My Early Hour: Claire Carroll, The Frome Independent market

Frome, Somerset

“Our market days are more like mini festivals with music, visual art, kids activities and street performances popping up each month.” Claire Carroll helps run The Frome Independent market in Somerset. She talks market day, motherhood and working every weekend… 

Claire Carroll, 31, lives in Frome, Somerset, with her partner Matthew, stepdaughter Lilah, 10, daughter Clementine, 18 months, and two lazy cats.

What’s your home like?
We live in a Victorian terrace on the edge of town. Frome is a market town, so you get town-life and countryside in equal measure, which is nice.

What time are you up on a market day?
Market days are a 6am start, which means my alarm goes off at 5am and I hit snooze until about 5.15 before admitting defeat.

What wakes you up?
The alarm if I’m lucky, but quite often it’s my youngest daughter.

How do you feel?
It can feel a bit like going into battle, getting up at that hour to go and set up such a huge event, but since having a baby I’ve become much more relaxed on market days. Nothing like becoming a parent to put work stresses into perspective!

What do you do first thing?
On market day mornings it’s usually pretty freezing first thing, so I have the hottest possible shower before layering up. (Quite a few of our site team didn’t even realise when I was pregnant due to all the layers)

Tea or coffee?
All the coffee. Very swift instant one at home, then a couple more when I get to work. We have three amazing coffee sellers who trade with us and it’s the highlight of the morning when they arrive and plug in their machines.

The Frome Independent market -

Tell us about the market…
There’s been a monthly Sunday market in Frome for around eight years now. It started out as a way of drawing visitors to the town’s artisan quarter on what used to be quiet Sundays during the summer months. This proved really popular, so in 2012 the town council piloted a much bigger event, which our team took over in 2013.

The market now covers the whole of the centre of Frome on the first Sunday of the month, March – December. The road through the centre of town is closed to vehicles and is taken over by designer-makers, vintage experts, local food producers and street food vendors. We seek out the very best traders that Frome and the South West has to offer.

Our market days are more like mini festivals with music, visual art, kids activities and street performances popping up each month. We wanted to create something that was more than simply a shopping event – we wanted it to be a celebration of our town and a coming-together of the community.

We are a not-for-profit company run by a team of three. My role is primarily press, marketing and trader coordination. On a good day this means I get to spend hours digging around traders’ Instagram accounts for nice images. On a not so good day you might find me dodging traffic in the town centre, trying to measure bits of the road for pitch plans.

Tell us about the set up on the day – what’s involved, who’s helping?
At 6am on market days, the entire market is installed by an amazing team of local event staff. Soon after that the traders arrive and start setting up, plus we have DJs, musicians and kids activities to get onto site too. It always feels pretty hectic until around 9.30am when you suddenly look around and see it all falling into place. That’s quite a nice moment.

All of the set up teams we use are local people, along with the guys who programme our acoustic stage and DJ booth, so it does feel like a real community effort to get each market in position.

Where’s the babe when you’re working?
My partner does all of the childcare on market days – they usually all come down to the market halfway through the day for a wood fired pizza and a run around on the pop-up Village Green.

What’s the greatest challenge with running The Frome Independent?
We are a self-funding organisation and produce everything on a shoestring. At times this means a lot of elbow grease and overtime, which can be doubly challenging to juggle with family life.

Producing an open-air, outdoor event in a public place can also lead to a few surprises – sometimes scaffolding or roadworks pop up the day before an event, or the weather takes a turn, but you just have to roll with it.

What makes it all worthwhile?
It’s great to hear about trader success stories – there are a couple of local traders who started their businesses with us and have recently opened shops in town. It’s lovely to learn that we’ve been part of those journeys. The team we work with are all fantastic too, it’s a real home-grown effort so it does give you a sense of pride to make something like this happen on your doorstep.

What’s the secret to a successful market?
Each event is such a team effort, so really the success lies in everyone pulling together. On my part, things tend to go smoothly with meticulous organisation and planning, watching the weather forecast like a hawk and maintaining a sense of humour.

What are you doing, when you’re not working on The Frome Independent?
Life pretty much revolves around the market and childcare at the moment! I work three days a week in between market days, so still get lots of time with Clementine. She’s in that toddler phase of needing a constant stream of activities so we tend to go to baby groups and see other boisterous toddlers on my days off. Frome is great for that, with lots of parents and families – it’s a great place to live with little ones.

Describe an ideal weekend?
My other half is just finishing up a masters degree, so for the past two years our weekends have been a juggle of studying (him), working (me) and childcare shifts. So my ideal weekend would be one where neither of us have anything to do! Starting with a lie-in followed by a massive lunch, and maybe a run about in some countryside. We are so lucky in Somerset to have forests, lakes, hills and ruined castles on our doorstep, which the kids love.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
On holiday with my family, by the sea, with my phone switched off.

The Frome Independent market</em
On Instagram: @thefromeindependent
On Twitter: @morethanamarket