Chiswick Flower Market – Last Hurrah before lockdown

Photographs by Anna Kunst – Anna Kunst Photography

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Thumbs up for a socially distanced November market

Happiness was the order of the day at the second Chiswick Flower Market, on Sunday 1 November. Lots of people wandering around Chiswick High Rd with armfuls of plants, happy with their purchases. Traders who got up at the crack of dawn to come to the market, who went away content with a good day’s trade and local cafes and restaurants who were pleased with the uptake in business from market visitors.

There were a few concerns beforehand. Would it pour with rain? Would there be huge crowds of people all standing too close together? Or would people not come this time, put off by figures on the increase of Covid in London?

No, no and no again. The rain held off, bar a bit of mizzle. The Chiswick Flower Market organisers (of whom the editor of The Chiswick Calendar is one) reckon there were about 5,000 people at Sunday’s market, compared with 7,000 at the first one in September and because the market doubled its area, but with stalls spread out down Devonshire Rd as well as in the Old Market Place in front of George IV, it never looked crowded.

Images above: Rob and Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants

Rob Hardy, one half of Hardy’s Plants, told The Chiswick Calendar he was very impressed with the level of organisation. Rosy Hardy is recognised as the most successful female exhibitor at Chelsea Flower Show, with 24 Gold Medals to her credit, and they have spent many years showing their plants at flower shows and festivals.

“Quite a few of our customers came to see us who used to come to the RHS shows” said Rob. “There was a garden designer who lives locally, who we know from Chelsea, who was quite surprised to see us in Chiswick.

“We’ve been hugely impressed at how well organised it all is and by the friendliness of the atmosphere. People loved it”.

Geraldine King, Head Gardener at Chiswick House, said she was also very impressed with the management of the crowd. She ran a stall selling bunches of flowers grown in the gardens of Chiswick House.

“The social distancing was good. It was marshalled extremely well and conscientiously.

“I would also like to give a massive thank you to Chiswick House volunteers who came in on Saturday to put together beautiful bouquets, which the public loved”.

Nesta Joliff, who runs bulb sellers Jacques Amand, said people came to seek them out after the last market and that she’d taken some pre-orders from customers on Twitter.

“The people who came to buy really knew their flowers” she said. “We forgot the picture of the Allium Purple Sensation, but it didn’t make a hoot of difference”. She herself was impressed by the display of autumn colours on show from the flower sellers.

Joe Brown, a Columbia Rd trader trying out a stall in Chiswick for the first time, told The Chiswick Calendar he thinks Chiswick Flower Market “has huge potential” He’s been involved in selling flowers “since I could walk” he told us, working in the family business for 23 years (he’s only in his thirties).

Berta Strobl, who runs Lifelike Flowers, said it was “fantastic” and “amazing”. Her stall on Devonshire Rd did more business than it had at the first market in September. She thought because of the weather, “only people who were really determined came out, but the people who came were there to buy”.

The local traders in Devonshire Rd did well from the market too. Sandro Costa, who manages Vinoteca, was told us he was pleased to see the market had spread into Devonshire Rd. It meant an increase in business for them. Kate Frobisher from Urban Pantry said:

“It was definitely busier than it has been over the last week or so and much busier than it was on Saturday”.

The Aboriginal Art Gallery at 24 Devonshire Rd posted on Instagram:

“Thank you so much for bringing such life, colour and vibe to Chiswick”.

There were a few grumbles from people who suddenly found they were being challenged by marshals. One said “It’s bad enough not being able to drive anywhere in Chiswick any longer, without being told you can’t walk where you want either” but most people were happy to abide by the market’s one way system.

The Devonshire Rd closure came as a bit of a surprise to residents of the Glebe estate, as the licence was only granted the previous Thursday and there wasn’t much time to publicise it.

Karen Liebreich, one of the five directors of Chiswick Flower Market, said:

“All the weeks of careful planning, talking to the council’s health officials, preparing for any eventuality paid off. Our fantastic team of local volunteers included 50 marshals and ten people doing deliveries by cargo bike, who worked their socks off to make it a successful event”.

Images above: Hannah Winter-Levy and Kathleen Mitra with Cllr Ron Mushiso; Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford & Isleworth

Local MP Ruth Cadbury turned up to support the market, not just for a photo opportunity, but mucking in and pedalling a bike all the way to Ealing with a delivery. Local councillors Ron Mushiso and Ranjit Gill also put in the hours as marshals. Chiswick Rugby Club pitched in with three guys to drag barriers about, before going off to Sunday morning rugby training.

“The fact that 70 or so local people are willing to give up hours of their Sunday from early morning to the end of the day to make it such a lovely event shows the lovely spirit of Chiswick” said Karen Liebreich.

The Chiswick Flower Market regular organising team is: Ollie Saunders, Karen Liebreich, Bridget Osborne, Kathleen Mitra, Stephen Nutt, Amanda Parker, Victoria Bailey-King, Ekaterina Harwood, Jeremy Day and Hannah Winter-Levy.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Turnham Green Terrace reopened northbound

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