Page 6 - MarketTimesDecember2019
P. 6

The Welsh Valleys town of Ebbw Vale was once an industrial powerhouse, boasting the largest steelworks in Europe and surrounded by coalmines employing tens of thousand of people.
It was hardly surprising that an enter- prising market operator spotted an opportunity to start a market in the thriving town just over 40 years ago.
And what a market they created, according to the traders with long memories. Brothers Craig and Dominic Roberts who have separate stalls on the market remember it running from one end of
town to the other.
Craig, who had 10 years down the pit
before starting on the market selling household goods and eggs, said: “It was a brilliant market when I started 33 years ago. It was just so busy.”
And his brother, Dominic, who runs a flourishing cakes and biscuits stall with his wife, Catherine, said: “I have been on this market for 37 years. It took me two years to get a permanent pitch. Then the steelworks was cut down and eventually closed and there was a gradual decline. But
Karl Wool travels from Coventry to auction meat on the market every Friday
people have to eat and we have always done well with our good value cakes and biscuits because we were still selling when people had less money in their pockets.”
Another market stalwart Patrick Burns, who runs the market’s burger van, has been on Ebbw Vale market longer than anyone.
He started at 14 on his mother’s flower stall and at one point was sacked from his big brother’s sweet stall before taking over a friend’s catering van.
Patrick admits he was keener on the market than school at a very young age, but it has given him a good living over the years and he is one of the great market char- acters keeping punters happy and well fed.
“It used to be a really busy market. My first rent was three pounds seven and six and you could make a great living here,” he said.
But then the rot set in. The steelworks, which once employed 14,500, began shedding jobs in the early 1980s and finally closed in 1982. Ebbw Vale took a huge economic hit. There was an exodus of people seeking jobs elsewhere and the
Martine Roberts is pictured on her husband’s fruit and veg stall. A full-time teacher, she gets Fridays off and is only too happy to help out on the family’s stall
FEATURE • EBBW VALE market fell into decline.
The problems weren’t helped by high rents, the traders claim. Finally Blaenau Gwent council took over its running, but with the market continuing to haemorrhage traders and footfall, and losing £30,000 a year, they put it out to tender two-and-a- half years ago.
And that is when things began to change. A couple of years earlier local retailers and businesses had got together to form Ebbw Vale Business Forum in response to a regeneration scheme that involved pedestrianisation and closing the town centre to traffic.
One retailer in particular was up for a fight against the traffic closure which bus- inesses said would kill many of them off.
Phillip Edwards had run a carpet shop in the centre of town for more than 30 years and when it came to voting for a chairman of the forum his name was put forward.
The business forum did a good job opposing the council’s plans and continued to give local businesses a voice in the future of the town.
When the council put the running of the
Christopher Frost, who sells cosmetics and hair accessories, is returning to the market after a six month absence to give it a second go

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