I was wandering around town yesterday, past the Cornucopia Restaurant (which reminds me, I haven’t been there in years, I wonder why) when a poster on the wall caught my eye.
I stopped in my tracks…could it be? Was it possible that at long last there was a flea market in Dublin again? Stopping in my tracks I wandered over to take a close look at the poster and saw that, yes indeed, there was a flea market in Dublin again and, even better than that, it will be on next Sunday.
When I got home I checked the website given on the poster and discovered that this was not to be an isolated event but will be happening every month – and I’d already missed the first two.
I should probably explain at this point why I get so excited about the prospect of rooting around other people’s discarded junk. Actually maybe this isn’t quite the time for that, I’m not going into my squirelling tendencies in a public forum like this! But seriously, I’ve often lamented the lack of flea markets in modern Dublin.
When I first moved here, in the early 90s there were several, scattered around the city centre. Mother Redcaps, The Dandelion, The Blackberry Fair were all favourite haunts and the source of most of my interior design in those impoverished days.
The Blackberry Fair in particular was where I found the 60s kitch cream cube of a tv that might have only been a black and white but for the 20 old Irish pounds I paid for it was all I could afford. It still works a treat by the way and with it’s rounded corners and polarising clip on screen is a little design classic that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a set from the Avengers or The Prisoner.
You could get anything there, from beanbags to 8-tracks to strange twisted bits of metal that could have been used for just about anything. I remember buying a massive ppine chest of drawers with a serious list to one side that I always meant to sand down and renovate but never got round to it.
Most people I knew in those days would have been advocates of what’s now known as shabby chic. It wasn’t because it was trendy back then, it was because it was cheap and quirky and there was always treasure to be found amongst the junk.
Going to a market at the weekend was a foraging mission like no other. You might have an idea what you were looking for but in the end you could literally come home with anything. Even looking around my living room now I can see a couple of vases and a 70s wooden lamp that were market finds.
I used to come home with bizarre finds – an antelope horn mounted in silver, oil lamps, a replacement lid for an old slow cooker. Not to mention the fantastic vintage clothes finds…
The problem was that when Dublin got rich the markets closed down one by one. The Dandelion was the first to go, followed a couple of years later by Mother Redcaps, there so long it was a Dublin institution. They closed because people had stopped coming and people were so busy with the bright shiny things they could now afford that they didn’t even mark their passing.
By the time the Blackberry Fair closed down nobody even murmured.
We had become too grand to root around in bric a brac. We didn’t want it if it wasn’t new and preferably designer. We’d go to markets if they sold organic vegetables or expensive crafts but the true flea market was just too messy and cheap to satisfy us anymore.
There’s nothing quite like wandering around a collection of stalls with a steaming cup of tea in a polystyrene cup searching for overlooked treasure. Maybe it’s my seventies upbringing showing through but I’ve always loved renovating and customising and making do. I’m the kind of person that can’t walk past a skip without having a look.
But the markets that Dublin used to have suited the city. To be honest I think I prefer the somewhat grimier Dublin from those days. You could always get the designer stuff if you wanted it, Brown Thomas is hardly a new addition, but you had the rest as well.
Now as we head back into economic blackness the penny is beginning to drop that maybe we threw out the baby with the bathwater. It’s all very well having the luxury but if you don’t have the money you need to be able to get hold of the junk and get creative. These days there doesn’t seem to be much choice, it’s luxury or nothing in most places.
I’ll be going to the Dublin Flea Market next Sunday and I urge you to as well. Maybe if this one really takes off Dublin can see it’s markets flourish again and we can be skint with a bit more grace, after all these days, thanks to shows like Bargain Hunt on the BBC, everyone know you never know what you’re going to find among the jumble.