Much hoo-ha has been made about Manchester’s Christmas markets this year, with certain critics making their feelings clear on the mass-produced, often pricey products that can be found there.
However, there’s no denying the positive impact the Christmas markets have on Manchester’s economy. They bring in millions of visitors each year and are frequently voted amongst the best in Europe, doing much to boost Manchester’s international profile.
That said, it’s always important to acknowledge the local DIY grafters turning out in all weather conditions to sell their wares at local markets all year round.
One such grafter is Claire Simpson, the brains behind the Manchester born-and-bred Worker Bee markets.
A relatively new project, her Worker Bee markets have been running for just shy of a year.
After a hugely positive reception in Stockport, the markets have now secured slots at First Street every Wednesday, promising us Christmas shopping with Mancunian soul.
Christmas shoppers heading down to browse the markets at First Street can expect to find between 20-30 traders selling homemade jewellery and clothing, plus stalls brimming with homemade crafts and artisanal foodie treats.
“Starting my own brand gave me the power to select my own traders, create a wider variety of stalls and give a platform to slightly more individual traders,” says Claire.
“All Worker Bee markets traders are based locally, and the vast majority make everything they sell themselves – so when you buy something from a Worker Bee, you know you’re getting something truly artisanal.”
Prior to setting up her own markets, Claire was involved in the Manchester Christmas markets. Noticing a lack of variety and individualism amongst the traders during this time, she felt inspired to create her own market brand with a focus on working with independent makers local to Manchester.
“I’ve been involved in the industry for four years, but have only been running my own markets for just shy of a year,” Claire tells us.
“I used to go to events with traders and see the same stalls all competing against each other with very little variation – for example, one event that I went to, I counted ten cake stalls all within a stone’s throw of each other!
“I understand the value of the city-wide Christmas markets, truly I do – and Worker Bee isn’t supposed to be a direct competitor to them. We’re about offering an alternative; something unique which captures the DIY spirit that Manchester is so famous for.”
For Claire, one of the key strengths of the Worker Bee markets’ hyper-localised ethos is the clear passion and enthusiasm she sees from all her traders.
She carefully hand-picks all her traders and is constantly scouring social media for new, exciting concepts.
In order to ensure even the smallest local businesses can afford to take a spot, she makes sure that her stall prices are kept as low as possible.
“These traders aren’t detached salespeople; their businesses are their lives and so they’re incredibly passionate about what they’re selling. They’re enthusiastic, they’re personable, and they really care about their customers.
“For me, the vendors are the best part hands-down about the job – I deliberately keep my stall prices as low as possible to ensure that small, local businesses can afford to take up a spot at a Worker Bee Markets event.”
For those keen to put money back into our local community this Christmas, there’s no better way to do this by than buying from local independent businesses.
Pop down to First Street 12-6pm on Wednesday 12th and 19th to peruse the Worker Bee markets for some Christmas shopping inspiration – and whilst you’re there, maybe a skate around the First Street Ice rink too.