As many of you may know I am from Sligo and we are particularly lucky to have some amazing designers and craftspeople on our doorstep. There is an amazing local craft market in Strandhill (The Strandhill People’s Market – a.k.a SPM) that I always pop into whenever I am home at the weekend and this Christmas I am looking forward to going to the Strandhill People’s Christmas Market.
As well as being able to see local crafters there are two other reasons that I really like the market; firstly it has grown organically and also they have really managed to create a community within the market. You can always just feel it when you go there – the atmosphere is always light and you can always hear laughter – the way a market should be! It was started by Allan Mulrooney right by the beachfront just before the Summer in 2014 and it has since grown to now be housed in the unique venue of Hangar 1 at Sligo Airport in Strandhill.
They are launching a Strandhill People’s Christmas Market and when I received an invite to go to their Christmas launch I could not arrange a weekend back in Sligo quick enough. And if you can get to Sligo between now and Christmas I would highly recommend that you check it out. Allan was kind enough to take the time to let me interview him to learn all about the market and it’s humble beginnings.
“We are really excited about our Christmas season this year. We have taken on a second Hangar at Sligo airport meaning we can cater for even more local talent, crafts people and food producers, and offer our customers a wider variety to choose from for Christmas shopping. Our nightmarkets each Friday in December will be an opportunity for family and friends to meet, enjoy a mulled wine and a mince pie, all while supporting local traders. We have some incredible live music lined up with local choirs, Christmas carols and some of Sligo’s finest musicians to ensure the atmosphere is unrivalled”.
What inspired you to start the Strandhill People’s Market?
I grew up in Strandhill, which is quite a unique part of the world. For surfers it’s probably one of the best coastlines in the world to be based on, if you can stand the cold winters and harsh weather. I run www.goStrandhill.com which is an online platform for the area. Here you can find out where to stay, where to eat, the history, the hikes and walks, what live music is happening in the village and some of the key spots not to miss while here.
The market was an idea that myself and my Dad spoke about quite a few years ago as we saw a gap in the market (excuse the pun) and also we started to realize how much talent was on offer in Sligo. My dad was the driving force behind the market starting as he’s like a dog with a bone when he sees a good idea!
Sligo is thriving with artists, illustrators and creative individuals who although had some small platforms, deserved much more. We started small with 16 stalls and we now have over 40 stalls weekly in Hangar 1 at Sligo airport. Over Christmas this will double as we take over a second Hangar every Sunday in December making us one of the biggest markets in the NW.
What is it about Strandhill that made you open there?
Growing up surfing from a young age I knew the peninsula of Strandhill had something special. I was lucky enough to travel allot over my teen years and early twenties all over the world and the more flights I took, the more I realised that what we have in Sligo is world class. There is an ‘energy’ in Sligo that has been compared to Byron bay in Australia meaning it has a relaxed atmosphere and some really unique characters. Travellers who have spent years on the road have stopped here, and never left! On any given night out you can be surrounded by Kiwi’s, Australians, South Africans, and Europeans who have all decided to make Strandhill their home. There is something special about Strandhill and until you stop, stay and meet the locals it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what that is!
What tips would you have crafters looking to sell their pieces.
At SPM we work really hard to prevent overlap and also to keep the standard of the products on offer really high. It is hugely important to us that when the public enter the market for the first time, they are pleasantly surprised of the standard of products on offer each week. Lucky for us Sligo is thriving with a creative community looking for a platform.
Here are some great tips from Allan for any new trader or a craft looking to sell at the market we address a number of things first.
Is your product unique? Does it have a personal touch? Can it be replicated easily/ Is your price point right for your market?
A trader can have a great product but a bad layout on any day. It is vitally important you use different levels to display your product and use colour and signage to promote what’s on offer. We get a huge amount of stalls applying to the market selling similar products that we unfortunately turn away. As a trader you need to adapt and tweak your product for the time of year, the target audience and the theme of the area. For example, many of our traders have started to bring a surfing theme into their products and the local public have noticed and sales have increased.
Your personality is hugely important
The traders we see who make the most profit weekly are those with personality, who interact with their customers and who ooze passion about their product. Be passionate about your product. If you’re not, find a new product!
At SPM we teach social media workshops that help our stall holders to progress, attract people to the market to buy their product and eventually sell online. Find out which social media works best for you whether its twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest or another. This will change the way you do business. If you struggle with social media, find somebody who doesn’t and get them to teach you!
How important is it to buy Irish this Christmas?
There is no doubt that things have taken a turn for the better in Ireland with the economy beginning to recover. In Dublin things are progressing quicker than the rest of the country but it is visible this recovery is slower on the west coast. This last quarter of the year is a crucial time for our local businesses and retailers, including market traders. By shopping local you are supporting local suppliers, farmers and the creative industries. This revenue isn’t being used by a multinational corporation overseas. This local revenue puts food on the table for local families and helps to provide jobs in your area, in turn helping the local economy to bounce back.
We have seen resurgence in supporting local in recent years and hopefully this will continue. In Sligo we have seen local artists begin to gain recognition on a much bigger scale with Gary Reddin and Ashley Smith from the Atlantic Equipment project as two great examples.
Reseach has shown that for every 100 euro spent at a national retailer only 13 euro stays in the local economy. If that same 100 euro was spent at a locally owned business more than 45 euro stayed in the local economy. Any time a euro is spent, it generates a euro’s worth of economic activity and employment.
Is there something particular by an Irish Designer that is on your wish list?
My Xmas wish list has a lot of Sligo products from the like of Voya, Gary Reddin Ink and Organic Devolution on it. Top of the list is a new camera bag from Atlantic Equipment Project (For my new camera that I’m yet to buy!)
Christmas Dates for Strandhill People’s Market this December include:
- Friday 4th December (6pm-10pm)
- Sunday 6th December(11am-4pm)
- Friday 11th December(6pm-10pm)
- Sunday 13th December (11am-4pm)
- Friday 18th December (6pm-10pm)
- Sunday 20th December (11am-4pm)
You can follow the Strandhill People’s Market on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and don’t forget to check out their website. I hope to see you at the Strandhill People’s Christmas Market and if you are lucky I have heard a rumor that Santa will be arriving via helicopter on Friday evening around 18:30pm!