For me, running a business has at times felt disappointing. Obstacles seem designed to get in the way of creative thinking, and it takes training and experience to restore your enthusiasm and energy at times. Creative ideas are what fuel and excite me. The days of setting up a stall of your wares down the Kings Road, just because you could, are long gone. Spitalfields used to have that excitement for me too, but once the potential is spotted, big business takes over and the cost of shop leases goes through the roof. The many shows where individual makers can sell their wares, end up costing an arm and a leg to take part and you really have to know what you are doing to turn them to your advantage and make them pay. Unless you’re dead smart, most of ones business life can be coined by the phrase ‘putting it down to experience’. But what joy, the spirit of entrepreneurial adventure lives and this weekend I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
This Sunday the first underground farmers and craft market was held in secret in Kilburn, north west London. I say secret, because as an underground event it was operating outside the conventional ways of doing these things. Thirty-odd businesses, artisan makers, keen amateurs and a couple of friends who thought it might just be fun to do some baking, put our their wares in any space available in an ‘ordinary’ one bedroom flat with garden, summerhouse and balcony, the abode of the marvellous ms marmite lover. MsMarmitelover, has for some time now been causing a stir with her underground restaurant, holding special suppers in her home, attendance by ticket only. She is most definitely a trail blazer with a streak of anarchy. I have been following her on Twitter for some time now and when she tweeted to say she was hoping to hold a farmers and craft market in her sitting room, might anyone be interested to take part, I was there like a shot.
As a person who needs a deadline, it was a good reason to make me sort out some packaging for my jams, marmalades and fruit curds, at the same time without it being too big a deal. I made raspberry and blackberry curds using some frozen fruits grown organically here at Taurus Crafts and using eggs from my neighbour Jane Hale’s hens, that were as fresh as fresh can be. If I say so myself, they are pretty damn fab. I served up tasters in tiny pastry cases, tweeny weeny curd tarts stacked on my homemade wacky cake stand. I also made 2 marmalades; bitter seville marmalade and my special pink grapefruit, rhubarb and cardamon marmalade as well as a jam that went down a treat; rhubarb, blueberry and lime jam.
Back to the market, in the house, every inch of space was utilised to its best. Someone created a cocktail bar on the ironing board, the mantel shelf was used to display cupcakes, my jam jars were lined up along the top of the upright piano and the bed was strewn with wonderful baked goods and crocheted flowers. Occasional tables became shop fronts for chutneys, cup cakes, more cup cakes, sauerkraut, chocolate brownies, all the foodstuffs you could ever dream of, and a steady stream of enthusiastic customers wandered through, tasting and sampling as they went. There were wacky tourettes biscuits embossed with rude words, cupcakes in handmade flowery boxes and bundles of napkins made of 50’s inspired fabrics. It was utterly totally lovely.
There were cookery demonstrations taking part in the kitchen; how to make your own hollumi cheese, Ms Marmite made her very own focaccio shots, that were delicious, Porridge lady made porridge the proper way using organic oatmeal and a lot of stirring. The atmosphere was buzzing and others taking part were a friendly bunch. I only wish I had had more time to enjoy the event as a customer. This will no doubt be the start of a new craze. Whether or not such energy can be recreated remains to be seen, but I’m up for it.
To be kept up to date on MsMarmite Lovers events you can find her blog here.
To see more of my pictures from the day look here and even more here. Feature in the London Evening Standard here.
Apologies for not naming all the participants photographed or taking pictures of everyone who took part, I had too much on my plate to record all that information.
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