Where’s the Toby?

In times gone by, the Toby was the person who organized the allocation of pitches at town markets and was also responsible for collecting the rents. On Thursday 6th September I went to meet Steve Brand who is the Toby at Clevedon’s historic Charter Market in the heart of Clevedon in Queen’s Square.

On the day that I was at the market, there were a great variety of stalls, I’m not sure I’ll be able to remember them all so you really need to go and see for yourselves. There was a cheese monger, a butcher, a fish monger, a baker, a gentleman selling beautiful fudge, honey, chutneys, baking items and so much more (all homemade with no additives or preservatives) a fruit and veg seller, several clothing stalls, a number of artists including a stall selling hand crafted items from salvaged wood and driftwood, stalls selling games and DVDs, plants, scarves, pet beds, toys, household goods and smoking sundries. There were also an Argentinian couple selling the most beautiful homemade cakes and churros which tasted divine.

Jenny's for experiment

My meeting place with Steve was Jenny’s Café who make the most beautiful cappuccinos, and as we were talking the Argentinian couple brought in four stunning cakes for the café. I liked the synergy between Steve, the traders and the café and this little interaction that I observed was a classic example of how a regular, local market can bring great benefits to local shops, cafes and restaurants.

Steve came across as a very kind, thoughtful person who values inclusion and diversity. He cares deeply about the market traders and is extremely supportive. I really enjoyed interviewing him.

FacesofClevedon:  What is your exact role and how long have you been in this role?

Steve: I’m known as the market operator; last year I got the contract and I run the market on behalf of the Council. It’s my third year at the market. I was a trader myself for ten years.

FacesofClevedon:  Do you have another job?

Steve: Yes I have a driving school ‘Life School of Motoring’

FacesofClevedon:  What does being a Charter market mean?

Steve: The market was granted Charter status in 1346 by King Edward lll and still enjoys that status today; a status which recognizes a zone of protection with a radius of 6⅔ miles and means that the market cannot be closed except through an Act of Parliament. Charter status gives us protection by not allowing another local market on Thursdays only.

FacesofClevedon:  How long has the market been operating, what is the season and what are the market hours?

Steve: The market has been here for sixteen years now and we’re open all year round in all weathers. I get here at about 6.00am to start setting up for opening at 8.00am. We start packing up at 3.45pm. In the Winter, I have to make sure people aren’t packing up in the dark.

FacesofClevedon: How many traders are there and are they regulars?

Steve: Twenty minimum and I’d say about two thirds are permanent traders and a third are casual. That’s a good balance because it gives me flexibility and means I can keep the market fresh. About half the traders are local but the rest are from the South – West.

FacesofClevedon: Roughly how many people use the market?

Steve: Between two and three thousand a day.

FacesofClevedon: Do you allow any charities or voluntary organisations to set up a stall?

Steve: Yes most definitely, we also enable organisations to promote their local business. There was an osteopath practice setting up in Clevedon and they took a stall to get themselves known in the community.  I also like to support traders who are just starting out. I don’t charge them for the first four weeks and I lend them the pop up table and gazebo so they are not investing in something they may decide is not for them. I’m also on hand to offer support, advice and guidance. Once they start making money I charge them.

FacesofClevedon: What’s the best aspect of your job?

Steve: It’s being part of this community. I live in Easton in Gordano but Clevedon is like my second home. I love chatting to the public; I have a lot of regulars I really enjoy talking to. I like supporting the traders, it’s a tough livelihood with shops and businesses open every day and with so much online shopping and the supermarkets doing home deliveries.  I’m happy to do anything that makes their lives a little easier.

FacesofClevedon: Do you think the market will survive?

Steve: Yes, most definitely. I would describe us as a thriving regional market going from strength to strength.

FacesofClevedon are big supporters of the Clevedon Charter Market and we’ve got interviews lined up with some of the regular traders so you can get to know them a little better.

Find out more about Clevedon’s Charter Market here:

Clevedon’s historic Thursday Market is open EVERY Thursday all year round. It is situated in the centre of town with plenty of free parking nearby. Don’t forget Clevedon’s wonderful selection of independent shops too. For further information or to book a stall contact Steve on 07788 666391

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