Page 13 - Market Times February 2014
P. 13

  Market Times • February 2014
The market that’s a lifeline for autistic children
 RUBERY Market in Birmingham has been saved from closure by a couple who have set up a community interest company to help autistic children in the city.
Lisa and Peter Mace could never have envisaged they would end up running a charitable initiative and a market.
But that’s exactly what they are doing, as Lisa explains.
“We launched Autism Birmingham in March 2013, beginning with a charity shop in Stirchley, followed by a second one in Longbridge which opened in August,” Lisa said.
The couple have two autistic children, Ben, 14, and George, 10. Lisa said: “You can’t get across
the huge impact that having an autistic child has on a family.”
George was diagnosed at six, which led to Ben being diagnosed with the same condition, initially missed.
The couple both left secure jobs to become carers for their children. But now that the boys are both at special schools, they decided to do something to help other families with autistic children by setting up Autism Birmingham.
“We started off with the charity shops, then we learned that Rubery market had closed and we decided to take a look,” Lisa said.
Rubery market is an indoor market at the rear of New Street with a handful of traders, a café at the back, and a hairdressers.
Many of the goods in the market are sold from glass cabinets, with every item individually priced. If shoppers see something they want, they go to the market manager who takes the money and keeps it for the trader to collect.
When the private owners closed the market down in September, the traders moved out and it seemed like the end of the road.
Lisa said: “We looked into running it as a market and charity shop combined, but we weren’t sure it was viable and decided to forget about it.”
During a sleepless night Lisa had a sudden brainwave that the market might just work.
The new-look market officially opened its doors in November and it is doing reasonably well.
Three of the former traders have returned — a baby clothes and equipment business, a sports equipment business and another specialising in photographic canvases.
Two of the glass cabinets are rented out to traders, and the remainder of the cabinets and stalls sell donated items and furniture in aid of Autism Birmingham.
Lisa said: “It is early days but the general public and the local community are really supporting us.”
People continue to donate goods to sell and an auctioneer recently staged an auction to boost funds.
Lisa said: “Birmingham Autism has already been able to help eight families in Birmingham.”
It has purchased sensory equipment for autistic children, and organised treats for families with autistic children, including VIP seats to watch Birmingham City play.
Lisa said: “We have had people turn up and burst into tears because they have an autistic child and the shops and now the market are somewhere they can come for support.”
Lisa now runs a support group for families living with autism, and she received £4,000 funding from Lloyds Bank Social Enterprise scheme, as well as one day a month’s mentoring.
Anyone wanting more information about Autism Birmingham or Rubery Market can contact Lisa on 07964 144942.
  Lisa Mace, a director of Autism Birmingham, is pictured with the Rubery market manager Mark Hanson

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