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The Dublin Flea

How a simple idea for a second hand market grew to become a Dublin institution...

By: John Mahon

In a town bizarrely lacking in large markets, the Dublin Flea guys have been doing their part to fill the void since 2008. 

Having just celebrated their 8th year and manically busy organising their epic Christmas Flea Market, we pulled one of the organisers Sharon Greene aside for a quick chat about the past, present and future of this much-loved event. (Go here for info on The Dublin Christmas Flea 9th - 11th December.)

@DublinFlea 

 

"It felt like the right idea at the right time"   

 

The Flea was set up by three of us. Aisling Rogerson, Luca D’Alfonso and myself. A fourth member, Dave Dunn, joining us later on. We all have really different backgrounds from food to web design to building conservation but really had a common interest in working at festivals which is how we all pretty much met.

The Flea crew (clockwise) Sharon and Luca, Tom, Aisling and Ger, Dave Dunn.

 

I had always loved Flea markets from a young age but there seemed to be fewer around the city during the Celtic Tiger years, given how obsessed everybody seemed to be with shiny new things.

In 2008 I had a stall at The Toejam Carboot Sale in The Bernard Shaw with my pal Amo which was great craic.  Aisling mentioned that the Co-Op in Newmarket Square where Luca worked was up for rent and what did I think about starting an indoor flea. I jumped at the chance. It felt like the right idea at the right time.   

Our first one was in November '08. We only had 15 stalls but it was busy so we decided to continue and to do it the last Sunday of every month 

We have always operated it as a non-profit driven social enterprise. Doing it every weekend meant we would have had to make a living out of it, so doing it monthly kept it a labour of love and non-commercial. We are happy to keep it that way.    

Flea Life

 

"Emigration was huge...we were the last stop before hitting the plane or boat"

 

When we started in 2008, many people who were booking a stall were literally selling all of their belongings to make some money to start a new life abroad. Emigration was huge and for many, we were the last stop before hitting the plane or boat. 

There were also a few other people who traded at the flea who then went on to open businesses. The Flea was nearly an incubator for small second-hand businesses, vintage clothes, etc.

They would get a stall for a few months, test out their product do a bit of market research and then move into a small shop. We really love that. 

 

Flea people. Stall holders and staff at the Flea's 8th birthday

 

"We had to get all political and lobby councillors"

 


A few years ago, we were given permission by DCC to trade outside on Newmarket Square as a Pilot Project but when that project ran out if we wanted to continue we had to change the local bi-laws. This was a bit of a pain as we had to figure out how to go about this, which wasn't easy and lobby councillors to help us change the law. It was mad but we did it with the help of Rebecca Moynahan, Claire Byrne and Mannix Flynn. Now Newmarket Square is once again a designated trading area.

 

Flea Life. Photos by Shantanu Starick

 

The Flea artwork has become a key part of our identity. For the very first flea, we asked our pal Keith Walsh to design the poster and then my cousin Gav Beattie. After that, we just went out on a limb and started asking designers to do posters in exchange for us selling that poster at the flea. When their poster sold out we would pay them. As it was the recession a lot of designers had time on their hands. We would print up 50 posters for advertising the event and another 50 posters on card that we would sell. 

Eight years later we are still working on that system and it is brilliant. We are booked out for poster artists usually months ahead. We did a post card box set to celebrate the first five years of posters which we still have for sale. All posters and the postcard box set are always for sale from our poster stall at the Flea.

 

Just a small selection of the monthly Flea posters by local artists

 

Will we be here in another eight years? Well, we are back in another boom it seems and rents are going mental again so we have no idea. We are quite vulnerable as we really just cover costs so if there is a big upheaval we may not have the resources to compete but we are keeping positive and taking it month by month.

The Flea for me was always about encouraging Second-hand Market Culture in the City so when you see people enjoying themselves at the market or making a living out of trading it makes me really happy.

I believe market culture is integral to the fabric of a community whether urban or rural. You'll never get the same sense of community in a shopping centre or department store.

When I look around The Flea and see everyone buzzing I think wow what a great thing to have helped facilitate for the City!
 

 

The Dublin Christmas Flea 2016

 

The main difference between the regular monthly Flea and our big Christmas Market is that we have 120 stalls instead or the usual 80 and we invite in a large contingency of really amazing contemporary designers, crafters and artists into trade. So as well as our usual great variety of retro, vintage, antique, furniture, clothes, books etc we have an added extra bonus of makers and designers gift stalls.

We really aim to be a one-stop-shop for Christmas and we very much support locally designed and/or made, and Irish businesses. 

You can see it all on dublincchristmasflea.ie and you will be blown away by the quality and variety of the stalls. It's bonkers, Ireland is buzzing. It's so creative and entrepreneurial.  

The Dublin Flea takes place at The Point Village, 9th - 11th December 2016. All the info on dublinchristmasflea.ie

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