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November 12, 2020

Meet Bowerbird Design Market’s new owner Peggy Byrne

Peggy Byrne is an events manager and marketing professional with an international resume that includes Formula One and Tasting Australia. She is now at the helm Bowerbird Design Market, one of Adelaide's most influential maker events.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Supplied

Last year, during the 10th anniversary of Bowerbird Design Market, the event’s founder, Jane Barwick, announced she was stepping away from Bowerbird and had put it up for sale.


Bowerbird Design Market
27—29 November
Adelaide Showground
Goodwood Road, Wayville 5034
Tickets and more info

Under Jane’s guidance, Bowerbird had grown from a small maker market based in the Queens Theatre to an art, design, craft and food and beverage behemoth, held at Wayville Pavilion at the Adelaide Showground.

“It’s an exciting time for Bowerbird and I’m fascinated to see how the event evolves,” Jane told us back in October 2019.

The eventual buyer registered interest in the event not long after the announcement, and the sale was made official in February this year.

Bowerbird’s new owner, Peggy Byrne, has a history in marketing and events that has taken her around the world, and includes a stint working for Formula One. Locally, Peggy was event manager for Tasting Australia’s 2014 and 2016 events.

Most recently, Peggy has been working with her husband, Darian, at advertising firm The Kiln, their family business, which Darian has run for 15 years. Peggy had been looking for opportunities to run her own business, though, for some time.

Bowerbird Design Market was a perfect fit, as she wanted a platform through which she could promote the incredible breadth of talent in South Australia and the country.


But South Australian patriotism has not always been Peggy’s driving motivation. Like many people raised in the state, she was lured away to the brighter lights of bigger cities, moving to London in her early 20s, where she found her first job in marketing and enjoyed the ability to visit family in her native France.

“I was away from Australia and my family here, which is what I wanted at 25,” Peggy laughs.

“I had a really good job, and I was doing really good stuff in London, but I could go and be in France whenever I wanted and go and see my cousins and my grandparents.

“From the age of 18, I was always trying to get out [of Adelaide] and do something else, because, you know, this city wasn’t going to give me the world domination I was looking for – I don’t know.”

It was during an interim period between racing jobs that Peggy found herself back in South Australia, waiting for a work visa to come through for the USA.

While she was waiting, Peggy caught up with Darian, her now husband, who was then just an old friend, and they explored the state. Peggy began to see South Australia with fresh eyes.

“I was temping, waiting for this visa. I worked for the Adelaide Festival Centre, I worked in aged care, which took me all over the country, because I was doing accreditation, so I went to the Fleurieu and the Barossa,” Peggy recalls.

“We would always go out for lunches, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this is a really cool place. I’m living in a really nice house, and I actually have a garden – the first time in 10 years. There’s lovely things to eat, and people are really nice, jobs pay a decent amount of money.’

“I’m thinking, ‘What am I doing? Why would I want to be anywhere else?’ And that’s really been my attitude ever since.”

By 2019, Peggy wanted to be at the helm of a business of her own.

Working in the events industry in South Australia had meant contributing her opinion and expertise on projects that would ultimately be modelled on the decisions of other people.

What she wanted was something she could call her own. This happened to be the moment Jane announced Bowerbird’s sale.

Peggy had attended the design market only a handful of times throughout its history. She attended the November 2019 market, after registering interest in purchasing the event, and was impressed at what Bowerbird had become.

She believes Jane selected her as the eventual buyer because she could see the drive and vision Peggy has for the brand.

“I think Jane knew it needed to go to that next level, but she didn’t have the energy to take it any further. She’d spent so much time on it, and she wanted to do something else, and that’s absolutely fine,” Peggy says.

“And I think that’s why, when we met, she leant towards me as the preferred buyer, because I wanted to… take it to that next level, which she knew it could go to.”

Bowerbird Design Market. This image: Meaghan Coles


Peggy’s first Bowerbird event would have been in May this year. She got as far as having vendor information packs ready to send out to her first cohort of makers, before the coronavirus pandemic saw the event cancelled.

A 2020 Bowerbird event is now going ahead, from 27—29 November at the Adelaide Showground, and Peggy is excited to have the opportunity to make her mark on the biannual celebration of Australia’s design talent.

This year’s list of stallholders has a strong contingency of emerging talent, and Peggy hopes to maintain Bowerbird’s position as a stepping stone for craftspeople wanting to take their young business to the next level.

“[Bowerbird] is for small businesses to thrive,” Peggy says.

“The idea is that you come in, you’ve got a business idea, and you might test the waters… People might say, ‘Yeah, I love your product, it’s great.’ You sell out, or whatever the outcome may be, and so you go, ‘I really want to do this.’

“And then you really take that jump and commit to your business.”

As this event is Peggy’s first, it will look much like Bowerbirds of years past. As part of the handover of the business, Jane has been at hand to help Peggy get a feel for the process.

In future editions, Peggy hopes to develop the educational aspect of Bowerbird Design Market, to provide opportunities for stallholders to develop their business acumen, as well as their craft, which may include bringing in guest co-curators.

“What I would like to… is to give the event a bit more of a festival feel,” Peggy says.

“Bring in a designer from somewhere that’s [achieved] what everyone wants to do, and get them to contribute something to the event, a bit like a creative director for the event.

“Being able to include that designer or that company, that brand, whatever they may be, to provide some insights to the vendors themselves, have an offline networking and mentoring program.”

She would also like to engage with local educational arts organisations to formalise a connection between Bowerbird and the nascent talent coming up through South Australian arts courses.

“Bowerbird is where, technically, their artists want to be at, at some point, if their artists want to commercialise their designs,” Peggy says.

“So that’s where I want it to be – it’s a stepping stone. It’s one of the things you’ve got to tick off if you want to get to where you want to go to.”

Ultimately Peggy hopes to provide South Australia’s design community with the kinds of opportunities that might have kept her in the state in her early 20s.

“We have so much talent here, and so much potential,” Peggy says.

“I’m a bit sick of hearing, when you go overseas, the fact that Australians just want to leave Australia as soon as they turn 21. They all go and do their three or four years, and a lot of them stay wherever they are.

“I think that’s not the truth anymore. I think people are loving Australia, loving South Australia and Adelaide. And why wouldn’t you want to be in a place where you can actually create opportunities for yourself, and not wait for them to come?”

Bowerbird Design Market is happening from 27—29 November. You can purchase tickets and browse the market stallholders at the website.

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