@ 19:24:59 by ashtonboatman
The end of the Flea Market stall.
We started doing recycling trips with the boats in August 1996. At first we collected metal and clothes/bric a brac. We thought that we would develop it by starting to collect waste paper, glass etc, but the bottom fell out of the market for these commodities and, when it started to recover, the council started collecting them. However, a successful jumble sale or two showed that there was money in clothes and nick nacks, so we decided to give car boots a try. These went well, so we decided to have a go at council run markets, settling down on the Tuesday flea market in Ashton market place. To begin with the returns on this were marginal, but we were so broke in those days that we stuck at it for lack of any other income.
The big turn round came when we invested £40 in a secondhand stall that was advertised in Loot, and asked for a pitch, ie an area where you can erect your own stall rather than renting a stall from the council. We got our investment back the first day we used our own stall.
Our pitch was in front of the town hall steps. An excellent location, but we were forced to return to a ready made stall after a councillor complained about it being untidy. (He'd be untidy if he had to stand in that wind all day). After one time when we failed to make our stall money I approached the market management again and they let us have a pitch opposite Kwik Save alongside the market hall. At first this didn't do too well, but after a while our customers found us and soon other traders started to join us.
A bombshell hit when pitches were suddenly banned completely because they made the place look untidy (councillors again, or one particular one). A load of traders, including me, went to a meeting in the council offices and got it reversed.
On the morning of 25th May 2004 I drove, towing the market trailer, into town to set up our stall. I could see a big plume of smoke in the town centre and thought I hope that isn't the market hall. It was! If you have pyromaniac tendencies have a look at
The fire actually helped us. We were given a new pitch on a busy corner right in front of MacDonalds.
I should have mentioned the market trailer. This excellent box trailer was built for us using part of an old caravan chassis by Benchmaster Engineering of Mossley. It was a great boost when we got that as it meant that market stock no longer had to be unloaded from a boat in the early hours of the morning, then put back at the end of the day.
Anyway, things went well for the last 5 years, though sometimes it's been a struggle to find enough volunteers to keep it running. The stalwart for many years was David Lloyd, but, sadly, he was taken away by a heart attack.
Just lately I've been concerned about the amount of my time that the stall has been taking. Now that we have a huge shop on Stamford St in Ashton the income from the stall is not so crucial, and I keep thinking about all the other things that I could be doing on the boats with the 15 hours of my time that it takes each week. I was thinking of ways that we could carry on running the stall with less of my involvement when the powers that be dropped another bombshell. Our pitch was to increase in price from £10 to £90! We could reduce this by trimming down the area, but this would mean trimming down on takings too. I asked about moving back to our old pitch alongside the (rebuilt) market hall, but they aren't allowing pitches there now. Probably because they are so terribly untidy.
So, that's it. I've enjoyed 12 years market trading and, for a lot of that time, it was a lifeline to the Wooden Canal Boat Society. Now we have the problem of what to do with shop rejects as we all hate dumping them. The market stall kept down our landfill contributions considerably. I think it's sad that the tidier uppers of this world are steadily destroying our wonderful markets. They did it to Tommyfield Market in Oldham, which is now a shadow of it's former self.