Freeman Street Market – Grimsby

Family Fun at the First Freeman Street Festival

I have been visiting Freeman Street Market during Love your Local Market fortnight for a couple of years now and I’m always intrigued to see what Markets General Manager, Sean McGarel is going to pull out of the bag. Prior to my visit, he had already hosted a very successful NMTF Markets Matter Roadshow, a first for the market and another first, was the Freeman Street Festival.

Organised by Becky Darnell, arts development co-ordinator for the Warehouse, a lottery funded community venue located in Freeman Street, incorporating a dance studio, cinema, gym and auditorium, The Freeman Street Festival encompassed a number of businesses and venues along Freeman Street, including the market.

The Festival, which took place on Saturday 10 June, was funded through a National Lottery grant received by Foresight, a local charity creating opportunities for people with disabilities, that use the Warehouse’s facilities.

Based at four venues, the Warehouse, skatepark, Newmarket Street car park and the indoor market, the festival promoted the street’s culture and heritage and whilst digging around at the area’s history, Becky discovered that her grandparents had worked in Freeman Street.

Activities included live music, art displays, theatrical and artistic performances, face painting, pop-up markets and a Memory Lane exhibition focussing on the history and heritage of Freeman Street and Grimsby.

Music played throughout the day in the Courtyard, Fiona Lee was the first of the day

Becky only began planning the event in February and so it was surprising what she managed to achieve. She was keen to stress that it wasn’t all her work and commented: “This is all testament to the community and the residents and businesses along Freeman Street. If everybody wasn’t so accommodating, we wouldn’t have this.”

Entertainment at the Market

As part of the market’s involvement, a number of activities took place on the day, going into the evening. The atmosphere was excellent and there always seemed to be something going on; there was pop-up theatre (I can’t get the image of two grown men in army kharkis, wearing sock garters, walking around the market rallying customers, whilst carrying a music player blasting out Karma Police! Random, but highly entertaining!) face painting, Chinese dimsum, owl display, children’s performances courtesy of the in-house GAP theatre (Grimsby Academy for Performers) based in the HUB – part of the market complex, a whole programme of live music in the Courtyard complete with licensed bar and if that wasn’t enough, Sean had also organised Freeman Street Market’s first Record Fair!

Steve Ward – It’s a nice set-up here. It’s one of the best that I’ve done in a long time and I’d definitely come back

Record Fair

The record fair was well attended

Scott Wardle is the proprietor of Replay Records, an independent music shop located in Freeman Street, just a block from the market. Sean had approached Scott on the possibility of holding a record fair at the market and asked Scott if he knew anyone. Scott thought it was a great idea as it was cross promotion for the two businesses, without conflicting and he still had contacts from the days when he used to run record fairs at The Winter Gardens, before they were demolished.

It has been a number of years since Scott had organised a local event, but he spread the word using social media and promotional flyers in both the market and his shop, soon accumulating enough traders – some of whom were customers wishing to ‘off-load’ some of their collection and others from the fair circuit.

During my time at the market, the record fair was well attended. In order for Scott to be able to manage the shop as well, he left the running of the fair at the market to Vince Ramsey, who runs a record fair at Lincoln. He told me: “It’s been really busy, response has been great. We’re already planning another one, pre-Christmas.”

Scott confirmed that there would be another fair this year, as although it took a bit of setting up, the customers and traders were happy and it had directed traffic to his shop (with some people commenting that they never knew it was there.) Scott told me that people had travelled from all over the country to attend and mentioned Peterborough, Bridlington and Nottingham.

He added: “They really looked after us at the market; we had the use of free Wi-Fi (important for updating your online stock) and they kept us supplied with free drinks. It’s a great venue and the space is well lit, which is really important for checking out the condition of vinyl and discs.”

Steve Ward, who travelled from
Woodhall Spa to attend commented: “It’s a nice set-up here. It’s one of the best ones that I’ve done in a long time and I’d definitely come back.”

Making Markets Matter Roadshow and LYLM

As part of LYLM fortnight, Sean once again organised a programme of activities. This included hosting a Making Markets Matter roadshow with the NMTF. Taking place on 20th May, representatives of the organisation were joined by the comedy act Earthbound Misfits, Paul’s Beautiful Barneys (owl display), pop-up theatre, cookery demonstrations kid’s club, green screen photo booth and face painting.

Additionally, Sean organised a scooter rally, petting zoo and toy fair, which also took place as part of the markets’ Love Your Local Market activities. I took the opportunity to meet with some of the traders and those that were involved in some of the events, to find out their thoughts and how they help to promote
the market.

Children love a petting zoo, this one was from Lion Lear
A scooter rally held by the market proved popular with vis
Cookery demonstrations utilised many ingredients from t
One of the acts providing musical entertainment’


Skye is the market’s resident face painter and balloon artist. She can be found at her bright yellow barrow, dressed as a clown, every Saturday, sculpting balloons and painting children’s faces. After finishing a GCSE in Art, in which she incorporated face painting, Skye wanted an outlet from which to practice. On an average Saturday, she gets to paint around ten faces and although that in itself doesn’t generate much income for her, this leads to a lot of party bookings. Working with the Misfits at events in the market has also led to Skye being hired by them to work with them, something that she is delighted with as she is keen to develop new circus skills as she has always wanted to be a clown.

Skye will also be the face of the Freeman Street Youth Market which is being launched soon, keep an eye on our news pages for more information. She told me: “I love working here and I’m keen to encourage more young people like me. The events are good fun and bring more people in.”

In one of the rooms off the Courtyard area was a gallery of works from local artists, Miss Pettinger and Tony’s Arts. Miss Pettinger, as she prefers to be known as it creates a sense of mystery, started painting four years ago and moved to Grimsby in September. Her modern art paintings are one-offs but she is considering producing prints, bookmarks and postcards of her favourite pieces. She commented that the market was a great place to get her work in front of more people and this is the second time she had supported a gallery in the market, producing work to complement the activity’s theme.

Richard Lovelace, a florist from Boston, is a stalwart at the market and is delighted by the efforts of Sean and the team to increase the profile and footfall at the market. He commented: “There are definitely more people coming in as a result of the promotions, they get to see what the market is all about. It’s fantastic what they’re doing, it’s a massive plus. Sean is always trying to get people to use the market more and see it as part of the community.”

Richard Lawson of Stackable Toys has organised a Toy Fair at the market, with another planned

Another Richard, this time Richard Lawson of Stackable Toys, was responsible for the Toy Fair during LYLM. Richard moved to the market a year ago, selling LEGO products after previously selling and organising LEGO fairs. Unfortunately for Richard, the toy fair coincided with the first sunny day of the year, so attendance was down whilst everyone headed to the coast, but everyone has committed to coming back for the next toy fair and he was happy with the way it was promoted, so he is by no means disheartened. He said of the day’s events: “Today has been fantastic for trade. The Courtyard sometimes gets forgotten about, accept by diners and so the music brings people in through here.” He also passed positive comments on how supportive the management had been during his set-up and shop-fitting phase.

The buzz around the market was almost tangible and there was plenty going on in different areas of the market to not only keep shoppers happy but traders too. Sean has been working exceptionally hard to promote and grow Freeman Street Market, whether that is by talking to local radio stations, attending NABMA and NMTF conferences or using these pages!

He told me: “We’re trying to turn ourselves into a bit of a venue, with a shift from a conventional retail market to a community market. By being more creative and also getting youngsters on board this is already starting to happen.”

I’ve enjoyed watching this market grow and very much look forward to seeing how they progress with the youth market over the coming months.