The Orwell Pannier Market has been going for 16 years. From a very modest start outside the Orwell Recreation Ground pavilion in 2004, to inside the Methodist Church Schoolroom then, as more stalls joined, to inside AND outside the Methodist Church Schoolroom!
Then 10 years ago we took a huge leap of faith and moved to Orwell Village Hall where, at first, we were rattling around in such a big space. But now we regularly have 25+ stalls each month, with a great mix of food, crafts and horticulture. Plus a busy vibrant tearoom run by various local clubs and organisations to raise funds.
Then came coronavirus! And everything changed!
Orwell Village Hall closed mid-March and became the village hub to organize local help during the pandemic. Some of our wonderful stallholders rallied round and offered to help out with home deliveries in the village. Carole with her plants and compost (crucial for Orwell’s gardeners as garden centres were then closed), Marian with her lovely cakes and ready meals (perfect for people living alone or self isolating), Anne with her fabulous Greek produce (to offer some much-needed variety), Mary with her popular jams and preserves, and Val with game pasties and pies.
When Boris announced back in mid-May that outdoor markets could reopen (though only for food and plants), we cheekily asked the Parish Council if we might reopen as an outdoor market, perhaps on our Recreation Ground. And they said yes! In fact they were so supportive they even suggested we do takeaway teas, coffees and bacon butties from outside the pavilion. So we did the obligatory risk assessment and promised to adhere to social distancing at all times, that our stallholders would all wear face masks and disposable gloves, and that hand sanitizer would be available at each stall. We even had a ‘bouncer’ on the gate, just in case we needed to disperse any ‘social gatherings’!
So on June 6th we held our first outdoor Pannier Market. We had effectively come full circle since our humble beginnings in 2004!
There were only nine food stalls and one plant stall, plus the takeaway teas coffees and bacon butties. Obviously we were hopeful of good weather, having had a glorious May, but what did we get – galeforce winds and light rain!! Would it be a total disaster? Oh no, LOADS of people came! Everyone was shopping and the atmosphere was great. It was a really joyous occasion. We felt that people were just about ready to venture out again, to see others, to chat (socially distanced of course), and that maybe they felt safer being outside?
By July we were allowed to invite some of our crafters to join us, which took the total number of stalls up to 23.
We don’t usually have a market in August, but so many people asked us to. So we decided to give it a go – and ended up with 28 stalls! Once again it was heaving with customers! AND, even more excitedly, we had a glorious sunny day! By September we were up to 29 stalls, and in October we had a staggering 37 stalls.
The main thing, on each day, was that everyone behaved and socially distanced (so our ‘bouncer’ wasn’t required after all!) and each event was great fun with a lovely jolly atmosphere.
Orwell Pannier Market, SG8 5QJ
1st Saturday of the month,10am-12pm