Peddlers Market: The popular monthly event that has helped to put Sheffield on the street food map

Known for its superb street food and the promotion of up-and-coming musicians and creatives, the monthly Peddlers Market has long been one of the highlights of Sheffield’s social calendar.

Thursday, 23rd September 2021, 4:13 pm
The outside courtyard at Peddler Market. Picture: Geoff Jones

It is synonymous with the 1,000-capacity warehouse on Burton Road, Neepsend where the event has been held for nearly five years, but Peddler Market began life on Arundel Street in the city centre in 2014.

Peddler was founded by Ben Smith and Jordan Roberts, after Ben moved to Sheffield in 2013, and observed that while the ‘burgeoning’ street food scene he had witnessed, and enjoyed, in London had begun to emerge in other major cities, it had not quite found its footing in the Steel City, and most of The North, yet.

Shortly after meeting, Ben and Jordan set up a hospitality business called The Hop Box, through which they sold craft beer in a converted horse trailer; and Ben describes how the pair spent ‘most of 2013’ travelling on motorways, to and from the next big street food event, discussing how they could emulate and create a similar scene here that would still feel distinctly Sheffield.

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There is also a varied drinks offer available at Peddler

“We wanted to bring a street food colour to Sheffield that would reflect what the city is, and what people’s tastes are. We wanted to bring some of the best traders from elsewhere that were the shining lights of that particular type of cuisine, or the shining lights of their particular city,” explains Ben.

Jordan adds that the type of ‘street food’ they began seeking out, which would go on to define the Peddler experience, was ‘restaurant-quality’ fare, which could be served on-the-go, and crucially, was ‘more affordable’ than visiting an up-market eatery.

With a clear vision of what they wanted their street food event to be, and the kind of traders they wanted to attract, Ben and Jordan, got to work and held the first ever Peddlers Market on Arundel Street in October 2014.

In the years since, Peddler has gone on to gain a reputation as a highly-sought after, and continuously evolving, food and drink event, attracting traders cooking up food from around the world, which has helped to put Sheffield on the street food map.

Who's hungry? Picture courtesy of Geoff Jones

When asked about the team’s favourite street food traders to have brought their food to Peddler are York-based Thai street food caterers Tikk’s Thai Kitchen; Kebab Cartel from Birmingham who take their influences from ‘pretty much anywhere’ they can find it, but lean towards Turkish and Middle Eastern food and Bamboo Street Food from Leicester, which specialises in ‘mouthwatering vegan food’.

“They [traders] are always really keen to come to Sheffield, they think there’s no pretentiousness, no edge to Sheffield, like you get in other cities,” said Ben.

The event moved to the Burton Road warehouse in late 2016, and Ben describes how as soon as they found the space they knew it was the perfect location.

Over the past seven years the team behind Peddler Market has continued to grow and is currently comprised of marketing manager, Luke Hood; events director, Lucy Bailey; events co-ordinator, Loz Barker; bar manager Shaun Buckle; assistant bar manager, Pete Dovey and Ben and Jordan, whose current roles are financial director and creative director, respectively.

There is food everyone at Peddler. Picture courtesy of Geoff Jones

The team say they recognise what a ‘big draw’ the warehouse space is.

"It’s a great backdrop, and you just know you’re in Sheffield when you’re here...the space is in keeping with everything that surrounds it, and it just works so well. The feedback we get from people is they just really like being in the space,” said Lucy.

Ben is keen to emphasise that while the perception of places such as Neepsend, and neighbouring Kelham Island, is that they are post-industrial areas, in fact there is ‘still a lot of light industry’ being carried out there, including the space surrounding the Peddler warehouse.

Pointing to Peddler’s neighbouring businesses, Ben said: "We’ve got a working ducting factory operating Monday to Friday; we’ve got a recording space and a production bakery here too...and two new restaurants are going to open too.”

Jordan Roberts from the events team at Peddler Market. Picture: Scott Merrylees

"A lot of that light industry closes down on a Friday, and then once a month we come in and re-purpose the space…I think we’ve done a really good job with connecting with our neighbours and working with them where possible,” he added.

The team are proud of how diverse and ‘broad’ their customer base is, something that has informed their decision to keep the event free.

While the event is popular, Ben says he and the team are also aware that it isn’t for everyone; and believe keeping it free will allow people to come and give it a go,

Scouting out, and booking, what Ben describes as ‘new and exciting’ street food traders is an integral part of the Peddler strategy, but unsurprisingly, this has become inifinitely more difficult during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lucy explains: “It’s been more difficult over the past couple of years, and the industry has undergone changes during that time...at the moment, getting new blood into Peddler has been more of a satellite job.”

However, thanks to the contacts within the street food community the Peddler team have built up over the last seven years, they are able to rely on a whole host of tastemakers and people in the industry to give them recommendations of traders they should be looking at.

Just a taste of the kind of street food you can expect to enjoy at Peddler. Picture courtesy of Joe Horner photography

"They will send a message, saying: “You need to check this trader out’. We’ll take a look and see they’ve got a good set up; they’ve got lots of followers,” added Lucy.

Once the team have identified a potential addition to the Peddler line-up, they will then try and ‘gather information’ about them, by looking online and speaking to members of the street food community, and will also carry out ‘mystery shopping’ to get a true sense of what their food and service is like.

Ben continues: "We need to know things like they will fit the event; can they cope with the volume of people we have here; can they provide good customer service; are they responsible traders?”

However, they also have an ‘open’ application process and any and all interested traders are encouraged to apply.

The Peddler team is also committed to showcasing up-and-coming and un-signed musical acts through their DJ space inside the venue, and the stage for bands and singers outside the venue. They work with Sheffield sub-contractor Michael Sandford, who provides a platform for emerging talent through music blog and magazine, Pink Wafer, and DJ, Nonna Fab, whose real name is Dave Sheard.

Ben says they are also devoted to working with artists and creatives as part of the event.

Food lovers will be glad to learn they have two new food traders coming on board for the finaly three Peddler events of the year, the next of which will take place on October 1 and 2, as part of their 7th birthday celebrations.

To mark the occasion, Lucy says they are looking forward to welcoming a musical act to perform inside for the first time in the form of 12-piece, Renegade Brass Band.

"I can’t wait, I think the customers are going to absolutely love it,” she said.

Ben describes the pandemic as being ‘supremely hard’ for the team, and they tried a number of different tactics, some of which were not ‘commercially viable’, in a bid to keep Peddler going and in the consciousness of people in Sheffield and to support the street food traders their business is based around.

These tactics included working with traders to deliver food to people at home and holding an ‘apologetic’ version of Peddler initially every week and then every fortnight from May this year when they had to introduce an app, table service and were only permitted to have DJs playing music at an ‘ambient’ volume.

The team have come out of the pandemic with a renewed drive and awareness of the ‘impact’ Peddler has had on Sheffield.

"We’ve come out of lockdown and have started to realise it’s an important part of Sheffield’s cultural visitor attractions. Two years ago we would never have said that but now it’s important to bang our own drum and say that,” explains Ben.

Great care goes into selecting the street food traders for each Peddlers Market
Pete Dovey from the events team at Peddler Market.Picture Scott Merrylees
Loz Barker,Jordan Roberts and Pete Dovey from the events team at Peddler Market.Picture Scott Merrylees
Loz Barker from the events team at Peddler Market.Picture Scott Merrylees
Crowds enjoy Peddler Market. Picture courtesy of Joe Horner photography