A few years ago I wrote a piece about how I felt we could help save the Cathedral and Creamery Quarters in Newry. Among the suggestions I had were making the most of Newry Market. I still maintain this is as really great facility. It just seems to have gone downhill over the years without anyone showing the will or the want to do something with it. However, with this being the year of celebrating Food and Drink, two upcoming events look like they will showcase the Market in a very positive way.
On 1st April from 5-11pm, the Council will be hosting Newry’s first Twilight Market show casing some of the local food and drink producers, pop-up restaurants, food tasting and full bar. Then, on 22nd April, SRC take over the Market for Newry Food Festival.
I think it will come as a surprise to most just how many local food producers we have in the area. And the Market is the perfect place to showcase this. Belfast has a phenomenal asset in St. Georges Market doing this same thing week in, week out. And the effects are felt far beyond just the retailers making a days wage. As a tourist attraction, it’s huge.
Whether we like to say it or not, we need to be realistic – Newry City Centre has almost nothing unique to offer tourists. Yes, it has shops, shopping centres and great places to get fed and watered. But so does every other town in the country. The Newry and Mourne area has a lot going for it with great parks, mouthing, scenery and outdoor activities all along the Mourne Costal Route. But the city centre is, well, just a city centre.
I really believe the market could become an asset to the city. My fear however is that once these two events are done and dusted it goes back to the way it has been for the past 15 years. Sparsely populated, depressing and selling nothing of any great appeal or value. I hope that both events do tremendously well and that some of the retailers exhibiting see the same potential in the market as I do and become a regular feature. All it takes is one or two to begin drawing people in. More people will lead to more retailers will lead to more people, and so on. Hopefully 2016, as well as being the year of celebrating Food and Drink, is the year we restore Newry Market to its former glory.