The Brockley Central Interview: Toby Allen, Brockley Market

Brockley’s new weekly market starts on September 24th in the Lewisham College car park, Lewisham Way, from 10am-2pm. Ahead of the opening, we spoke to the guy behind it, Brockley resident Toby Allen, about his plans:

“When we open, there will be a total of 19 food stalls, selling a range of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, hot food and drinks. The plan is that visitors should be able to buy the majority of their weekly food shop or enjoy some brunch.

“The experience will be quite different to the farmers markets already serving the area in Hilly Fields and Telegraph Hill. For one thing, it’s not a farmers market – if you want that label, you have to meet certain criteria in terms of local sourcing. I think that can be quite restrictive – our focus is on quality first, locality second. Ironically, it also means more local people can trade. For example, our coffee seller will be local.

“I definitely want the market to sell as much local produce as possible and I’m keen to involve as many other local businesses as possible. I’m talking to several at the moment, and I’ll be able to share with you the final list of stallholders shortly.

“I researched a lot of other markets before I secured the site and the markets I saw in Stoke Newington and Tonbridge are the models I want most closely to emulate.

 “Long-term, the market has the potential to double in size. The site has the space and I believe the demand could be there. It’s easy to reach from Lewisham, New Cross and Deptford and within a mile radius there are 32,000 residents, who have a relatively limited choice of fresh food available locally.  There are a handful of good shops, but I think there’s room for more, especially since the closure of the Shop on the Hill.

“I’m also interesting in broadening the range of stalls. There are a lot of artists and crafts people in the area and it would be good to sell some of their work at the market.

“I know some people would have liked to see a market in Coulgate Street, but there are lots of practical reasons why that site wouldn’t have been appropriate and this site gives us a lot more room to grow. It’s a short walk from Brockley Station, very close to St Johns and very well served by buses.  While there will be some parking, I’d urge people to come on foot or by bike, to minimise the impact on the local area.

"Getting this off the ground has taken time, there are a lot of hurdles to clear and organisations who need to give their support, including the fire brigade, the police and TfL. Lewisham Council has been very supportive from the early stages. Apparently, I was the first person ever to contact their market team to ask how to set up a new one, so they were really keen to provide me with advice and guidance.

"The College too has been very engaged since I approached them in April. A number of their business course students will be involved in the marketing and promotion, giving them some practical experience with a start-up.

"My message to the people of Brockley? Please come down and see it for yourself. Give us your feedback and let us know what else you’d like to see in the future. This is just the beginning."

Facebook Page: Brockley Market
Twitter: @brockleymarket