Levenshulme Market, Stockport Road (junction with Albert Rd), Levenshulme, M19 3AB
How Levy Market is shaking things up at home and in the Northern Quarter.
It may only have been around for a few years, but Levenshulme Market is on a bit of a roll. Since it opened in 2013 it has won a clutch of awards, doubled in size, opened on a university campus and, by going from monthly to weekly over in Levy, has done much to revive the ailing retail fortunes of one of Manchester’s suburbs. And last month it went even further – literally, as it happens: it moved its stalls out of Levenshulme for a market designed to test the appetite for something similar in the city centre.
That trial was in Stevenson Square, slap bang in the middle of the independent retail heaven that is the Northern Quarter; its mix of boutiques, vintage, design and record stores forming an appropriate backdrop to a market that majors on the mantra “locally made”. The market, which was invited in by the Council, CityCo and local businesses, returns on 19 April – and appears to have been a roaring success first time around.
“We adjusted our usual mix of stalls to complement the Northern Quarter location,” says market organiser, Helen Power. “There wasn’t much sense in us having as much street food as we do in Levy, for instance, when there’s so much great casual dining in the area around Stevenson Square. But on the flip side, the Northern Quarter is surprisingly lacking in independent produce, so our foodie sellers got a real chance to shine.” Some of those sellers included Penrith’s Winter Tarn Farm, whose cheese, butter and eggs are used by stellar chef, Simon Rogan, and meat from another Cumbrian outpost, Savin Hill Farm.
The Northern Quarter is surprisingly lacking in independent produce
The lack of food shops (proper ones) in the Northern Quarter is precisely the reason behind the market’s move. Bringing 30 or so market traders into Stevenson Square is a way to restore some balance to an area at risk of becoming overrun with bars. As one shop closes, it sometimes feels like three bars pop up in its place – something Helen Power readily acknowledges. “It’s all about reinforcing the image of the area as the home of good, independent retail, something that we’ve always put at the heart of what we do in Levy,” she says. “It also means we can expose our traders to new customers and profile what we do to new traders and customers alike.”
So, alongside the food producers at the last market were jewellery makers, craft and vintage stalls – all carefully chosen so that they didn’t compete with some of the Northern Quarter’s more established retailers – as well as live music (provided by the team behind Kraak) and, yes, some street food stalls. Interestingly, the market is also a win-win for Levenshulme. Far from sucking the good stuff out of the suburb, the market’s expansion will do the opposite. “As a social enterprise we provide employment opportunities for people in Levenshulme,” says Power, “and our profits are used to fund retail and entrepreneurship opportunities in the area, so more markets means more of those.”
It’s an interesting venture for both the market and for the city centre organisations who invited them in – and one that, Power thinks, could continue well beyond this three-month trial. “These first three markets are trials in the sense that we are checking viability but, if March is anything to go by, that’s certainly been proved. We have some issues around the costs levied for road closures and parking suspensions but, really, that’s all that’s holding us back,” she says. “We’re trying not too get too excited yet – but can you imagine how much fun we could have in the summer?” We can indeed – let’s hope everyone gets behind a market that promises to support traders not just in the suburbs, but here in the city centre too.
The next markets in the Northern Quarter run on Sunday 19 April and Sunday 17 May.