Thursday, 25 February 2016


Seemed a fun title for this blog, and one that is current in the USA just now, one of my favourite countries, which is in hot debate over who will serve as it's President for the next four years.

Last week I wrote about an anniversary of a great American woman from history, that of the 103rd birthday of Rosa Parks. Though not in her league, I have just marked an anniversary of my own.

In late 2011 I was approached by a local group that promotes sustainable practices, both locally and across Scotland. Their acronym is PEDAL, which stands for Portobello Energy Descent & Land Reform group. A mouthful, but basically they were formed in 2005 to look at making Portobello, Edinburgh more sustainable, by it becoming a Transition Town. In short this means going carbon neutral, community buy outs, kicking out plastic bags, and encouraging food to be produced, sold and bought more locally.

It was this last part that brought them to launch a once-a-month farmers market in 2010.

Whilst I was cycling furiously across the United States with my friend Pauline in the summer of 2011, one of the PEDAL board members emailed to asked if I would be interested in taking over the running of the market, making it more interesting, finding ways to get people to stay longer, and improving it's marketing.

By this point it had been five years since I had sold my deli business, and the one thing I missed the most was the interaction between myself and the local community. Working from home, in a good week, I would see and chat to about ten people, compared with the many hundreds during the deli years. So the opportunity was here to bring myself back into contact with traders and local people.

And so, the following February, I took over the management of Portobello Market. 

That was four years ago, and in ten days time, on Saturday 5 March, I will start year five of my tenure.

The market's biggest challenge is that it only occurs once a month. This means that it is not a regular shopping venue, and so it has fought hard to maintain it's foot hold. But it's still here, and at times we have had as many as 30 traders on site. The weather plays a big part, and thanks to El Niño in 2015, many markets were a washout. For the first time in it's history one of the markets was even cancelled altogether, because of Storm Desmond causing havoc across the UK. To make matters worse, that was the Christmas Market, the biggest and most fun one of the year.

But El Niño and other challenges aside, the market is really well supported. I'm personally present during fewer actual markets these days, due in the main part to teaching film to kids every Saturday, but I continue to increase the markets publicity reach and bring along fun events.

As for the remit of PEDAL's ambitions for the market, it has achieved them all, and I'd like to think that is due in part to my continued input.

Here's to the next four years.

Photo courtesy of Pauline Symaniak

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