When she steps away from her role as founder of Newcastle’s The Olive Tree Market later this month, Justine Gaudry admits she’ll be doing so with mixed emotions.
The popular outdoor market that regularly draws 130 stallholders and attracts thousands of visitors is about to change hands, now under the care of Cedar Mill Group.
For Justine, it’s a 15-year labour of love that is coming to an end.
Recently staged at Newcastle’s Civic Park, “Olive Tree” has become a stalwart of the Newcastle arts and culture scene.
But to Justine, it was so much more.
From its debut in August 2008, to its Christmas showcase attracting more than 10,000 festive shoppers into the city each December, The Olive Tree Market came to represent a gathering of the city’s most talented creatives, offering them a base to showcase their wares.
It’s a concept that Justine says stems from the city once being home to the highest number of artists per capita.
“It was started by Ally, Bec and myself,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
“We wanted a place where artists and creatives could meet and showcase their work with other like-minded individuals.
“There were no community events in Newcastle at the time that had music, workshops, and the creative community not just makers.
“We had 70 or 80 stalls at our inaugural market.”
As news of the market spread beyond Newcastle, so too did interest from stallholders.
“At the start we had a few stallholders from Sydney and regional areas but as word spread people would travel to the markets from all over the place,” Justine said.
“I think what it offered was more than just shopping, it was a connection.”
The first Olive Tree Market took place at The Junction Primary School in 2008.
“That’s where its name stems from,” explains Justine.
“There was an artwork of an olive tree on the walls where we’d set up the stalls. It seemed the best idea.”
The Olive Tree Market ethos is all about community, and supporting creators of handmade, maker, and ethically created goods.
It’s also a space in which women can successfully run their own businesses.
“Women make up 75% to 80% of our stall holders now,” says Justine.
“Olive Tree offers them a chance to get paid for their talents.
“This is their workplace in a sense.”
It has also been the launch pad for more than 800 businesses, says Justine.
And, a tourism drawcard.
“Newcastle has the capacity to be amazing with cultural tourism and they’re just starting to get it,” says Justine.
“It’s like the city’s been in a kind of war with itself, it’s past and its future.
“For example, we did Red Lantern for three years, it had 10,000 people a night. It was huge.
“It needed a small amount of investment, and it could have become a habit city wide.
“In the city centre now there’s laneways that used to have over a million dollars of site-specific market infrastructure and it just sat there.
“That’s why I started Red Lantern.”
The Red Lantern Night Market was conducted in and around the Hunter Street Mall from 4pm to 10pm each year toward the end of November.
Red lanterns adorned the streets that were filled with an array of artists and designers, food stalls, music and street performance.
A red dragon weaved its way up and down laneways
Kickstarted as a two-day festival, by its final market in 2011, it had missed out on vital public funding and relied instead on its passionate supporters.
“It was like night noodle markets in a major city. It could have been a tourism drawcard, but you needed to put $20,000 a year into it,” Justine said.
“There was no foresight. They were missing out on a fantastic opportunity.
“Newcastle is more than BHP tolls. That’s what the city was seen as for years but it’s changed.
“Supercars just isn’t the city, you know.”
Despite her frustrations, Justine is optimistic about the future of the Newcastle arts scene.
“It’s going to change in a good way and there’s good things happening.”
For more stories like this:
- Your guide to markets in our region
- Home style: Creating the perfect Man Cave
- The changing face of Newcastle
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