Bury St Edmunds School Project & Puppet Parade

Sharon Fairweather is Market Development Officer at West Suffolk Council and has excellent links with our local colleges and upper schools to promote market trading as a career path. In 2018, Bury St Edmunds received a Great British Market Awards for Best Market Attraction in recognition of their partnership work and event with a local school.

“We offer under 21's free trading for 8 weeks and make them aware what a local market has to offer. As a local authority we offer a small business grant and I actively promote this and makes sure that any new start-ups are aware of the benefits of starting a business on the market. This project with St Benedict’s School focussed on encouraging young people to visit and trade at their local market, many of which had not visited in the past or considered it as a career opportunity

“We have our own Facebook pages for Bury market and our Market Officer has a Twitter account for West Suffolk markets. We have teamed up with our 'We Love BSE' Facebook page which has over 2500 followers and then promotes our market on a weekly basis, giving stallholder updates and profiling individual traders.

“Our Facebook page is run by one of the college students who has helped us with researching our customer base and has also started an Instagram account. We receive notifications from all our traders who use social media and retweet all their posts.

“We use social media to get important messages out such as events, weather warnings, road works and anything which could affect our market day operation.

We find the use of social media invaluable and a cost-effective way of promoting the market particularly special offers and new stallholders. Our market event incorporated social media by including the school and asked the pupils to Tweet and post their images. The school allocated all pupils involved in the project a role and one was a social media editor who coordinated the whole project. We follow other market related pages such as LYLM, NABMA, NMTF, Shop Live Local, Small Biz Saturday and other town centre related pages. This enables us to keep up to date with important news and gain ideas about what other markets and towns are doing. To gain more followers on our Facebook page we asked followers to like and share our page and offered a prize of vouchers for the market.

“Our market event focused on working with young people. We partnered our largest high school in Bury St Edmunds and asked different age groups to work with us on several different market projects, all the projects were part of the national curriculum. We wanted the students to learn about the market, the traders, the history and what it meant to the town and community. We identified early on that many students didn't realise the heritage the market had and didn't usually shop on the market. At one of our initial meetings with the 6th form students we identified that students didn't class market trading as a career opportunity or that the products sold didn’t always appeal to them. The students didn't realise that trading on a market was so inexpensive. The market development officer asked the question 'how much do you think it costs to trade on the market' the answers astounded us as students replied anything from £150 to £500 per day! They were equally astounded when we told them they could trade free and that an average charge after a start-up period was around £10 per day. Five groups of mixed age students had free stalls for a 4-week period. The students were aged between 13–19 and worked in groups. They appointed roles and responsibilities within their teams which included marketing, finance, design and logistics. They gained experience on real life business opportunities and their stalls as if it were their business. Any profits made were given to charities or invested in future year projects. The students designed their own publicity material and carried out a survey within the school asking what stalls the students would like to see on their market. The students presented their findings to the council’s market team and portfolio holders.

“We work with many different partners and these include local businesses, our business improvement district, local schools and other charities which can use the market as a platform to promote their causes and events. We offer local retailers and service providers a free stall. Many of the local restaurants and cafes do this to promote special offers and give out free samples. We do this all year round. We also have a policy to use the market as a space to promote entertainment which enables us to work with local schools, colleges and local music and dance groups. Over the last year we have had a busking day, children's entertainment day, food festival and other events.

“Our market event, which focussed on working with local schools, included a puppet parade which used the puppets made in school parading throughout the town. The puppets depicted market characters and their stalls and were made in the school as part of art classes. This was promoted by the local media, BID and local retail group. It was also promoted via the school and their newsletters and on their website. Our town tour guides also promoted the event and held guided walks throughout the market giving details of the history of the market and included talks by some of the long-standing market traders. Some of these traders’ families have traded for over 60 years. Our local press supported this and published trader profiles on these stallholders. We have had a feature in our local paper showing photos of the market over the years. This has been well received and we have now got large images of the market over the years which our town guides can take to groups and other organisations who are interested in the town.

