Located in the picturesque 12th-century ruins, Kirkstall Abbey Markets bring local produce, arts and crafts to the forefront of the community. The markets act as home over 40 unique stalls for one weekend a month, and visitors can enjoy the very best of what Yorkshire’s independent producers have to offer.
UnSUBURBIA has spoken to the market’s organiser, Mark Kilvington, about how the event has become an important part of the local area and community.
Q: How did the concept for Kirkstall Abbey Markets come about?
In March 2011, we were successful in getting a grant from Leeds City Council’s Area Committee Wellbeing Fund with the support of the Kirkstall councillors. The funding allowed us to buy our first 10 stalls.
One aim of the market was to provide access to locally-sourced produce and give people the chance to buy good quality food, plants and goods from local producers. It was hoped that by providing a venue and market infrastructure, the abbey would be encouraging innovation and entrepreneurial activity.
Q: How varied are the types of stalls that feature at the markets?
We have everything you can imagine. Award-winning cheeses, fish and chips, cakes, fresh crêpes and waffles, books, artwork, street food from all over the world, seated massage – the list goes on.
Q: There’s been a rise in popularity in food festivals/markets over recent years. What would you say the reasons for this are?
I think it’s because you get producers and crafters selling goods that you just can’t find on your high street or online.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to promote local produce and businesses?
For me it’s all about community, and the social wellbeing of the community. The markets give local people the chance to show off products that they just wouldn’t get the chance to do without these kinds of events and this helps bring money back into the local community.
Q: Do you feel there has been a movement away from mainstream stores and shops, in favour of independent outlets? If so, what do you think has prompted this?
I think there has definitely been a movement away from mainstream shopping. More and more people started shopping online for everything, but although this is convenient, it is also faceless. Now there are independent outlets where people don’t have to go into city centres or shopping parks and can actually speak to the producers about the product they are buying.
Q: How important do you think having access to local initiatives and events is to promoting social interaction and engagement?
Very important. People don’t just come to the markets to buy, they come to meet up with friends and family, they can sit and eat, drink and chat, whilst the kids can play. The markets bring people together.
The markets also offer the opportunity for visitors to meet and interact with people from all walks of life that they wouldn’t normally get to do, they can chat to traders that are from all over the world about their produce and get insights into the traders’ lifestyles and backgrounds.
Q: Do you feel local initiatives, such as Kirkstall Abbey Markets, are key to helping build local communities?
I feel very strongly about this. Kirkstall Abbey Markets isn’t just a market – it’s a community hub where people can not only meet with friends and family but also local business men and women and local councillors who are always willing to offer advice and guidance. Since the markets started, we have had traders go on to open full time businesses in the local area which has created jobs within the community.
Q: Are there any particular types of businesses that you’re keen to get into the markets?
A couple of things we are missing at the moment are artisan breads, fresh fish and fresh meat stalls, but I’m always on the lookout for unique traders. I want things you will find it hard to get anywhere else without having to shop online or travel out of your way.
Q: If you could recommend three producers/business/stalls that set up at the markets to our readers, who would they be?
I would find it hard to recommend just three and, to be honest, all the traders at Kirkstall Abbey Markets should be recommended. They are all fantastic and unique.
Q: What’s next on the agenda for Kirkstall Abbey Markets?
Onwards and upwards! We are on year nine now and things don’t show signs of slowing down. I’m always looking to try new things so watch this space.
Kirkstall Abbey Markets run one weekend a month from 12pm-3pm Saturday and Sunday. The 2019 schedule can be seen below:
- 27 and 28 April
- 25, 26 and 27 May
- 29 and 30 June
- 27 and 28 July
- 31 August and 1 September
- 28 and 29 September
- 26 and 27 October
- 30 November and 1 December