Frome's seen enormous change since I was a sprog, to become a destination for independent and creative business, due in part, in my humble opinion, to The Frome Independent - more than a market.
I've been very fortunate to trade at the first Sunday of the month event since March, and will be trading for the last time in 2022 there tomorrow.
I caught up with Communications Manager, Susie to learn more.
El: What are the core values of The Frome Independent?
S: Are you ready for a lot of bullet points? Here we go!
We stand for the best, we stand for talent, we stand for independents.
We work with independent local, seasonal and regional food and drink producers.
We showcase fledgling and established contemporary designers and makers.
We nurture traders of sustainable products, contemporary design products and vintage fashion, collectibles and furniture.
We support Frome’s independent retailers and thinkers: community, culture, conversation - we make that happen too!
El: From humble beginnings in 2009, what do you feel has propelled The Frome Independent to become the most well known and perhaps well-visited curation of makers and sellers in the region?
S: I’ll give you a bit of background to put it all in context - the market started life as St Catherine’s Artisan Market in 2009 with the aim of bringing footfall to the independent shops of Frome’s picturesque cobbled streets of St Catherine’s. Over the subsequent years, the market increased in popularity and expanded to include a flea and vintage market section. In 2012 a series of pilot events called ‘Frome Super Market’ expanded the market across the whole town centre. After a hot and hectic summer, the market’s reputation grew rapidly and in December 2013 we experienced record numbers of visitors – all of whom had flocked to see what our little town had to offer. In early 2014 we rebranded and became officially known as ‘The Frome Independent’.
We wanted to find a name that reflected the essence of the market – a more ethical and considered approach to shopping: buying directly from a knowledgeable expert, or designer-maker; buying something well-made, well sourced and unique which you’ll treasure, rather than something mass-produced and disposable. Our branding and website has been developed with us by local designer Anthony Oram, and our posters and market day map by Frome illustrator Matt Wellsted.
During our research we looked at the many other models of markets, fairs and festivals that take place throughout the UK, but ultimately our inspiration was taken from Frome – its creative and welcoming community and plethora of independent traders and businesses provided our backdrop - we created a brand and an event that would hopefully reflect, inspire and celebrate that community. Although we are a small team of 4 part-time staff, we’re armed with a broad range of expertise: curating public art, delivering community events and workshops, running yoga classes and cafes, managing music festivals, working in the public health sector - we’re not afraid of a bit of hard graft! I’ve been part of the team for just over a year, and my background in curating contemporary art and managing commercial art galleries Kate MacGarry and Sprueth Magers in London has proved to be so useful - always striving to represent artists’ and makers’ work in the best possible way - it’s something that’s also really at the heart of The Frome Independent.
Our combined vision has helped create a market which better exhibits its traders and has allowed more space for shop fronts - we set out to create an experience that would be as much about community and celebration as it would be about shopping. The market attracts a really broad demographic, it’s quickly become the biggest regular social event in Frome’s calendar and has developed a word of mouth reputation as the best market in the South West of England - bringing visitors from as far afield as London and Wales as well as from all over the South West. People come into the town centre on the first Sunday of the month not only to shop but to socialise! The atmosphere is more like a mini festival than a market really, with music, activities and amazing food. As well as serious foodies, vintage devotees and people seeking out the best new designer makers, there is every walk of life and social group represented in the market’s audience - The Frome Independent really is a whole-town event.
El: What golden nugget would you tell your 18 year old self about life, markets and people?
S: Hmmmm that’s a tricky one, I’m not sure I have just one nugget to cover all those things so here’s a few: Art is everything - keep at it! Don’t give up just because someone else is already doing it. And money and champagne, although helpful/nice, ultimately don’t make you very happy. When I was at art school in the late 90s I made a pact with myself that whatever I did afterwards, it had to be creative (and pay the bills) - I couldn’t imagine doing a job I hated just for the money - and so far I’m thrilled to say I’ve achieved it!
Thank you Susie. The Frome Independent runs the first Sunday on the month.
More information about The Frome Independent can be found here, including a directory of traders: https://thefromeindependent.org.uk
Follow The Frome Independent on Instagram too.
📸 Alice Whitby for The Frome Independent