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The Dublin Flea

The Dublin Flea

Tuesday 23 July 2013

WE CAN'T all make it to the world famous two-day Braderie de Lille on August 31 and September 1, or indeed the famous flea markets of Paris, but we do have our very own Dublin Flea Market, held on the last Sunday of every month at the Co-Op Building at Newmarket Square in Dublin 8.

The market –the brainchild of Sharon Greene, Aisling Rogerson and Luca d'Alfonso – has really captured the imagination, attracting people of all ages.

"We started in November 2008 because, throughout the whole boom, there were no second-hand markets and we are pretty well all second-hand market fanatics," says Sharon.

"We travel to other countries to go to other markets and car boot sales so, when the recession crept in, we decided why not just try it. We put it up on Facebook and it has gone from there.

"It was just the right time and the right place, and the synergy between myself and Luca and Aisling worked really well. The market has developed from that."

The enterprising trio also have day jobs because, of course, the market is only once a month. Sharon has a business called The Queens of Neon which is a "creative event" business, and she is also a building conservation consultant. Business partners Aisling and Luca run the popular Fumbally Cafe on Fumbally Lane nearby.

"We all met on the festival circuit, doing crazy things at festivals, which we are still doing." Very successful 'crazy things' it seems.

The Dublin Flea Market is both indoors and outdoors and has a huge range of items on sale. "We have 70 stalls, which includes 20 regulars. The regulars go across to the UK and France, invest in their stock and come back, doing a lot of retro furniture, vintage bags and so on.

"Every month we get about 120 applications for the 70 stalls, so we go through them and try and pick ones that sound more interesting. A lot of them would be one-offs – people who are emigrating, people who are clearing their attics or their sheds, or downscaling from a big house to a smaller house.

"Other people would do it maybe every three or four months when they have built up their stock again. It costs €40 for a stall, but the regular stallholders pay €50 because they have a guaranteed spot every month, they don't have to apply, they pick the spot that they want to be in.

"We find a lot of people use it as a springboard to open their own businesses after they have done a bit of market research."

They commission a graphic artist every month to design a poster for the market.

There is also a cafe, adding to the whole ambience of the day. The food end of things is related to the Food Co-Op – of which they are members – and Aisling and Luca run the cafe here on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

The vendors on the day I visited were many and varied, but all very interesting. Muriel, from France, has been a regular at the Dublin Flea Market for the past two years. She has been living here for 20 years but she sources costume jewellery from France on her regular visits home.

"There is some work involved as I usually have to clean and repair the jewellery I buy," Muriel says.

Earrings and pendants are always popular. "Usually small things as we have quite a young clientele here. I always keep my prices quite low and today everything is only €5 but usually it ranges from €5-€30."

Dubliner Paul Byrne is based in Ballinteer and has an online business called Retro Rummage (

"I was a logistics manager but with the recessionary times took redundancy four years ago. I decided, to keep overheads low, to do it online. 'The Flea' were the first people to give me a spot and a break and it has grown from there with a good client base."

Paul specialises in anything from the Thirties to the Seventies, and he also takes buying trips abroad. "I am just back from France so there is a special French flair to my stand now." I could see that as a girl snapped up a French road sign, 'Lanouaille 9, St Yrieix 24', to grace the walls of her hip city-centre boutique.

"You just have to keep your eye on trends. Teak is popular but not as popular as it used to be. Industrial design is very big in Europe – raw metal look, raw wood – it's only scratching the surface here."

My eye was really caught by a very chic Fifties inlaid coffee table from France. At €175 it struck me as a snip. Paul also drew my attention to a really cute Forties desktop wooden filing cabinet which came out of a doctor's surgery. "I give great value, I sell furniture from €30-€40."

Paul has a great eye and his pieces were being snapped up quickly.

Jim Doyle is a multi-talented man. Not only is he an artist with a gallery called Bio Space, he also works in the arts department of Dublin City Council. He runs Bio Space with his partner, Emmanuelle Marion, on Charles Street just off Ormond Quay, and it has been open for three years.

"Last year we had a really good thing going with local communities called Gentrify This. It was a partnership with local people and communities where we did a little bit of 'gentrifying' the city. So, joining with the community, we commissioned a few pieces from the artists."

He was standing in for Emmanuelle on her market stand on my visit but was very au fait with what people want nowadays.

"I'm finding younger people are buying a lot of vinyl video film. They are looking for products, something they can hold and see. It's a slight reaction to a society where everything is disposable and disappears. They just want to have something that has quality and value. They are looking at retro, and I prefer the word retro than vintage, because when somebody points at something I had as a child and calls it vintage I feel," Jim laughs.

"I've got 35mm cameras and they are really into that. Nowadays if you have a digital camera it gives you 500 pictures, but 35mm cameras give you 35 images and that's the end of it. But, it means you have to be considered in how you take a photograph, you have to think about composition, you have to think about the light."

Jim showed me a very beautiful handmade banjo at €75. "It is a musician's banjo, specially commissioned. You can take the whole thing apart."

He had French comic books with amazing artwork at €3 each. Great funky books, a really cool kettle from the Eighties, and a myriad other goodies.

"I married a Frenchman," says Mary Lachaussee, from Bray, Co Wicklow.

"I love coming out to the Flea, it is just the business. It is so full of life and creativity... the amount of people that have amazing talents and their own style, and bringing it on. People come here every month to find them so they can buy furniture that they want in their homes of different styles."

Mary was told of the Dublin Flea by a friend and did the Christmas Flea at Smithfield, which ran for three months on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays.

"It was absolutely fantastic, very busy, with lots of people walking through Smithfield. The amount of talent and creativity is unreal and also if you want quirky or certain first edition books you can get it at the flea."

Mary says her forte is books. "I love the first-edition books. I go out of my way to try and find them. I have a good customer base who come early in the morning and they buy five to 10 books from me. I am now incorporating a lot of retro and vintage Fifties, Sixties and Seventies furniture, specialising in 'themed things' such as these copper tables, Beatrix Potter books tableware and figures. I'm good value so people come back."

Since the advent of the Dublin Flea, there is now a market at Newmarket Square each Sunday. The first Sunday is Pure Vintage, the second Sunday is Fusion Sunday, and the third Sunday sees the Brocante Market, which is run by Pat Cooke, who also had a stall at the flea.

The Brocante, Pat says, is not a French market. "The Irish have style as well. It's an interesting and eclectic market, a lot of furniture and small collectibles. We have a certain number of regulars and then people who are in and out all the time. They come from all over the country and we have three or four people who come from the North regularly. The markets complement each other."