Forest Gate’s Woodgrange Market Co-founder: “I do see it as a breeding ground for social enterprises”
- Credit: Archant
The winds of change are blowing over Forest Gate and they can be felt the strongest around Newham’s second newest street venture, Woodgrange Market.
Set up in December 2011, the market was initially a monthly project for Forest Gate friends Alicia Francis and Laura Glendinning.
But it proved so popular that it quickly became a weekly fixture on the corner of Woodgrange Road and Sebert Road.
Now, the market runs on Fridays (whose stalls usually feature arts and crafts), Saturdays, and the last Sunday of every month.
“We had lots of traders wanting to have a stall,” explains Alicia. “But we were really looking for good food and good quality crafts.
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“So the challenge was finding the right people to be traders to keep the market special, and having enough of them.”
Woodgrange Market prides itself on its founding stall which offers locally-sourced, organic vegetables and free-range eggs which is run by a team of volunteers.
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A number of unique stalls followed including Devil’s Picnic, run by Aman Bhupal, who knowledgably tells his customers about the history of his wares including olives, olive oils, and Italian hard cheeses; Manor Park’s Malv’s Bakes selling delicious home-made cakes; Picture The Past, run by Rob Avis, featuring a collection of original and reproduced vintage images alongside a selection of quirky collectables; and new addition The Wanstead Tap offering locally-produced microbrewery beers.
Alicia and Laura carried out surveys of people passing through the market when it first opened and they asked for more staples like bread and cheese.
The partnership were subsequently amazed by residents’ initiative as they endeavoured to fill in the gaps.
Charity worker Radhika Bynon set about employing young people to run a stall at Woodgrange Market through her U Team programme which promotes neighbourliness while another local John Widdowson found a baker to provide specialist savoury and fruit breads which he now runs as a co-operative.
Perhaps the biggest success story of Woodgrange Market is Coffee7 which started off as a stall but now has a successful independent shop on Woodgrange Road.
The BBC and a Japanese TV company have since visited to feature their “Suspended Coffee” idea where customers buy a warm drink for a homeless person who can pick it up from the shop.
“I do see it as a breeding ground for social enterprises,” Alicia says. “We encourage people to come and have a go and see what it’s like.
“It’s also a place to meet up. Having that meeting place breeds creativity that can be turned into something positive for the community.”
But Alicia and Laura’s vision doesn’t stop with success as the pair would like the market to occupy space near what is soon to be the Forest Tavern pub, run by trendy franchise Antic Collective, to take advantage of passing trade for when Crossrail arrives in Forest Gate.
Apart from electricity and better lighting during the winter months, Alicia and Laura also aspire to map food-growing in the area and collect the results to sell at Woodgrange Market so it can offer truly local produce and encourage people to get gardening.
“Laura and I had no clue about markets but people just responded really positively,” Alicia said. “We just hoped people would come along and give it a go and we’re overwhelmed by how much it has grown and sparked other things to happen around the area.”
*To see a picture gallery of Woodgrange Market, click on the multimedia link on the right hand side.