This month saw the launch of NIGHT SCHOOL, a new series of evening workshops hosted by The Frome Independent, intended to provide an opportunity for people to gain hands on experience of contemporary craft.
Night School is a series of one-off sessions where participants of all abilities can learn under the expert guidance of some of the market’s and Frome’s best designer-makers and food producers.
Classes take the form of affordable one-off taster sessions, giving participants an introduction to bookbinding, blacksmithing, food fermentation, leatherwork and printmaking - to name just a few.
For around £35, participants get to learn a new skill from an expert maker in a friendly and supportive environment. As it turns out, Frome residents and market fans are all quite a creative bunch, with every course in the Spring/Summer programme selling out within days of its launch.
The first Night School class took place on Thursday 9th March with a full complement of budding printmakers. Anna Brindle of Lost Shapes led a cohort of classmates in designing and making their own tote bag over a three hour session. A Frome born-and-bred maker, Anna is also a passionate advocate for ethical textile production and slow fashion. Her clothing ranges are bold and distinctive, all hand-printed in her Wiltshire studio and can be regularly found in the Designer Maker section of The Frome Independent.
Anna was thrilled with the enthusiasm and commitment of the class, and has already been rebooked to do a repeat of her workshop at the end of June. She said: “'It was such a pleasure to share the skills I use regularly with people who have never printed before, and see market fans enjoying the other side of the designer-maker experience. Nothing beats the excitement and nerves of lifting up the screen to reveal the first print of your very own design. It was great to lead such a creative bunch – I’m looking forward to my next Night School class!”
Along with Anna, some of The Frome Independent’s most highly regarded craftspeople and food producers are taking part as tutors. The Spring/Summer season sees blacksmithing with Alex Pole Ironwork, whittling with Hatchet + Bear and food fermentation with Wild & Fermented, and photography, leatherwork, textile and bookbinding sessions are all lined up for later in the year. Almost every workshop in the Spring/Summer programme is now fully booked, with details for the Autumn/Winter programme due for release soon.
Tabitha Clayson, director of The Frome Independent was pleasantly surprised by Night School being an instantaneous hit, and feels that this chimes completely with Frome’s growing success and the market’s popularity.
“We are seeing a growing trend for people eschewing the city and the complete dominance of the digital revolution in favour of a more meaningful, authentic and experience based lifestyle. The antidote can be found at the market and in Frome’s creative and engaged community. We know that fans of The Frome Independent love to support local makers by buying their products on market days, but the overwhelming response we’ve had to Night School demonstrates that people desire creative, hands-on experiences and that Frome is a town full of people inspired to take the plunge and have a go themselves.”
For those of you unfamiliar with The Frome Independent, it really is a market like no other. Taking over the entire town centre of this east Somerset market town on the first Sunday of the month, the event closes the road to traffic to make way for more than 200 craftspeople, designer-makers, food producers and traders of vintage clothing, homewares and furniture. The Frome Independent is a curated market, and the sister organisation of Foreground, Frome-based contemporary visual arts commissioners with a remit to bring new art to new audiences across the south west.
As such, the market now includes some of the very best designers, makers, food producers and creative entrepreneurs in the region, and attracts visitors from across the country. But the event isn’t just about shopping; the small market team work hard to create a free monthly event for all the community to enjoy, with live music, family activities, themed markets and visual arts events creating a mini festival atmosphere on market days.
It’s this ethos of being ‘more than a market’ that inspired the idea to launch Night School. Tabitha says that the work of The Frome Independent extends beyond market days, and is more about promoting a different way of life, one where we ditch screens and multinationals and get back to making things with our hands and buying directly from makers again.
“What we’ve seen with the popularity of the market, and now with Night School too, is that people want to spend their money and time in a different way. People seem to want to buy directly from the maker, or even learn how to make something themselves; recognising that products made and bought in this way last longer, but hold more meaning too. ”
The Frome Independent takes place on the first Sunday of the month April - December throughout Frome town centre, and is free for all to attend. Night School classes run on Thursday evenings throughout the year at Forward Space Work Hub. The full programme is available to view on The Frome Independent’s website and if you want to be the first to hear about new courses you can sign up to their mailing list there too.
The next market takes place on Sunday 2nd April. See you there…