Buttercross, April 24, 2015: Answers are there to boost Swaffham markets

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What is a good definition of “market?” My dictionary defines it as a “periodic concourse of people for the purpose of buying or selling” or “a building, square or other public place used for such.”

We certainly meet that criteria but our Saturday markets have enjoyed better days, compared with other such markets around us.

Recently a visitor, having seen the impressive Market and Auction council banner on the A47 roundabout, ventured into town to see what was going on.

Standing somewhere near the front of the Greyhound he asked a bystander where the auction site was. A finger pointed to the tarmac in front of them where a few items were laid out.

“Is this it?” asked the visitor and promptly left, never probably likely to return. One has to conclude it is better to advertise an event only if there is the likelihood that the visitors will enjoy the experience.

While on the subject of markets, one must again compliment the Iceni Partnership (also known as the Town Team) for the way they organise the Friday markets in our Assembly Rooms.

A formula has been found to involve local people who turn up to set up stalls displaying all sorts of goods for sale, where most are quite content, on a bad week, to just cover the cost of hiring the space they trade from.

It appears that they attend not just to make a bob or two but also to enjoy one another’s company. True community spirit.

This market, in its small way, should be the example on how our council’s Saturday market should be run, with stallholders encouraged to work together to make the whole event such a success as it used to be. Visitors will then appear, and regularly.

Times gone by saw Terry Nash selling his fruit and veg with lots of banter thrown in, the fish and chip van, towed into place early on a Saturday morning, smoke soon pouring from its chimney, and quickly serving up the most delicious fish and chips. During the week the van was stored in Young’s coal yard, where Asda now stands.

Gerry Fordham, with his wife, ran a toy stall which many local youngsters used to hang around, casting envious eyes on the items set out before them. Gerry’s other job was as a window cleaner during the rest of the week.

More recent times saw the “Sorbo” man, sharp knife to hand to cut through any thickness and size of latex customers needed.

Will these times ever come back? Why not with encouragement from those organising the event? Perhaps our council needs to talk to the Town Team about how things can better be set up.

Any visitors, encouraged to visit our town, need to feel that the journey was indeed worth while. Interestingly it was recently stated our town may have been called Swaffham Market in the past.

Carrying through this appropriate naming theme, we may soon have the name Swaffham Charity Shops and that does our traders, be they market traders or others, no favours at all.