The Bellingen Community Markets are a thriving hub for the Bellingen Shire, bringing together locals and the wider Mid North Coast community, people of all ages and backgrounds, to indulge in the locally made or sourced. Their tag “not just a market but a great place to be”, defines the sentiment held by all who frequent our beloved markets every third Saturday of the month and even for those who only venture into Bellingen Market Park sporadically.
John Dorbis, one of the handful of previous Bellingen Community Markets Managers, explains the history of rural markets in general. “Traditionally, in isolated country areas, markets were held on a regular basis, allowing those from within the area and remote locations to meet in a central location to sell or barter their produce, display their crafts and wares, be entertained and generally socialise with friends and acquaintances not often seen.” And so the tradition continues today.
However, despite the popularity of rural markets, the origin of our market was a chequered one. As with all change or newly introduced initiatives into this region, Bellingen Community Markets had a rocky start, its inception proving very divisive for the local community. The very first Bellingen Community Market was held on Sunday 23rd October 1977 by the Bellingen Art and Craft group in the grounds of their Hyde Street premises at the Bellingen Community Centre (the old school house which is now the Local Shire Council complex). The aim was to gauge interest and demand for local produce and handcrafts and proved very successful. However, the town was divided and after many declined permit applications for further markets and numerous false starts in many locations throughout Bellingen, the Bellingen Community Markets finally found its current location in 1984, under the direction of the Bellingen Shire Residents Association.
Today, the market is an undeniable success, a vibrant, colourful monthly entity which was ranked “in the top four markets in Australia,” (Sydney Morning Herald 1990). As a not-for-profit organisation, The Bellingen Community Markets are also instrumental in supporting many local charities, community groups, schools and not for profit organisations, with in excess of one hundred thousand dollars being donated to the wider community over the last 37 years. What a fabulous achievement! This market is an integral part of the fabric of our community. In order to understand more about how the markets have grown since the earliest days and what the future may bring, Rod spent some time with Kaz Selbie, the current Bellingen Community Markets Manager, who has been a Shire resident for the past 15 years.
Have you had a long standing involvement in the markets?
Yes, I started as the toilet cleaner in 2003, was promoted to coordinator a couple of years later, then to Assistant Manager in 2010, where I worked with Neil Hamilton. In 2014 I left for the Northern Territory, but returned at the end of 2016, where I managed the market for a couple of months to give the present manager a break. I was invited to be the official manager in September 2017. I jumped at the opportunity because this is what I love to do and believe I’m good at it, not perfect and always learning.
Have you seen a lot of changes at the markets over the years?
Other than the growth and amount of stallholders not really, everything is pretty much the same. I’m happy to see people wanting more locally made and grown produce and wares.
Tell me what changes you have made since taking over management?
I’ve taken a strong focus on local people who make and grow their own product and produce. We also ask casual stallholders to go to webpage http://www.bellingenmarkets.com.au and fill out the booking form 2-4 weeks before each market. They use to ring a week before, which meant a crazy week!
What are your biggest challenges in this job?
Ensuring all stallholders have insurance, food certificates and council licences.
How many helpers do you have?
We have 11 lovely and diligent helpers on market day. They are Sam, Ali, Jon, Merv, two Jeff’s, Beau, Mark, Lesley, and Bernard. And of course there is me, making 12. They are a great team and I couldn’t do it without them.
How many stalls are there?
Anywhere from 285 to 300 diverse stalls consisting of a mixture of permanents and casuals. Lots of delicious food, wares and music!
What are the longest running stalls?
Gosh there are lots of stallholders who have been attending every since I started in 2003. I admire their talent and dedication.
Do you have any favourite stalls?
I certainly do, but it’s more about the people than the product and they know who they are!
Any future plans or developments for the markets?
Being relatively new to the role, I’m reacquainting myself with the huge and collaborating event and noting ideas. I will discuss these with the Bellingen Shire Residents Association (BSRA) which is the governing body of Bellingen Community Markets- so watch this space! I believe the Council intends to upgrade the paths around the park which is great.
Your best memory of childhood was?
The wonderful free loving days in Wollongong, where I rode my horse everywhere exploring the pristine beaches.
Your best sporting moment was?
When I was a young parent and ran in the parent’s race. Once I got my momentum up I became a speeding bullet where my legs proceeded to go faster than my body (if that is possible). I won the race handsover but I suffered greatly the week after with every muscle in my body aching.
What would you like to be remembered for?
Being a fair, respectful and good person.
Friends say that you are?
Expressive and caring
What do you avoid in life?
Negative people and tripe.
What are you reading right now?
Laws and Obligations of a market stallholder and how to process your own coffee. I have recently picked the fruit from 8 of my coffee trees and the process to get a coffee bean is time consuming and fiddley. BUT I will see it through and taste my own coffee. BUT don’t think I’ll do it again unless it’s exceptionally good coffee.
What secret can you share with us?
I have no secrets
Everyone was honest, respectful and caring.
What really annoys you?
Nothing really annoys me anymore, as I try and go with the flow. BUT upon saying that, the greedy possums outside who eat my flowers/veggies and the misky mice inside who eat anything I leave out. It’s only a momentary grrrrr.
The best lesson your parents taught you?
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
The last big belly laugh you had was?
Recently watching a funny movie on TV with Will Ferrell called “Daddy’s Home”. I don’t normally like Will’s silliness but I did in this one.
What project are you currently working on?
After being a gypsy for a few years I have returned back into my home and have been cleaning, renovating and gardening. I’ve also been giving my all to Bello Markets to ensure its popularity and sustainability.
Who inspires you?
My children but other than that it’s not who but what, such as MUSIC, diving in the ocean, being in nature, the sweet scent of flowers, sunrise and sunset, dreaming, interacting with good people.
How do you relax?
Lots of ways; listening and playing music, walking along the beach, jumping in the ocean, gardening, photography, leadlighting, working on my house, reading books, socialising with friends and family, sleeping.
Favourite restaurant in the Bellingen Shire?
I love em all!
Best coffee in the Bellingen Shire?
I love em all but often find myself visiting the Bellingen Swiss Patisserie and Bakery in Church St Bellingen.
Best things to do in the Bellingen Shire?
Visit all the wonderful shops including Op shops and of course visit Bellingen Markets and the river. I love to see the vibrant colour of the Jacarandas in Spring.
Your current passion is?
Uniting the community.
Favorite country to visit and why?
I haven’t done much travelling over the years but visited Vietnam in 2014 which was awesome. I intend to cheaply travel through Europe one day.
Yes or No. Bellingen weather?
Love the weather in Bellingen and surrounding areas. All cool by me whether it’s rainy and cold or sunny and hot. I always have the ocean and river to jump into and a slow combustion fireplace to warm me bones.
Yes or No. Fire twirling?
Not personally but admire those talented creative souls who do it.
Yes or No.
Crocs as footwear? I used to have a pair (2nd hand) and they were super comfy and easy. I wore them to death. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to get a new pair, mostly because they are expensive and my thongs do the job.
Yes or No. Ice slush cones?
No way – full of preservatives !
Yes or No. Buskers?
Yes love buskers, especially when they sing and play their own songs, delivering their meaningful message.
In the Movie Kazgate, who would play you?
Angelina Jole, a woman on a mission, determined to ensure justice, equality and harmony for all.
Don’t miss the final market for 2017- Saturday December 16th, 8am-3pm at Bellingen Market Park, Church Street, Bellingen.