“Footfall is counted via a footfall counter provided by our Business Improvement District. This counter is on the main entrance to the market square. We also ask traders for regular feedback as many keep records on a weekly basis. Some traders keep a record of weather conditions and any other factors which could affect trading. We feel this is invaluable as it helps us to put into perspective any trends. During 2017 we have had major road works affecting the main routes into the whole town centre and we have been able to prove to the County Council that this has affected the market and made sure that this has been promoted accordingly. We work closely with our car parks team and analyse market day car parking events, this helps us work out when the market is at its busiest and if we need to adjust the hours particularly in winter months. It also gives us feedback on our events and if they are worth repeating.

“During our market event students carried out research on the market and asked how many times a month people visited their market. This was included in their finished report.

“We work with our local BID group to promote the events and our Town Council and Borough Council. Our local paper runs a monthly 'Market Matters' column which highlights new traders and events and also provided us with an 8-page spread during LYLM week. This was paid for by traders to take out small adverts to cover the cost – this proved that it is possible to gain maximum press exposure with very little money if everyone works together. During our market event we had great support from the local press which included a double page spread on the designs which the students produced for the LYLM bag. Working with the whole school meant that the parents were also involved in the project. We felt that this helped promote the market to people that didn’t usually shop at the market. We had over 700 people attend the Puppet parade many of which did not usually visit the market. During our market event we offered shopping vouchers on the market for ‘liking and sharing’ our Facebook page which gained more followers. We always celebrate ‘national days’ such as British Egg Week, National Apple Day, British Beef Week and occasions such as Halloween and Easter. We encourage our stallholders to have special offers and get involved. Our local pizza stall offered pumpkin pizza at Halloween and chocolate pizza at Easter. Our fruit and veg stalls gave away free English apples on National Apple Day and our local butcher did a barbecue for National Sausage Week giving away different samples. As budgets are tight we always work with other partners for paid for advertising, utilise social media as much as possible and work with traders on other promotional ideas and activities. Working with the local school on our market event enabled us to reach an audience which we wouldn’t normally reach and encourage parents to come and watch their children in the parade and learn about the market through their children.

“We work with many different partners within in the town and Suffolk. We make sure that the market is included in any events which partners organise. Last year we included events on the market as part of Armed Forces Day and the town’s Festival of Sport.

“Our best partnership during 2017 was working with the local school on our market event. The project lasted 8 months and included all different age groups. The pupils used the market to cover many different aspects of their curriculum which included art, photography, maths, English and design. During the project they designed and marketed a new bag, created a ceramic mural, designed publicity for the market, carried out surveys, set up companies to create products and sell on the regular market and the Christmas Fayre and provided business plans. Market traders came and gave talks on the market giving the students a design brief for the work. They spoke about their lifestyle and what market trading meant to them. Many students hadn't ever visited the market and they learnt a lot about the opportunities that the market held.

“Our market event incorporated all aspects of the market and market trading. It showed pupils the importance of the market within their local community and the town centre retail offer. From start to finish the project lasted 8 months and included all year groups within the school, BID, businesses and the local authorities. Projects included guided walks and talks, setting up businesses and trading on the market and other events, designing a reusable bag and logo and a giant puppet parade. One of the main findings was the fact that there was a lack of awareness amongst young people of not only what the market offered but what affect it had on the local community. The students also looked at how the market was promoted. They came up with the idea of having a mural within the market place to show where the market was on days which it didn’t operate. The students designed and made the mural and it is now on display within the market place.  We felt this was a worthwhile project to engage with young people on all levels and we will continue to use this scheme using a different school in the area each year to educate the young people of the benefits of a local market."

Click here to find out more about trading on markets run by Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury Councils.

Contact Sharon Fairweather, Market Development Officer, on 01284 757093 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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