Indulge me for a minute. I want you to cast your mind back to a time before lockdown. To a time before the streets of Edinburgh turned into a ghost town. Before the shelves were bare of toilet rolls and spaghetti. Before Dominic Cummings embarked on his journey to Barnard Castle for an eye test. Even before the phrase ‘social distancing’ was a thing. For it was on one such sunny Saturday before all these things came into being that I frequented the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market.
Sat on the picturesque Castle Terrace, the market joins streams of both New and Old Town wanderers into a bustling bank of delightful delicacies. But, with the pandemic spreading by the day, the market was forced to close whilst its sellers and the rest of the country fell into a nationwide lockdown in March.
The market was just one of a swarm of local retailers throughout the city that shut. A treacherous six months ensued. Pubs, restaurants and cafes fell victim to the lack of customers. So now, as COVID restrictions start to relax and the markets of Auld Reekie re-emerge, it’s time to reacquaint ourselves with the local shops that need a helping hand, now more than ever.
This is where the ‘Scotland Loves Local’ campaign comes in; an urge for the public to “think local first and help fuel the nation’s financial fightback”. In June, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance announced the introduction of a £230 million Economic Recovery Stimulus Package, funding community projects, businesses, green recovery plan and more.
However, this alone will not be enough. We can all play our part in boosting the local economy as we settle into a new academic year. Shops have changed the way they sell. With hand sanitisation on entry and compulsory mask wearing, high street shopping and following public health guidelines are not mutually exclusive.
Although there is an emphasis on staying safe as we shop, returning to our regular haunts can be just as enjoyable. We’ve seen the Eat Out to Help Out scheme come and go, but it doesn’t mean we can’t still treat ourselves to a hearty meal out in one of Edinburgh’s enticing eateries.
One of the problems that local retailers faced over lockdown was providing an online platform to encourage customers to continue shopping with them from home.
As part of the shop local campaign, the website LOCALBURGH has emerged. Providing a community marketplace packed with hundreds of sellers across the city, it offers everything from kimchi and cookies to handmade soaps and earrings. Closely linked is the Edinburgh Pub Project, an initiative that provides those of a creative persuasion to showcase ‘an ode’ to their favourite independent pub, café or community venue. Whether it be a poem, painting or portrait, give your locals some love and turn them into your new muse.
Locals are where you can be a regular, where you establish your community. They are so much more than the bricks, windows and mortar that physically put them on the map. It’s their charm that keeps us coming back, the friendly chat with the owner, perhaps the odd dog (or sometimes ferret) in the corner. Whatever your reason for returning, don’t forget it.
We can all make more responsible and consciously sustainable choices when it comes to shopping. Do you really need to be filling Jeff Bezos’s ever-growing pockets? Why not nip into Nicholson street’s myriad charity shops, instead? Chat with the greengrocer, browse the deli and, ultimately, viva la local.
Image Credit: CCO Public Domain via pxhere.com