The creative hub keeping diversity alive on Chichester's high street
A large number of chains have moved into Chichester in recent years, changing the face of the high street forever.
While many have welcomed the familiar faces, others feel the city is now ‘saturated’ with the big-name cafes and retailers and losing its identity as a destination for independent sellers.
Leading the way as an ‘antidote’ to this is Draper’s Yard Market and Studios, where a collection of artists and designers can be found selling all manner of wares.
Located in The Hornet, tucked away down the side and back of Clothkits, is a collection of sheds and stalls selling handmade jewellery, clothes, paintings, food, homeware and a lot more.
There is even a hairdressers occupying one of the larger sheds, while the addition of a vintage coffee and cake van is proving especially popular.
Such is the success of the new artisan destination since opening in July, the woman behind it, Clothkits owner Kay Mawer, has applied to make it a permanent fixture.
“It’s going really well, we’ve had lots of people and groups like Chichester BID saying it’s just what Chichester needed,” Kay said. “We have 13 pop-up sheds, as well as ‘have a go tables’ which anyone can rent for £25 a day to try an idea.
“Regular visitors on Saturdays are Tides Coffee, a West Wittering roastery, and The Hampshire Real Bread Company. Darren works a full week as an architect and then stays up all Friday night baking to sell the most amazing breads, doughnuts and sourdough on Saturday.”
Kay rents the ‘pop-up’ sheds on a monthly basis, and also has a test shed available on a weekly booking.
For most of the people occupying the sheds, it is a first step from selling at home and at craft shows to taking their products to market.
Chichester was once a home for independent sellers, but many have now gone.
Sadlers Walk in East Street became TK Maxx; the many small businesses moved out of The Boardwalk in North Street, which is earmarked for flats; while the little stalls of sellers in the Butter Market cleared out to make way for the likes of Bill’s Restaurant and Patisserie Valerie.
Kay said: “The reason chains have taken their place is they can usually afford rising rent and business rates. They can just go to the bank and ask for more money, where smaller shops and cafes can’t.
“Diversity is what gives a city its character and there’s definitely a lack of provision for artists, crafts people and designers.
“There wasn’t enough studio space which is why I wanted to create this, to bring creative people together to support each other, share ideas and let exciting things happen.”
Amongst the creative minds based at Draper’s Yard are Lucy Rawcliffe and Rebecca Williams, who share a shed for their respective handmade jewellery and ceramics businesses.
Mandy Atkinson knits her own bespoke jewellery, while at Oyster Moon people can have personalised art for their homes lovingly created.
Dave and Hasneyth Goldsmith sell quite fabulous cork purses and alpaca wool handbags, with all the money going to Andean Medical Mission, a local charity which cures blindness in Bolivia.
Earlier this month all the tables were given to Chichester College students to promote their business ideas as part of Student Enterprise Week, and much more is being planned to keep diversity in the city alive and well.
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