As the Rototuna Market gets into gear for 2015, Annette Taylor chats with organiser Catherine Cookson abut beginnings and the future.
“We were brainstorming ideas of how to raise money – and the profile – of the Waldorf School and I just put my hand up and said how about a market in the car park,” Catherine, a crafter and member of the parent’s association, says.
“I said I’d be happy to run it, the school environment was so beautiful and invites the outer community in. There wasn’t anything like it in Rototuna.”
This was last April and the idea was greeted with such enthusiasm that she put together a business plan and received the green light. The first Rototuna market was held in September and they have been an on-going success.
“We’ve had over 3500 people come to the market each month – a teenager sits on the gate counting people – which is just great.”
Catherine, born and bred in Wellington, spent 20 years in the corporate world before settling on a Waikato dairy farm with husband Robert and step-daughter Olivia three years ago.
“My last role was in London, where I worked on a board, organising staff and meetings – so for me organising a market was like any other event. It was making sure the market was right for the school and right for the community, achieving that happy balance so there is buy-in from both sides and I think we’ve achieved that.”
A crafter herself – her passion is reinventing old lampshades with fabric, velvet and lace – she brought with her experience from attending markets throughout New Zealand.
“I sat down and thought hard about the things I knew, from personal experience, could go better. I believe for a market to be successful you have to have the right stallholders, and you have to keep your stallholders happy so they keep coming back.”
The December market was the biggest, with 150 stalls but generally these are capped at 100. “That seems the perfect number, so it’s not too big. I have a waiting list of about 75.
“I try to keep a good mix on offer, so there is not too much double-up. And I like to introduce at least five new stalls at each market. And my husband pointed out there is often not much for the men – so we try to make sure there are men’s clothes or tools or gadgets.”
There is a vintage corner, veg and plants, a craft village, and plenty of tasty food on offer. Food is important to get right, she says.
“We have a picnic area under the trees, an inviting, enclosed space to sit down in, and next to it is a stall where kids can play with play dough while their parents relax. We also hold old-fashioned games – sack races, egg and spoon races – as well.
“What I set out to do right from the start was create something that would appeal to families, from wee ones, to new parents and beyond. For it to be a place where friends can meet, find treats and enjoy a nice space.”
Catherine, who is expecting her first child soon, says she had a wonderful break over summer and is energised for the return of the market. Another key to success is that the markets also takes a break – there was no market in January, the first was today, Sunday 15 February. They are held in March and April, and end with a huge medieval festival/market in May. “Then we stop; winter markets are hard work, often rainy and cold and people lose interest, then you have to get them back in summer. So a break is good for everyone.”
Catherine says the response has been wonderful. “As part of our consent we had to get feedback from the neighbourhood. I talked to about 50 households in the area and everyone was positive, they said they loved getting up in the morning and coming along to the market.
“Honestly, sometimes I stand at the entrance as people arrive, walking, with prams or riding bikes, and I think how wonderful it is. For the community, the school and for the market. It’s the ultimate.”
She values the help of some of the school mums, a teenager or two on counting duty and especially husband Robert.
“I couldn’t do this without him. He’s up at 5am every market morning and supports me and the school in so many ways, he’s brilliant. Our hope is that in 15 year’s time the market will still be going, with 1000 plus people coming every month. We’ve got a long vision.”
The Rototuna Market is held on the third Sunday of the month, from 10 am to 2 pm – September to May.
It is held in the car park of the Waikato Waldorf School, Hamilton, 85 Barrington Drive. All of the stall fees go to Waikato Waldorf School.
Off street parking located right next to the market entrance, just follow the red arrows. Check out Rototuna Market on Facebook.