Multicultural Market aims to seduce Gothenburgers

Under Gothenburg's answer to the Golden Gate, an American and a Brit have set up a Swedish market with the alternative chic of London's Camden. Janelle Larsson takes a look.

Down by the mouth of the Göta River, below Gothenburg’s answer to San Francisco’s Golden Gate, sits Röda Sten, a former industrial brick building which now serves as a meeting place and gallery for local artists, including graffiti artists whose work decorates the outside walls.

Gothenburg’s newest market (known simply as The Market) occupies the area in front of Röda Sten, overlooking the sea.

Walking through The Market is a pretty multicultural experience, with stall-holders from a wide range of countries selling a variety of products. In addition to Swedes, sellers so far have included Danes, Norwegians, Chileans, Indians and Spaniards.

Reggae music plays from one of several café stalls and you can browse through items including clothes, records, glassware, hand-made jewellery and various different kinds of decorations – African tribal masks, carved stone and metalwork all seemed popular with the pre-Morsdag crowd.

The Market is reminiscent of London’s famously alternative Camden Lock market – without the filth or the bongs. There are several stalls where you can get a coffee or something to eat, and you can also have a beer in the Röda Sten café and check out their latest exhibition (currently a Rolling Stones photo gallery).

The Market is the brainchild of American Damon Collum and Englishman Simon Roberts.

“We wanted to provide a platform for showcasing the talent of a pool of diverse and creative people,” says Damon.

They began working on setting up a market for local artisans in the summer of 2005, contacting local and regional institutions such as Högskolan för Design och Konst and Västegötaland Kultur as well as individuals and small collectives.

“How they market themselves from there is up to them, but we give them the head-start.” Stalls are discounted for sellers who make their own goods, and The Market provides an affordable opportunity to reach the buying public.

Damon and Simon share a creative background (Damon’s in music, Simon’s in fashion photography and music video), and they decided to collaborate on some smaller-scale projects.

In addition to providing what is now full-time work for two people (with a third to be recruited to help with the growing administration), The Market second provides a new tourist attraction for Gothenburg residents and visitors, and add what Damon calls “a new cultural focus” to the city.

The location on the mouth of the river was chosen not just for its picturesque views but also to add some colour to an area that has been largely derelict since the decline of the shipping industry some 30 years ago.

So far the project has generated considerable media interest and articles have appeared in Metro, GP and Faktum as well as appearances on P4 radio and TV4’s Morgon Nyheter.

Damon and Simon have plenty of ideas for the future direction of The Market. Simon’s vision is that it should be more than just a shopping trip – he wants to offer a day out for visitors, where people feel they are experiencing a cultural event as well as being able to buy original, high quality products. The plan is to bring in plenty of live music to create a carnival atmosphere:

“Somewhere that tourists will go and say ‘Hey, let’s come back next year,” as Damon puts it. They are also looking to focus on events for children, particularly children’s theatre, to make the day more interactive.

Possible future options include opening up the area to dance artists and maybe even some circus acts – the organizers say they will consider any ideas, so long as there is an artistic focus. With plans afoot to gain funding from some local institutions, The Market could well develop into an integral part of Gothenburg’s cultural environment.

The Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from now until the end of September. Stalls are available for hire from 700 SEK for sellers who make their own produce, and 1,000 SEK for those selling outside produce. Food stalls cost 1,200 SEK.

Janelle Larsson