Finally, this summer, we have started doing what we've really moved to Dorset for: exploring the Southwest region and finding potential opportunities for our respective ventures Matt ArtPix and Arcane Publishing. After a year sorting ourselves out after our move from the Southeast during which we haven't really traded outside of our unit at The Customs House in West Bay, we are trying to be as active as possible and we are now busy booking events for this autumn and winter. Some of them will see us go back to more straightforward vintage markets (but good ones!), but we are thinking about challenging ourselves and venturing into "happenings" such as The Frome Independent market - we will probably apply in the autumn to try and trade there next year - obviously, this is all conditional on us being accepted, which is by far not a done deal. It doesn't cost anything to try!
Last Sunday, we finally made it to Frome, a town which has been so written about (and which has won this year's The Sunday Times's Best Place To Live in the Southwest) that house prices have now shot up and apparently, there is a "Make Frome Shit Again" hashtag. From March to December included, every first Sunday of the month, the town hosts the brilliant Frome Independent, an event which takes over the whole city centre and attracts hundreds if not thousands of people each time.
There's music, a flea market, a designer-maker market, a street food market... Shops and art galleries are open...
Most of all, what I have found exciting about Frome, is that it seems to have found a great balance between its identity as a traditional (and charmingly lovely) Southwest market town and its growing reputation for art and culture, community enterprise, trendiness, thriving independent shops and can-do attitude. And the latter is I think what genuinely makes the difference. In Frome, people actually get off their backside and DO things - properly. And it shows. People are creative, yet they also understand the realities of life and the fact that your creativity can be turned into a business and can contribute to the economic and cultural regeneration of a town. People with ideas and talent are encouraged to at least TRY and the Frome Independent is a brilliant way of giving people the opportunity to just do that. When your town doesn't have a lot of job opportunities, well, you CREATE them!
I loved St Catherine's, Frome's Artisan Quarter; it has a timeless cobbled charm and is full of great independent shops. There, you will find designer-makers, vintage dealers, craft, art and lifestyle vendors and various cafes - just to think that not that far back, this was all boarded up! We loved OWL - a craft and art gallery - for its unique and original products which you feel you haven't already seen hundreds of times as is the case with such places nowadays... We will have to go back to Frome to visit two vintage shops that were unfortunately closed, Deadly Is The Female and Dandy Lion.
Cheap Street is another pretty street and has retained its historic medieval character (there, you will find a well-stocked record/DVD shop, Raves from the Grave.)
Black Swan Arts and The Cheese and Grain are two extremely busy cultural venues that host an array of events and exhibitions throughout the year.
We also saw a lot of lovely things for sale and spent ages in the Flea market (it's our thing!) - There, I drooled over the vintage typewriters at the Charlie Foxtrot stand (one day...)
Later on, I also bought a lovely card at Tom Charlesworth's stand (go and check out his website - if you like dark, folklore/mythology-inspired illustration, it's for you! It is rather wonderful...)
Of course, we just couldn't NOT go to a bookshop... So we had a good look around the Frome Bookshop and I managed to get out without buying anything...
I genuinely believe that the Frome experience can be replicated in other towns around the country - obviously, every town is different and each location would need to find its own specific identity.
This Sunday, The Frome Independent was renamed "Frome-on-Sea" and had a mini-beach complete with sand, deckchairs, seagulls and donkey rides. In Weymouth, we do have all of those (and the seagulls are real!) as well as the brilliant architecture - add to this a gorgeous scenery and a lot of artists and creatives who would jump at the chance of participating to the regeneration of the area and help turn it into a respected, all-year-round destination. But the local authorities NEED to be open to ideas and MUST show generosity, understanding and readiness to LISTEN to organisations and individuals (something which, unfortunately, is not happening in Weymouth).
We live in hope...
And we will be back!
I think therefore I write.
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