By Susan de Muth 

Not to be confused with the monthly Kings Road Street Market – which unfortunately has yet to emerge from the rubble of lockdown – St Leonards Makers’ Market is a monthly event, held at 48 Kings Road. The first two markets have been a runaway success and the third will happen on Saturday 24th October.

“I’ve been delighted with the turnout,” says organiser Jo Beattie. “We had queues down the street both days – socially distanced of course!” 

It may seem counter-intuitive in these times of Covid management, but Jo says the scores of customers who visited the market were responsible, wore masks and respected social distancing, while having a welcome break from enforced isolation, an exciting shopping experience and the opportunity to support local creatives.

Jo Beatie welcoming customers

Bringing together makers of a wide range of products – from upcycled furniture to hand-painted cards, jewellery and cup-cakes – Jo believes the market not only provides a much-needed retail outlet for small creative businesses but also a ‘community hub’ bringing warmth and cheer to the chilly post-Covid shopping scene. Other shopkeepers also benefit from the increased footfall in the Kings Road all day with Fika cafe reporting a busy day of trading.

To put it in a wider context, the Makers’ Market is a local example of an emerging global phenomenon, the ‘shared space’ office and retail model, which many experts believe will become an important part of the ‘new normal’.

As those who have been working from home since March will know, offices are simply no longer required in many industries. However, not everyone is happy to work at the kitchen table or in the garden shed indefinitely and Forbes magazine predicts that the co-working industry will emerge stronger and more important from the Covid crisis. And for once, this is not only about financial imperatives, but social and emotional preferences as well: “community strength will be essential in helping people reconnect, build new networks and support each other.” 

In the retail market, Covid has resulted in a bloodbath on the High Street. There was already a trend away from visiting shops to order online instead, but this has been greatly accelerated. Here in Hastings, Peacocks has gone, Debenhams is in administration and employees at Pizza Express and Marks and Spencer are wondering if they will lose their jobs.

Writing in The Guardian, retail expert Anna Minton proposed that, post-Covid, “shopping models that nurture conviviality, and prioritise mutual aid, local goods and services above footfall, will be the places where public life can begin to flourish again.”

And this brings us back to the St Leonards Makers’ Market and Jo Beattie welcoming her stallholders in the early morning with warm croissants and steaming mugs of coffee.

“It was great,” said Amanda of Raffo & Ridgeway, whose delicious cupcakes proved a real hit at both markets. “Good number of traders, great atmosphere, really lovely attention to detail. St Leonards Makers’ Market – you absolutely smashed it!” 

The next Makers’ Market will be on Saturday 24th October 2020, 10.00am-4.00pm, at Kings Road Studios, 48, Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.