Market.  Clearly the consumer base for a well run farmer’s
market exists in West Yorkshire, the problem is the delivery strategy.

But in this case, there is clear evidence of a lack of strategy or coherent planning; as well as an obvious failure to properly exploit the retail potential of the
council’s assets in central Leeds.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. serena permalink
    August 14, 2012 9:37 pm

    As a Leeds farmers market stalwart, I went to the ‘new’ Briggate market for the 1st time this month. I was unimpressed. Most of the regular stalls were missing. The friendly informal atmosphere of the outdoor market had gone. The feeling of being able to engage with the stallholders was lost – it was like being in an outdoor supermarket – impersonal and in a rush to move the customers on. I am unlikely to make the special trip into Leeds that I used to make, solely to visit the first of the month farmers market, in future. RIP Leeds Farmers Market.

  2. July 3, 2013 9:22 am

    Here we are, a year later and as we can see, the market failed, everyone went out of business and the city center was destroyed in a Godzilla attack – literally everything as prophesied in this canto.

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