Bromwyn Facer may not be able to see much of it, but there are few people who know Stirling Square in Guildford better than her.
She’s been traipsing the square as the organiser for both the Guildford Twilight Markets and the Stirling Square Market – Guildford for nearly 20 years.
And because she is legally blind has had to learn where every hole in the ground and every undulation is, but that hasn’t stopped her from developing some of the most successful markets in the State.
Between them the twilight and Stirling Square markets attract more than 15,000 people a month.
Bromwyn started her association with Stirling Square with the first Guildford Heritage Festival staged in 2000 and the first markets held in 2002, with four held throughout the year and three in 2003 and becoming a regular event in 2004.
She says there had been a lot of talk back in the early days about bringing back the early colonial tradition of the markets and how good it would be to do something like that again.
“It was like a light bulb going off, market in the square, we can do that,” Bromwyn says.
And over the years she certainly hasn’t let medical conditions get in her way, seeing them rather as challenges to continue to improve the markets.
The first markets had around 16 stall holders, mainly with people from around the Swan Valley, at a time when markets in Perth were only just starting to appear.
Bromwyn believes Guildford’s historic nature, with its James Street strip of antique and bric-a-brac shops and the markets have gone hand-in-hand, helping to build Guildford’s reputation as a destination.
“People say: we really want to go to Guildford, it’s such a beautiful place and it’s a bonus that you have a market there.”
And Bromwyn says that has contributed to the unique nature of the markets.
It’s also easy to get to with the Guildford train station just across the road.
“In the early days it was a lot of home-baked products and jams, a lot of local produce, home-made toys, soft toys, Manchester, crocheted tea-towels, a lot of the kind of things you’d expect to see in a church fete.
“Now, it’s anything from sculptors and potters, metal art, artists working with all sorts of different media, a lot of hand-made, high quality children’s wear and the pet market has really taken off, not just the treats, but collars and accessories.”
The markets are often used as a venue for antique car clubs who want to show off their much-loved vehicles to the public.
Bromwyn says the market attracts a lot of visitors who come with their dogs, but audiences come from far and wide with exit surveys showing they are not just locals, but a lot of people from the hills, and north of the river.
“People for the most part are looking for things they can’t find elsewhere.
“A lot of people want to say they have met the person who made a particular item and has told them the story behind it. A lot of people like that.”
Many market goers are regulars looking to restock supplies of jams, relishes and preserves, or oils and candles and even custom-made clothing.
The markets also have a great family atmosphere. Bromwyn says it’s a venue where people can throw down a blanket under the shade of the sugar gums and the kids can enjoy free activities.
“The kids can run around and play, and it’s safe, it can be a very inexpensive day out.
“I think a lot of our success comes from the venue. It’s one of the more attractive locations to be in for markets, with its historic surroundings, shady trees and grassy swathes which make Stirling Square a welcoming place, especially for children.
“People can come down and take a stroll through the market and then go across the street and take a look at what’s on offer at the antique and bric-a-brac shops.
“Guildford is a place you can spend the day, it’s a destination.”
Bromwyn says the markets also play a role in building local community spirit, giving locals an opportunity to get out and mingle with each other.
“They are good for our town,” she says.
The Guildford Twilight Markets operate on the first Saturday of every month from October through to April from 5pm to 9pm.
The Stirling Square markets are held from 9am to 2pm on the third Sunday of each month from February through to November.