Riverside market has, for many, become an integral part of Cardiff life. What better way to spend a Sunday morning than enjoying a leisurely coffee on the Fitzhamon Embankment?
But with recent reports that fruit and vegetable consumption by low-income families has fallen by 30 per cent, how is the Riverside Community Market Association (RCMA) coping with current financial and commercial pressures?
Gareth Simpson, Enterprise Development Manager for the RCMA, said: “People have a lot of preconceptions about our markets. Many think it’s beyond their means, but actually, buying fresh produce directly from the traders can be cheaper than going to a supermarket.”
He added: “It’s never been about trying to get people to do their weekly shop at the market, but if more people thought about buying some of their fruit and vegetables from our stall holders on a regular basis, it would make a whole world of difference.”
Although Gareth has only been working for the RCMA since last May, the social enterprise has been running since 1998, when the Riverside Real Food Market was first launched. Since then, the project has expanded, and now runs farmers’ markets in Llandaff North, Rhiwbina and Roath, as well as co-ordinating the Riverside community allotment and a variety of outreach projects.
Gareth said: “The aim is to bring the countryside to the city. Many people have never had the chance to grow their own vegetables and we are trying to spread the message of growing in a fun way. The community allotment allows people to get their hands in the mud and really get involved.”
However, as with all outdoor events, the markets are highly weather dependent. Gareth said: “Footfall suffers in the driving rain.” At present, there is little shelter at the market, but he is hoping to introduce a covered area for live music.
“I always try to create a buzz at the markets,” he said. “It’s not about just filling your shopping bag, it’s very much a social event.” Recently, Gareth created a buskers’ corner at Riverside Market, which gives local musicians the chance to show off their talent and entertain the crowd.
The RCMA also tries to bring a wide variety of products to the markets. Gareth said: “We avoid putting similar stalls together, so new products have to be quite innovative. We don’t like to turn people away, but sometime we have to. A little competition can be a good thing.”
For more information, visit the RCMA website.