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Published July 2nd 2017
Beautifully Independent Market with a flair for the arts
Frome Independent Market is a vibrant mix of home made and artisanal food and drink, fashion, music, crafts, bric a brac and SO much more. On the first Sunday of each month, this arty Somerset Market town becomes a bustling arts centre, its streets crammed with stalls and market traders all keen to sell their wares. From 10-3pm, expect to be inspired and amazed by anything and everything from live music performances to refurbished typewriters, all on one street. Although only 14 miles from Bath, this artistic community feels a world away from its Georgian city neighbour and should feel justifiable independent in itself.
I attended the July Market today, and was amazed by the positivity of people, and also the seemingly effortless organisation of the market. The town centre roads are closed off to pedestrianise the market, and so I took the Park and Ride bus which was a swift 10 minute drive from the high street. There was a free, handy map and leaflet on the bus, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a 'donation' fee to use the bus. Our singing, Somerset driver dropped us right at the heart of the market, in the square. I could immediately sense a shared love and excitement of being in a special shared place, and revelling in the different fares on offer.
It would be impossible to cover the whole ambience and opportuntiy of the market, so I shall focus on five distinct areas that I saw today. Without a doubt, my favourite part was the 'brocante', or bric a brac market, flowing out from the 'Cheese and Grain' music venue and edging towards the highstreet. There was an incredible array of furniture, ornaments, toys, food, drink and clothes stalls there, and I spent a very happy hour exploring everything on offer. I was delighted to see 'Charlie Foxtrot', a stall offering refurbished and ready for business typewriters from the 70's and 80's. I loved looking at these, whilst enjoying a Soul and Funk DJ set from the quirky 'Donna Somerset Mobile Disco' performers. It was a genuine feelgood moment.
A gentle walk uphill leads to the market square, today crammed with a massive assortment of food and beverages. There was everything from traditional Somerset Scrumpy (strong, cloudy cider), to homemade bread, cheeses, vegan cakes and wood-fired pizzas. The crowd here was teeming, but although it was busy, everybody I encountered was calm and positive. Indeed, it is this positivity that really attracts me to the Frome Independent. It attracts folks from all walks of life, be they young couples, families, lone marketeers or older couples. There is a glorious openness and diversity to the culture of Frome. My wife, son and I dipped out of the crowds to enjoy a delicious 'Beech Ridge' Chinese Duck Wrap, and a 'Willy Good' Pale Ale. It was lovely to just relax and watch the world go by.
Despite the large scale of the market, the stallholders are all passionate about creating a high quality and genuine event. The market motto of 'Reclaim the High Street' says it all really, by embracing the independent and creative spirit that has made Frome such a special area. There is a love of 'Vintage' ornaments and artefacts in Frome, and even if only window shopping, a stroll around can reveal all sorts of treasures.
Towards the top of the highstreet is the steep 'Catherine Hill' with its winding street of boutique shops. There are a fine array of independent shops and businesses here, and they all embrace the market spirit. A personal favourite of mine is 'Post Script', a sumptuous writing and stationary shop. With its free and accessible children's drawing and writing station, it enables adults to have a glance at the wonders of writing that line the shelves.
The cobbled streets of Catherine Hill are also crammed with yet more stalls, and here they are among the best. Mostly smaller, independent businesses, the street teems with stallholders offering samples or chatting to visitors about their wares. With many people eating and drinking Al Fresco, the proceedings today had a distinctly European feel to it, which was a joy to be a part of.
It would be more than easy to spend an entire day at the markets, such is the scale and quality of them. Today, we found that three hours (with lunch) was the perfect time needed before we began to flag. As the images below will hopefully show, there is so very much to see and do. The only downside to the market that I can see is that it is nigh on impossible to visit every single stall and shop within one day. Even if that was possible, a dedicated army of volunteers give out flyers and leaflets to the shoppers, encouraging them to venture even further into the town streets. Whatever your reasons for going to the market, I thoroughly recommend the Frome Independent.