More food stalls, please. That was the main message from visitors to Marlborough’s Communities Market on Sunday, where one of the world’s top chefs was a surprise shopper.
More than 100 people took part in a survey being conducted by market manager Ellie Gill (pictured), also in charge of the national Love Your Local Market campaign, to discover public reaction to the local event launched 10 months ago.
And unfortunately the market had a below par turnout of food stalls among the 40 now appearing twice a month, arts and crafts offerings dominating Sunday’s market.
But that didn’t deter celebrity chef, restaurateur and television personality Marco Pierre White, who – during an unscheduled apparance – browsed stalls and bought plenty of produce, presumably for The Pear Tree restaurant in Melksham, which he owns.
“He went around every stall and spent a lot of money. He bought chorizo from The Cotswold Curer, and cheese from Greens of Glastonbury and from Neustift Goats, who make the most amazing, creamy, just-made-that-morning award-winning cheeses,” said Ellie.
“He hugely enjoyed walking around the market chomping on one of the Artisan Bakehouse quiches and he asked for a pizza from Natural Flames, who have also been chosen by Natural England to provide food for Stonehenge this year.
“Unfortunately they’d just sold out, so they had to turn him down!”
The chef is no stranger to Marlborough, and his name was once linked to the Ivy House Hotel – later bought by Marlborough College.
Explaining the paucity of food stalls at the market, Ellie said: “Due to the phenomenal Devizes Food Festival we had quite a few of our food producers pull out at the last minute because they had sold out their stocks in Devizes.
“So they were not able to come to town today, which was a shame, because the market was more craft orientated.”
But the exceptional circumstances did in fact mean that more than 100 visitors who took part in Ellie’s survey pointed out that the market’s major attraction for them is its food stalls.
“People are very much into food, though crafts are very much a draw as well,” said Ellie. “We are learning lots of lessons in our first year here, the survey throwing up lots of interesting results.”
“Many people are coming specifically to Marlborough for the market, which is really very good. From that we shall be able to put an economic value on the market and see what it actually brings to Marlborough on a Sunday.”
“Now we need to strike a balance between food and arts and crafts. We need to have another traders’ meeting and establish exactly what we’re going to do.”
Communication is another area being tackled with postcards being handed out listing all the market dates for Marlborough until next March.
The survey results are now to be analysed and published so the message of consumers is broadcast to all involved.
Sunday’s market also boosted the “big swop” stall initiative of Transition Marlborough, which enables people to discard no longer wanted books, videos, clothes, textiles, toys and even furniture and find a possible replacement or alternative item without payment.
“Quite a few families brought in a broad selection of items, from children’s and adult books, a big glass vase, a handbag, scarf and other things,” revealed Lorna Harvey-Frank, a member of Transition Marlborough’s recycling group.
“One family were already there waiting for me when the market opened. The children were in particular enthusiastic in wanting to swop items, and that’s something we’re keen to foster.
“One lady came wanting to swop a bike suitable for a five-year-old. We’ve put her on our list with her personal details so that anyone interested can make contact and arrange something.”
She added: “Most people think the swop stall is a good idea and we hope it is something that will grow.”
Indeed, at the next communities market on Sunday, June 2 the swop stall will display vegetable and plant seedlings people have grown and are willing to swop.
For more information visit www.transitionmarlborough.org and/or email email@example.com or telephone 01249 814406.