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April 17, 2024

Getting Adelaide’s Bowerbird market just right

This May’s Bowerbird market will have a couple of collaborations spotlighting makers and producers, with its owner Peggy Byrne planning an experience that makers and visitors will seriously love.

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  • This article was produced in collaboration with Bowerbird.
  • Images: supplied.

In the world of supermarkets and retail, it’s known as a planogram – a thoughtfully produced store layout to ensure the shopping experience is cohesive. Baking ingredients together in one section, cheeses in another; no floor cleaner next to fizzy drinks, no matter how sticky things get.


Adelaide Showground
3—5 May 2024
See the full list of makers and workshops at the website

Preparing for the upcoming Bowerbird market, Peggy Byrne produced dozens of iterations of one, though her guidelines differed.

“It’s a bit of a Tetris puzzle,” Peggy explains. “Because you’ve got to have a really interesting flow and introduce new things all the time. But you can’t have competitors together, or things that are too similar or make no sense together.”

“It takes me weeks to get to a point where I think it’s right, but I’m never sure I get it 100 per cent.”

Visitors to this May’s market will be greeted by a burst of colour from the Bowerbird Art Gallery. Curated by local artist Nicole Black, it launched at last year’s market. But for this one, the 30 x 30 cm artworks from 20 South Australian artists will be front and centre.

“It’s a really nice way to enter into the event – straight away you’re hit by these amazing paintings and creativity,” Peggy says.

The gallery came about after Peggy asked Nicole how she could better support artists as stallholders at Bowerbird. “Nicole gave me the whole background of what it’s like to be a visual artist, what they go through and the types of personalities – and I went, I need to think about this completely differently, I need to create something for them!”

People attending on Friday night will also have the opportunity to meet some of the artists.

Peggy talks about “my audience” when she refers to the thousands of people who stream through the market’s doors twice a year. She’s passionate about meeting their wants and needs with a finely curated offering, and equally passionate about supporting the creative businesses, many of who rely on it as their biggest sales opportunity.

In a previous life, she was involved in running Tasting Australia. “It was obvious that people were valuing the experience of knowing not only who was cooking their food, but where it was grown [and] meeting the chef and the producer in some cases… That entire storytelling is the experience and it adds value to whatever you’re purchasing.”

She sees that connection between Bowerbird designers, producers and visitors, where “a clay mug turns out to be so much more than a clay mug”, or you meet the distiller and find out “they’ve got the juniper bush in their backyard”.

The food and drinks category is the fastest growing within Bowerbird, driven by demand and Peggy’s recognition that creativity comes in many forms.

This year, she’s introducing a South Australian producers’ section, which she says will give the more than 30 producers the prominence they deserve. “It was a bit odd to have 75 fashion accessories and clothing stalls and then one biscuit maker’” she says, adding this will look like “an event within an event”.

Curating the line-up herself, Peggy says she wanted to include both long-term sellers and a mix of new talent, as well as giving people a reason to make space on their pantry shelves for all the goodies.

“There’s obviously wine and spirits, because that’s just booming at the moment. And boutique products – not just not just your run of the mill things – things that have a little bit of a history, or a family recipe or something a little different,” she says.

“Then there are the staples that you need – really good olive oil, really good almonds, really good taralli biscuits and biscotti.”

The Tasting Australia connection has proven fortuitous. For each visitor who buys their ticket through Tasting Australia’s website, there’s an added gift of a unique tote bag designed by a local maker. “It’s a signal for producers to share unique offerings with them like bonus products or discounts,” Peggy explains.

Many food and drink producers from interstate will either be returning or debuting at this May, but will be located within the event’s larger footprint.

Bowerbird has a long tail to its sales, with designers and producers receiving orders weeks and months after the event. The uniqueness of many products, and the exquisite artisanal work that results in a higher price point for others, drives considered purchases rather than impulse buys.

For Peggy and her audience that’s all part of the experience. The discovery, the coveting and, finally, the cherishing of something made by a person with a story to tell.

The overall mix always includes plenty of affordable products to treat oneself or someone else, or just to satisfyingly zhuzh up one’s life. Peggy gets it and keeps her finger on the pulse of what’s trending.

“For a while everyone wanted to have clay and resin jewellery … but now silver is back in,” she says about curating an interesting market. “And food is very much in – people are interested in bespoke biscuits, chutneys, chilli jams and all those things.”

But, she muses, even their popularity may wane in the future and new favourites will take their place.

When it does, her almost perfect planogram will need a little tweaking. Again.

Purchase entry tickets here.

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