Musings on Markets #3: markets as destinations and social spaces

Over the last few years a new trend in markets has been very popular; artisan, craft and street food markets have been springing up in cities and towns across the country and in Europe. These are seen by those managing town centres as bringing new people into a town and are part of rebranding areas where retail has been struggling. They are providing desirable places to hang out and socialise, whilst providing quickly turned around food options (often street foods), creating a destination, which enables people to experience a town differently, stay for longer and perhaps do shopping elsewhere.

Like most of us, I’ve visited a few of these ‘new’ markets, including Altrincham Market and Copenhagen Street Food Market. Altrincham Market was a traditional market that was seen as struggling to retain shoppers. The attractive building was conserved and original stall holders moved to an undercover area outside the main hall. It is now a ‘foodie destination’, visitors share large tables in a central area and can choose what to eat from around 10 different food and drink outlets, including sourdough pizzas, artisan chocolates, steak, wine and beer. This market has been curated, the retailers are hand-picked, each offering a different type of fayre. Whilst retailers are in competition, they each provide something different, offering the visitor variety. One group of friends may buy from 5 or 6 of the different stalls, spreading the cash around.

However, my first visit was in 2015, when it had only recently opened, although not cheap, prices were just about what you’d call affordable. By my second visit in 2018 it was noticeably pricier. Also I found that the original market holders (now outside) had dwindled away, replaced by high-end boutique shopping.



Copenhagen Street Food, on PapierØen (Paper Island), was set up in a former paper warehouse on a temporary site, one of the islands forming part of Copenhagen. It became both a local and tourist destination, with a funky, bohemian design and layout,  and around 60 stalls. It’s temporary lease expired in December 2017, and the market has recently been re-opened on a new site.



The final market in this blog post is the Mackie Mayor, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. On my MSc in Urban Regeneration and Development (at UoM in 2015), I was part of a group project tasked with finding a financially-viable solution to repurposing this now-empty building. Opened in 1858, the Mackie Mayor had been constructed and was managed for many years as a market. In more recent years it had been a garden centre and a youth project and was in a state of disrepair. Muse Development were tasked with its redevelopment by Manchester City Council. Our student project recommended its redevelopment as a food and drink-based destination market. And in 2017 it re-opened as such, bohemian in style, retaining some graffitied walls (from its youth project days), taking a similar to Altrincham curated-approach, with large central tables to share food and socialise around.


Mackie M #1



My next post will explore some of the issues arising around the changing nature of markets and issues of gentrification.

Image credits:

Altrincham 1 & 2: Sarah Spanton

Copenhagen Street Food 3 & 4: Sarah Spanton

Mackie Mayor 5 & 6: Manchester Libraries

7 Sarah Spanton &

8 Muse Development (left) and Sarah Spanton (right)

About waymarkingthesketchbook

Sarah Spanton is director of arts organisation Waymarking -
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1 Response to Musings on Markets #3: markets as destinations and social spaces

  1. Pingback: Musings on Markets #4: How to find ways to solve issues of gentrification? | Waymarking The Sketchbook

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