Chiswick Flower Market gets double page spread in the Daily Telegraph

‘How we helped our high street bloom’

The Daily Telegraph has written up Chiswick Flower Market with a double page spread telling the story of how a group of local residents came together as volunteers to try out an idea for revitalising the economy of the local High Rd.

Under the headline ‘How we helped our high street bloom’ Natasha Goodfellow follows the Flower Market’s story from first beginnings as a gleam in Ollie Saunders’ eye as he trudged over to Columbia Rd to buy flowers every week, to last Sunday’s market, with the stalls and the handmade bunting looking its best in the summer sunshine, courtesy of Anna Kunst’s photographs.

“I’m a chartered surveyor, so I spend quite a lot of my time looking at town centres,” founder director Ollie told her, “and by late 2019, I was starting to find Chiswick quite a depressing place. A lot of shops had closed, there were high vacancy rates and there was nothing to bring people here apart from the supermarkets.”

She writes: ‘Noting that over the years of his visits to Columbia Road he’d seen the surrounding shops and cafés up their game, from instant coffee and soggy bacon sandwiches to espressos, art, and chic vintage stores, he decided it was time to act’.

His idea was picked up by Karen Liebreich, Director of Abundance London. ‘“Karen is amazing,” says Ollie, “she doesn’t hang around” and together with Bridget Osborne, editor of The Chiswick Calendar, they organised a public meeting.

Natasha has done a very thorough job, mentioning Chiswick’s its ‘illustrious horticultural heritage’ with the gardens of Chiswick House as the birthplace of the English landscape movement and the The Horticultural Society (now the RHS) having their first gardens here.

She’s talked to some of the regular traders, who’ve made some great comments about the market.

Images above: Rosy Hardy, Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants; Neil & Catherine of Pepperpot Herbs nursery

“The market has a really nice mix of exhibitors”

Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants told her:

“Location is important. Chiswick is great because it’s on the outskirts of London and not too difficult to get to, plus it’s in an area where people have gardens and are keen to garden. The market has a really nice mix of exhibitors; they don’t have the same people coming back every month – and it’s spacious and very well organised.

“We grow everything we sell and so the market’s ethos of getting London growing just seemed right for us.”

Catherine Wallsgrove of Pepperpot Herbs nursery said:

“We like the fact that it’s a one-day market based purely on flowers, plants and related things. It being monthly means we can fit it around other events, and the plant focus means customers know why they are coming.

“It’s on a busy high street, which is good – footfall counts for a lot when you’re trying to sell something – and the fact that everyone has come together as a community to put this on gives it a really lovely atmosphere.

“I follow them on social media and know how much work they put into the publicity and how much of their own time they put into this.”

Image above: Karen Liebreich, Ollie Saunders & Victoria Bailey-King; photograph Anna Kunst

A charming idea which takes lots of work

Natasha has also talked to co-founder-director Karen Liebreich, who told her:

“A flower market is such a charming idea,” says Karen, “but even without a pandemic, you have to get the structure right and that means a lot of hideously boring stuff, from dealing with road closures and traffic management orders to licensing and health and safety.

“If we’d known how much work it would be, I’m not sure any of us would have taken it on, but it’s like having a baby – you have to go through the pain to come out with something lovely.”

Victoria Bailey-King, who looks after a lot of the admin and manages the volunteer marshals at the market, said:

“I’ve lived here all my life but I’ve never really felt connected to Chiswick in the way I do now, thanks to the market. I feel lucky to be a part of it”.

Image above: Jeremy Vine with a bunch of peonies he bought at the June Flower Market

A really big shout out

The article has been very warmly received locally, not least by the market organisers! Broadcaster Jeremy Vine, who lives in Chiswick and is a big supporter of the market, tweeted:

‘Really big shout out to @olliesaunders1 and @Chiswick_Bridge (editor of The Chiswick Calendar) and all others involved. Karen in particular has faced inexplicable hostility from a tiny number of people and it was heartening when they actually showed up at the market. I’m so proud to know her’.

Paul Campbell writes:

‘What a smashing tribute to Karen Liebreich, Ollie Saunders, Bridget Osborne and many others who have worked so hard to make this a roaring success. And great to hear From Whitman that they have let every commercial premises on their books’.

Ed Saper says:

‘Well done Karen and Ollie! And everyone else who had volunteered, persevered and turned up on the day to turn an idea into a glorious reality!’

Suffice it to say the organisers are feeling pretty pleased with themselves!

The Telegraph article is behind a pay wall but you can find it here:

telegraph.co.uk/gardening/gardening-events/helped-gloomy-high-street-bloom

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