As a proud born and bred Oldhamer, I’ve been shopping at Tommyfield Market for several years – more years than I would like to admit.
So with all those happy memories of shopping there with my family, with my friends and now with Oldham Council colleagues, I was absolutely delighted to meet up with our Tommyfield Market traders last month, and talk to them about our shared plans for Oldham’s new market.
I wanted to organise the meeting to provide an update on the transformation of Spindles into the new market, food hall and events space, and give traders the opportunity to share their views and ask questions – giving us the chance to keep working their ideas into our plans as they develop.
We covered a range of topics including the application process, the timescales for the move over to the new market, and the support they as traders will receive from us, in what I know is going to be a big change.
And I know that, with change, comes the opportunity to reflect on our history and plan how we can build on the proud heritage we have to build something fantastic for the future.
Like most Oldhamers the market is special for me, this is why I’m committed to ensuring it’s got a future with us.
As a youngster in Oldham, Saturdays were synonymous with the Market, me, my siblings and my mum would walk up into town and spend almost all morning pottering about the market.
As we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, it was the 10p stall where we spent most of our time, and on every trip to the market, we’d end up getting something from the chippy for tea. I can still remember being so excited all the way home, and this is key to what we’re trying to do with the town centre.
We want the market to be the reason that people of all ages come to Oldham, somewhere that all Oldhamers can be proud of.
Oldhamers, like me, will all have their own fond memories of Tommyfield, I’m sure. But while our traders are doing a great job, the fact is that the current market building doesn’t do them justice.
A lighter, brighter market hall – with a food court, and fronting out onto Parliament Square – will enable them to have more appealing and modern stalls for their existing shoppers, as well as bringing in new ones.
Oldham is a market town, and it always will be. But the markets across the UK today are not the same as the ones from years gone by.
Over the years, technology has grown and grown – accelerated by the pandemic – and online shopping is now part of our daily lives. This has affected footfall across all UK towns and cities in some way or another. Newspapers are full of stories about stores closing down on London’s Oxford Street and in other major city centres, just as we’ve seen closer to home.
As shopping habits have changed, our town centres have changed, and they can’t just be about retail any more – they need to be places for leisure, culture, food and drink, and where people can meet and spend time with friends and family.
We’ve seen other markets across the country change to fit modern shopping habits, and we can do the same.
Take, for example, Barnsley Market. Between 2017 and 2019, the Council there regenerated the old market, and today, their market is thriving – bringing coachloads of shoppers from nearby areas to the new Glass Works development.
And in Sheffield, the all-new Moor Market opened in 2013 to replace the much-loved yet dilapidated Castle Market, with a new food court and a bright, airy atrium. On the first day of opening, it is estimated that 25,000 people visited the revamped space, and since then the new market has been key to driving the regeneration of the Moor area of the city, with new shops and leisure facilities opening nearby.
Closer to home, in Halifax, many of you will have visited the restored Piece Hall. Through investment, funding and a sprinkle of innovation, the historic cloth market was transformed between 2012 to 2017 and is now home to a new library, a host of bars and restaurants, and an annual live music concert series – and has even appeared in a Marvel TV series.
All of these places were very proud of their history. But being proud of our culture doesn’t mean staying the same. If places are to succeed, they need to adapt, evolve, and modernise like the communities around them.
The new market being built in Oldham is right at the heart of our wider town centre plans – which includes a new theatre, events space, new leisure opportunities, new offices for businesses and Council staff, and around 2,000 new homes.
This is such a positive move for our traders, the town and wider borough and I believe the new-look town centre will put Oldham on the map as a shopping and leisure destination.
I want to work together with our partners and communities to build a better Oldham for the future – that means creating more jobs, more homes and more places for people to enjoy.
All of our market traders bring so much value to our town. And I look forward to seeing what the future holds for a bustling, thriving and successful modern market here in Oldham – as I’m sure we all do.
Councillor Arooj Shah
Leader, Oldham Council