The Hobart

Salamanca Market Celebrates 50 Years

by Lily Whiting
Salamanca Market Celebrates 50 Years

In rain, hail and sunshine, for fifty years Salamanca Market has been an beacon for visitors and locals every Saturday.

From morning till early afternoon, Salamanca Place transforms from a road into a bustling strip of market stalls, where most often the makers, artisans, designers and producers are hand selling their fresh produce, freshly made treats and goods – it’s the ultimate expression of Tasmanian creativity and quality.

2022 marks 50 years of buying, selling and trading. Salamanca was home to one of the busiest whaling ports in the 1800’s – the decline of the whaling industry made way for different Tasmanian goods to be transported from Hobart’s port area. In 1972, the birth of Salamanca Market with 33 stalls would transform a normally very quiet Saturday morning in Hobart and put us on the map as one of the most visited tourist attractions in Tasmania.

Crowds have flocked to the market for 50 years

Salamanca Market has witnessed a fair amount of social and community change, a pivotal one being the arrest of LGBTIQA+ activist Rodney Croome in October 1988. The Tasmanian LGBTIQA+ community began leasing a stall at Salamanca Market to collect signatures and support from the public. Their aim was to overturn the law that criminalised homosexuality, with punishment of up to 21 years imprisonment in Tasmania. A now iconic image was captured of the moment Croome was arrested by Commander Tim Dooley. Only recently, a reunion was held between the pair under very different circumstances. More recently, the Tassie Nannas have held stalls to knit a better future for refugees, particularly child refugees, showcasing their work to the thousands that stroll past coffee in hand and new stallholders BeHers make and sell products that aim to change lives and end slavery.

Today, Salamanca Market attracts more tourists than anything else in Tasmania with over 300 market stalls each week and thousands of visitors walking the length of the market each weekend. Traveller itineraries are planned around picking up an empanada or pottery piece in the morning, and for some crea­tives, it’s their only opportunity to sell and talk directly with the buyer. Now spanning 50 years, some stalls have seen generations pass through as salespeople.

Vintage clothes were a popular fixture

From Small Beginnings…

One of the current longest serving stallholders is Jill Saunders. Her business Beauty and the Bees has grown from a card table into world domination, with origins at Salamanca!

“Having arrived from the UK shortly before and hoping to launch my small enterprise from my kitchen, it was wonderful to meet a sisterhood of women who kindly shared their casual stalls with me. These ladies gave me a start: Wendy with fudge, Lindy with plants, Angela the tarot reader, Vicki made canvas bags and of course Vilma, who is pictured with me. Such lovely people. At one point we shared a traffic-island-cum-stall opposite Retro Cafe.

The stalls were simple

I used to come to the market on my motorbike, laden on every part of the bike with boxes and bags: backpack, front pack, tank saddlebags and even more strapped on, like one of those rice cracker sellers you see in Asia. It’s amazing how much I could fit on! I don’t think people have any idea how much incredibly hard work it is for stallholders. I used to label and make products, often till midnight on a Friday night, then get up at 5am to go down and set up at 6am, often in lashing rain and sub zero tem­peratures, hanging on to the stall tent structure will all my body weight to stop it blowing away! But I was young then and could handle it all. A highlight for me was having a fantastic 1956 FJ Holden ute made into a market vehicle which always gathered a crowd of vintage enthusiasts.

The market has not changed much other than being less ram­shackle, with second hand stalls always adding interest, you never knew what you would find. I miss that.”

First day at the market for Jill Saunders (right) in 1992 in her motorbike leathers with fellow stallholder Vilma Baker

There’s lots of different things at the Salamanca Market, but there is one thing in common. It’s all Tasmanian at heart. There is a celebration for Salamanca Market’s 50th Anniversary on Saturday 10 December, during market hours. Get along for music, performances and fun.

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February 2024

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