This June, the Marylebone Farmers Market celebrates an incredible 10 years at the heart of life in Marylebone. Director of London Farmers’ Markets and the lady responsible for the creation of the market, Cheryl Cohen, shares with us the story behind the Marylebone Farmer’s Market and just how important a part of Marylebone it really is.
Marylebone High Street on a Sunday. Most shops shut, the street deserted. The day I walked around in 2001, checking out the neighbourhood prior to opening our farmers market I had a feeling that we could turn Sundays around.
Thanks to a call from Westminster Corporate Property department, the enthusiasm of local groups, residents associations, business groups and the Howard de Walden Estate, the support was there.
Andrew Ashenden, CEO at Howard de Walden Estate was charming and offered invaluable advice and contacts. Local Councillors gave their blessing and support as did shops including La Fromagerie which had opened a few months previously.
Ten years on I ask Andrew for his thoughts. He told me;
‘Back in the mid 1990’s Marylebone was a rather run down, neglected part of the West End, beautiful architecture yes, but uncared for and dysfunctional. Many vacant buildings, Harley Street in a time warp and the High Street dominated by empty or temporarily let shops.’
As CEO of The Howard de Walden Estate, owner of much of Marylebone, Andrew was charged with the challenge to restore the area. He says ‘it was clear to me that reviving the formerly successful High Street was the priority and would be the catalyst for the general improvement of Marylebone.
Over the next decade this initiative took shape, the mix of new tenants carefully selected and coordinated, and the street came to life again, offering a unique retail experience with the emphasis on independent retailers, distinct from the major surrounding shopping venues of Oxford, Bond and Regent streets.’
What about weekends?
Andrew again; ‘What was missing was strong trading at weekends, particularly Sundays. You, together with the Farmers Market were the crucial ingredients, not only establishing seven days a week activity but significantly improving trading for all retailers in the area.
The Farmers Market has undoubtedly been a major contributor to the revival of the High Street and Marylebone generally, establishing the very sought after area of central London it has become.’
Patricia Neville has lived in Marylebone for over 20 years. She is currently Business Liaison for the Marylebone Association. When asked what was in Marylebone High Street on a Sunday before we arrived she says; ‘a big nothing!’ Waitrose opened at midday. Now they open at 11.
Patricia is enthusiastic about the market ‘Really, there were very few people about. The change is positive in every way. Now, businesses open on Sundays, it brings people in. It’s a dramatic transformation, for the benefit of everyone’
Patricia Michelson had the same vision. At the same time that I was being shown the site by Westminster, she was being approached to open a shop in Marylebone.
‘I well remember being wooed by Howard de Walden to come to Marylebone, and when they asked me which part of the High Street I wanted to be in, I said not the High Street, but Moxon Street. When they asked me why a little side street with nothing going on, I said that the Car Park was a great space not just for people to park but also for a Farmer’s Market; and I said it time and time again as I believed then as I do now that a Farmer’s Market brings to life not only the area but the community. I wanted to make Moxon Street the Food Quarter of Marylebone, and thankfully the Howard de Walden Estate saw the possibilities for this to be achieved.’