The Stockport night out that is like going to a festival
Festival season is upon us but you don’t have to travel far or fork out hundreds for a similar experience closer to home. Every last Friday of the month, thousands of people descend on Stockport ‘s Old Town for a celebration of good music and good food. The busy atmosphere is electric, with bands and singers performing inside and outside of the historic Victorian Market Hall, where residents can have a boogie to get them into the ‘Friday feeling’.
As the name suggests – Foodie Friday – there are a string of varied traders to choose from for delicious grub, while you can get a drink at one of the surrounding pubs that have their doors wide open in support. The monthly event sees the community come together, which is the aim for organiser John Barratt. “It gives people a sense of belonging,” he says. READ MORE: Opening of Manchester’s park in the skies delayed – with no new date given yet
“We knew how important it was to bring the community together to have a good time and support independent businesses. Foodie Friday is like a festival every month with street food, drink and great music from local musicians. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young bands to showcase their talents.
“The thing that makes it special is the people that come to the event. I’m from Stockport, I love it, I’ve lived here all my life – I can trace my family tree back to over 200 years living in Stockport. I’m really proud of the town and its people.”
John Barratt with Mayor and Mayoress of Stockport – Cllr David Wilson and Ms Jeannette Slavinski at the #BeMoreMartyn Foodie Friday in May. (Image: Foodie Friday)
He adds: “The atmosphere in the Market Hall where the performers are is really special.” Foodie Friday was started by Stockport Council in 2013, run by council officer Esther Morrison, as part of a ‘love your local market campaign’.
Once she left the council in 2015, John and his wife, Rosemary, and son, Joe, took over the running with their Seven Miles Out Art Community Interest Company. Previously, a hundred or so people would attend, but now the event sees between 3,000 to 5,000 visitors a night. They’ve gone from half a dozen traders to 18 – including local Stockport businesses I Knead Pizza; Somtam Street Thai; Coffee Bean Dream; DesiVDesi; Seitan’s Kebab; and Oh/Mei/Dumpling, which always has a queue the length of the Market Hall of people wanting to get their hands on moreish dumplings.
The queue for Oh/Mei/Dumpling last winter (Image: Saffron Otter)
John, who lives in Woodley, says it’s a team effort from his family, Seven Miles Out Art, and the Stockport Market team.
They combine his son’s digital skills, his wife’s career in journalism, and John’s background in music and entertainment – where he previously managed local bands and had his own recording studio, which saw him work with producer Pete Waterman. The event is sponsored by CDL Software and Robinsons Brewery, with further support from pubs Bakers Vaults, Angel Inn, Project 53, and The Calvert’s Court. “It’s become so successful we have to have stewards and St John’s Ambulance, which costs money, so we get support from sponsors to cover the cost to keep it safe,” John explains.
“It’s like a festival” (Image: Foodie Friday)
The organisers have also been able to raise funds for good causes. Earlier this year, the Stockport Ukrainian Club were able to raise GBP1,000 at the event for the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, and during lockdown, Foodie Friday raised GBP21,000 to feed key workers at Stepping Hill Hospital with 3,000 hot meals from the local food traders and 2,000 ice creams from April to July 2020.
Stockport band Blossoms, who are big fans of the event, donated GBP1k alone. “We’re really proud of the Blossoms,” John says. “They’ve been amazing for Stockport, flying the flag.
Blossoms at Foodie Friday in 2018 (Image: Foodie Friday)
“They launched their second album – Cool Like You – from an ice-cream van at Foodie Friday in 2018.” They also have themed nights too, and last month, like every May, they celebrated the life of Martyn Hett, who was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing. A ‘BeMoreMartyn’ disco took place with a whole load of performers taking part. Martyn’s stepdad, Stuart Murray, alongside Martyn’s brother, Dan, and sister, Louise, were in attendance.
Revellers enjoying the live music inside the Market Hall at the BeMoreMartyn event in May (Image: Foodie Friday)
July’s Foodie Friday will celebrate Pride while the next upcoming event, taking place on June 24, is a special nod to the 50th anniversary of Stockport rock band 10cc, which formed in 1972. ‘Life Is A Minestrone Foodie Friday’ also celebrates the music written and recorded at Strawberry Recording Studios – the famous studio where Joy Division, The Stone Roses, and The Smiths recorded some of their best known tracks.
“We’ve grown in numbers over the years because we’ve always tried to deliver a good event,” John adds. “We’ve been encouraged by lots of new venues opening and there are lots of exciting things happening in Underbanks. “We’re hoping to extend into the Underbanks hopefully by the end of summer.” Stockport MP Navendu Mishra said: “Foodie Friday is a brilliant initiative which has quickly blossomed into a staple of Stockport’s thriving market scene, showcased the very best of our small and independent businesses, and given a much-needed boost to our local economy after two years of a devastating pandemic. “I’m proud to have it in the heart of my constituency and look forward to sampling the very best of Stockport’s food and drink producers for many more years to come.” Life Is A Minestrone Foodie Friday takes place from 6pm-9pm on Friday, June 24, at Stockport Market Place, Churchgate, Stockport SK1 1YJ.