The organiser of Shaftesbury’s Sunday Cobbles Market says he has a vision for how the monthly event will develop in the future.
Steve Dauwalder from The Anonymous Travelling Market Company operates stalls and traders for towns and events across Dorset, Wiltshire and Somerset. Steve says he has a ‘soft spot’ for Shaftesbury and a strategy for the market’s future success. It’s going to be bigger and better, he explained.
“You’ll see much more varied stalls,” said Steve. “We’re trying to get more artisanal stalls, from people producing goods in North Dorset, South Wiltshire and East Somerset. It keeps the whole thing local. I am hoping to keep a good core of traders but with something different each month.”
Steve says that if his plan comes off, in two years time, market stalls will extend further through the town. “We have a licence to shut the whole of the High Street,” said Steve. “We can have stalls either side in the wider part, at the top (of the High Street) and a few each side as it narrows on the way down. Were hoping to exceed fifty stalls. And there are other areas that we can expand to if the market grows. We’re already talking to the authorities.”
Steve has begun sharing his vision with Shaftesbury Town Council staff, Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce members and a range of community and business representatives. He says that he wants to work with locals to deliver a better market experience for everyone. “We want to focus on locally and regionally produced goods, which you see very little of in the supermarkets. We want something a bit different to the supermarkets. We want to suit all ages as well.”
Steve doesn’t think there’s much of a future in developing a farmers’ market model, though. “In a lot of areas the farmers’ markets are falling over because they can’t get the people to run them. We see this as a mixture of a farmers’ market and a craft market.”
Steve wants to increase the range of handmade goods on sale so there would be products to appeal to different tastes. “We want to expand the craft side of it – whether it’s needlework or pottery. We have a few jewellers but every craft store is unique, so they are not really competing with each other. It is about increasing the offering,” said Steve. “There should be something for the youngest members of the family through to the very oldest, whether it’s gifts, something for the house, something for the garden or something to eat.”
Steve says he’s not entirely happy with his current ‘Cobbles Market’ experience. “Certainly not at the moment,” he responded. “We have between 18 and 34 stalls each month. We want more stalls. And we have started to bring in entertainment to make it more interesting.”
Over the last few months, shoppers have been serenaded by singer-songwriters and artists performing acoustic sets. But does adding a guitarist or singer really make a difference? “Yes, it keeps people there. We will try to have something different each month,” Steve said.
Frome’s market has been a huge success and some Shaftesbury locals have suggested that Steve could follow the Somerset town’s lead. But he’s not convinced that’s the right approach. He believes that Shaftesbury’s market needs its own identity. “A lot of people like the Frome market. I would like something along those lines but I want to make it a bit different. Frome is only twenty minutes away. We need something unique for Shaftesbury,” Steve said.
Steve is not just a market organiser – he has a huge passion and enthusiasm for markets and he knows his history. He even explained about the ancient custom of English Charter Markets. Steve feels he has a role to play in retaining Shaftesbury’s market town status if the livestock market does close. “Shaftesbury is a historic market town. We have to keep that identity going,” he stated.
Steve explained why he’s committed to making Shaftesbury’s event a success. “I spent my formative years in the 1970s in Shaftesbury. I grew up here, in Enmore Green. Then my family moved to Salisbury. I live 18 miles away from Shaftesbury still. I have a sentimental feeling towards the town and I want to make this market work.”
And as Steve operates markets across the region, an area usually described as ‘Hardy’s Wessex’, he’s doing his bit to encourage shoppers into our town. “We promote the market in Salisbury and we do see people coming in from there. We need to get the message out a bit more though.”
Steve has been running the Sunday Cobbles Market for just over one year. He took it on when the initial operator ‘called it a day’. “The market was run by somebody else in 2016. It has a three-year history. It collapsed early in 2017. It was July 2017 by the time we got the licences to do it and close the High Street. I have been trying to build on it from there. We have had ups and downs in that year but we intend to keep growing it.”
The market is a monthly event and Steve doesn’t believe that Shaftesbury could sustain a more regular Sunday session at the moment. “I don’t think so,” he replied. “Some of the bigger towns and cities have twice weekly markets and some of those are starting to die. The weekend markets are better. I think Shaftesbury works best just once a month. We won’t get the footfall if it is every week,” Steve said, adding, “We do get loyal local footfall.”
Steve says he needs Shaftesbury’s help in growing the market. He’s keen to hear from entertainers who would like to perform. And he’s making an offer to craftspeople or home producers who want to take their first steps towards trading.
“We encourage new start-ups. We have a facility for somebody who doesn’t have a gazebo to do a ‘suitcase stall.’ They pay a lower premium for the pitch, although the prices are low anyway. They can just trade from a couple of square metres, rather than the usual three square metres. And they can sell from under a fishing umbrella if the weather is not nice,” he said. “If you’re a hobbyist and you think you can get a little bit of income out of your hobby, give it a try. Come and speak to me and see what options are available for you.”
Bricks and mortar retailers have higher fixed costs than monthly market stall traders. And in some towns shopkeepers haven’t taken kindly to the expansion of markets stalls, which don’t have the overheads. But Steve feels that every Shaftesbury retailer can reap the rewards of a vibrant Sunday market.
“Part of the market is to engender more trade in the town. The market could show people more about what Shaftesbury has to offer. A lot of the shops don’t open on Sunday and I get it. If you run a small business, Sunday is sometimes the only day you get off. I’d love to see more shops opening on the Sunday but I know it might not be worth your while as a shop owner. As this market grows it will become more worthwhile. You will be part of the interest and we will be part of the interest. We will be scratching each other’s backs,” Steve said.
The next Shaftesbury Cobbles Market in the High Street is on Sunday 16th September. You can view their calendar at www.theatm.co.uk. If you want to contact Steve about selling your goods at the Sunday markets you will find his contact details on the website.