NMTF's annual conference, held on Monday 16th April in Sheffield, provided our team with its first major opportunity to present our project to market traders, managers, operators and other professionals working within the sector. We were pleased to see that the materials on our stall generated interest from delegates, whilst our question 'How can we measure the community value of traditional markets?' sparked enthusiastic debate in the final session.
Many of the delegates responded to the project feedback cards included in the conference packs, which asked attendees to tell us what they felt was the most undervalued community benefit of traditional markets. Whilst the responses picked out many key issues, such as celebrating cultural heritage, the availability of reasonably priced goods and employment, and support for the local economy, by far the most common observation was that markets help to combat social isolation through face-to-face contact between regular traders and customers, and by functioning as inclusive, accessible spaces.
During the morning break and over lunch many of the delegates chatted to members of our team, with several expressing a keen interest to get involved. For some, this was prompted by fears over the future of their market due to a lack of investment or the possibility of regeneration and gentrification. Others, by contrast, clearly wished to showcase everything that was good about their markets and how they were contributing to the dynamic within their town or city centre. We look forward to following up these contacts as we move into the next phase of the project!