Grainger Market to open late in bid to revive struggling centre

The iconic city market was said to be a “drain” on city funds recently.

Newcastle’s Grainger Market gets set to celebrate its 180th anniversary.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market gets set to celebrate its 180th anniversary.
Newcastle’s Grainger Market gets set to celebrate its 180th anniversary.

Nighttime entertainment will be coming to Newcastle’s Grainger Market in a bid to breathe fresh life into the famous Geordie institution.

Council bosses have confirmed plans to open up the city centre market for one night a month, as part of efforts to attract more visitors.

A pilot scheme called ‘The Great Market Caper’ will include popular food and drink stalls, family entertainment, and other “new attractions”.

The first evening event at the market, which currently shuts its doors at 5.30pm, could happen at the end of May and they could become a more regular feature if the move proves popular.

Newcastle City Council’s announcement comes after a local authority report warned last week that the Grainger Market had become a “resource draining asset” that is costing £300,000 a year to keep open.

Struggling traders at the beloved site, which has been at the heart of the city centre since 1835, have racked up rent arrears of more than £500,000 after the devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the bill for its long-running roof repairs has spiralled above £5m.

Civic centre officials say that the market’s existing food and drink vendors will be given priority to take part in the nighttime events and have welcomed the idea – but insist that they are not trying to turn the historic centre into just a food hall.

A council spokesperson said: “The Grainger Market is one of our city’s most iconic attractions, so to get more enjoyment from it, and as a way of restoring it to the centre of the city’s economic, social and cultural offer, we will shortly be introducing a pilot project to bring it to life one evening a month.

“The Great Market Caper will feature a wide range of new attractions, entertainment and cultural events in the Market, aimed at a wide and diverse audience including families along with a wider selection of food and drink. Existing food and drink traders, who will be given priority to take part, have warmly welcomed the idea.

“This is not about creating a food hall in the evening but instead opening up the Market to a whole range of new activities to broaden its appeal with a view to extending this approach if it is successful. We hope that the first Caper will take place at the end of May.

“Although we are still in discussion with traders about this, we have been greatly encouraged by their enthusiasm to take part and generate new opportunities. We believe this could be the start of an exciting opportunity to maximise this unique and beautiful asset and is a very positive development for the Grainger Market.”

As part of a successful Levelling Up Fund bid to improve Newcastle city centre, the Grainger Market is set for a £9m restoration.

A report from council director of place Michelle Percy said last week that the programme was a “fantastic opportunity to turn a currently resource draining asset into a successful operation” – though details of exactly how that cash will be spent are yet to be confirmed and are expected to be subject to a consultation later this year.