Our project activities in November included the first meeting of our Steering Group, made up of academics and experts in traditional retail markets or related areas, who will be helping our team to connect various stakeholder groups and experts around the complex issue of the ‘community value’ of markets. The group will meet three times over the course of the thirty-month project and we hope to draw on members’ diverse knowledge and expertise for guidance on all aspects of the project and to develop networks and contacts for conducting research and sharing our findings as widely and meaningfully as possible.
Bringing specialist academic knowledge and expertise to the group are Dr Suzanne Hall (London School of Economics), Professor Alan Hallsworth (University of Portsmouth Business School) and Professor Gary Warnaby (Manchester Metropolitan University). Suzanne is an urban ethnographer whose research explores intersections of global migration and urban marginalisation in the context of inequality, discrimination and resistance. Her work engages with streets in deprived and culturally diverse parts of UK cities. Alan has a 30-year research record in retailing whose studies have frequently helped to underpin aspects of UK Planning policy guidance and inform UK policy makers. Gary Warnaby, meanwhile, joins the group in his capacity as Fellow of the Institute of Place Management (IPM). Formed in 2006, IPM is an international professional body works with policy makers, practitioners and providers to identify the core skills and competences involved in the effective management, development and marketing of places. It links existing support, from educational institutions, membership associations, community groups and place management partnerships and facilitates networking across these groups, both nationally and internationally.
Whilst seeking to inform policy and effect change at national level, our project aims to support campaigners and community groups at local level and help to give them a voice in the larger debates and planning processes. We are fortunate that one of our case studies, Queen’s Market in the London Borough of Newham, is supported by a dynamic grassroots community group the Friends of Queen’s Market (FoQM) and are delighted that Chairperson Sasha Laurel is on our Steering Group. FoQM formed in 2009 to campaign successfully against the proposed demolition of Queen’s Market and continues to meet regularly to discuss threats and improvements to the market and to campaign to protect and promote it.
Supporting us in our work with community campaign groups across London is Just Space, represented by Coordinator Richard Lee. Just Space is an informal alliance of community groups, campaigns and concerned independent organisation and was formed in 2006 to act as a voice for Londoners at grass-roots level during the formulation of London’s major planning strategy. The network aims to improve public participation in planning, to ensure that policy is fairer towards communities in a system dominated by the interests of developers. Member groups support and learn from each other, collaborate and coordinate in making representations to planning authorities, and share research and experience through workshops and publications. By working with Just Space we aim to support a network of market campaign groups and support campaigners to contribute to debates at both local and national level.
Through our work with Co-Investigators at the New Economics Foundation our team hopes to connect with local and community economic development practitioners and we are therefore pleased to welcome Ailbhe McNabola, Head of Research and Policy at Power to Change, to our Steering Group. Power to Change is an independent charitable trust that supports and develops community businesses in England and works with community businesses to revive local assets, protect the services people rely on, and address local needs. We are also delighted to have the support of Alexandra Rose Charity, represented on our group by Chief Executive Jonathan Pauling. The Rose Vouchers for Fruit & Veg Project, set up by Alexandra Rose Charity, helps families on low incomes to buy fresh fruit and vegetables and supports them to give their children the healthiest possible start. The charity works directly with Children’s Centres supporting families in need, and with market traders to provide weekly Rose Vouchers which can be spent on fruit and veg at local markets. By working with the market traders, the project also benefits local markets, helping to ensure economic vibrancy through encouraging regular trade, and so maintaining local markets as important sources of healthy low-cost food.
Finally, strengthening our connections to the markets sector and policy makers, NABMA Chief Executive Graham Wilson is a crucial Steering Group member and supporter of the project. The National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA) promotes markets on the national stage and also provides a wide portfolio of services for market operators. In recent years it has increased its profile, particularly on the national stage, by working with Government to secure recognition for markets in a number of major policy areas. NABMA is a special interest group within the Local Government Association and works closely with the Association of Town Centre Management, National Market Traders Federation, and the National Association of Local Councils, to share agendas and develop partnership working.
The Steering Group’s first meeting with the research team on 13th November provided an opportunity for group members to make suggestions regarding aspects of the project which will be coming to the fore in the New Year. For instance, we will be starting to focus attention on our case study markets, where we plan to conduct a survey of market users, and will also be preparing for a workshop with market traders at the NMTF 2019 conference. We also look forward to following up on suggestions to develop our impact and engagement strategy and have already been able to form important new connections due to the support of the steering group.
At the end of the first year of the project we would like to take the opportunity to thank all of the individuals and organisations who are supporting us in our aim to generate valuable data for the traditional market sector. We look forward to continuing our work with you in 2019!