East London has a bit of a thing about markets. It always has done, of course, but in the last few years, trendy new ones have been popping up all over Dalston, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green, and pulling in big crowds too. Local favourites like Borough Market and Spitalfields have grown into real community hubs, a weekend staple for any East London foodie worth his Malvern sea salt. It might seem old fashioned in these shiny modern times, but there’s something reassuringly human about the face to face trading the market offers. Perhaps that’s even more defined in an age when doing your weekly shop amounts to jabbing an iPad a few times.
As a group of Christians in East London, we felt that markets represented a great opportunity for us to make some friends in the neighbourhood. We’re regulars at the markets ourselves, but we had got a bit excited about the possibilities of starting one of our own. And so on 20 July, we gathered 20 vendors in the beautiful Christ Church Spitalfields, ushered in the DJ and opened up our doors for our first ever Imago Dei Pop Up Market.
Imago Dei (which translates as Image of God), is a different kind of market in that it hopes to celebrate businesses that show something of God’s love for all people. Our vendors are all social enterprises and ethical start-ups that have a focus that is bigger than simply making money. These are traders who have approached business with the primary aim of making the world a bit of a better place, and we hope that by putting them all in a market together we can spread some inspiration.
And the stories our vendors have to share are inspirational. For example, sock company Jollie’s give a homeless person a pair of hand knitted luxury socks for every pair they sell. Free Cakes for Kids in Hackney take referrals from social services and make free, personalised birthday cakes for some of the country’s most deprived children. Sweet Cavanagh help women overcome addiction problems by teaching them to make jewellery. Chasing Zero use ice cream to fund antiretroviral treatment that can stop the spread of HIV and AIDS. Our stallholders have been involved in teaching skills to unemployed people, supporting fair industry in developing nations, promoting responsible farming methods and much more.
On the day we recorded just over 1400 visitors to the market, with a constant stream of people enjoying food, buying clothes and finding out more about the various causes that our traders are involved in. The feedback from the visitors was really positive, and by the looks of things, a lot of people came away a little fatter, a little better dressed and a little bit excited about some of the great things that are happening in our city.
Our hope for now is that Imago Dei can become a valued fixture on the East London market scene, one with a message that it speaks clearly and proudly. Soon we’ll be announcing the dates and location for the next event, and we’d love you to see you there. We’re also always open to finding new vendors, so if you, or anyone you know, have a business or an idea for business with a bigger story to share, give us a shout at .