Tuesday, April 24, 2018
“So, when’s the next market?”

That was the question on the lips of many at the Armagh Market on 17 March, as they browsed the selection of goods for wellness and healthful living. There were candles, ethically-sourced clothing and jewelry, gardening products, and a book stall with inspirational literature. There was food, coffee and ice cream. And as the sun rose higher in the sky, Devonshire teas appeared from the kitchen – tangy and light, with raspberry jam, at just $8 a head.

Since the 1950s, the IofC centre in one of Melbourne’s leafy suburb of Toorak has served as a base for courses, retreats and community peace-building activities. In 2017, IofC began Armagh Markets, opening its doors to a public beyond those who participate in its programs and activities.

Chris James entertains the young audience with a magic show on Armagh Market Day.

‘The Armagh Markets were created to invite people to discover the legacy, beauty and community that Armagh represents,’ said Katrina Grantham, events coordinator at IofC Australia. The first such market took place in July 2017, drawing a small contingent of intrepid shoppers on an overcast winter’s day. In contrast, the 17 March event dawned sunny and bright as vendors set up their displays in and around the grounds of Armagh.

Younger visitors soon found their way to the ballroom, where actor and entertainer Chris James absorbed them with conjuring tricks, as parents shopped or stopped by to enjoy the show.

‘It was great to see some familiar faces but also to get in touch with some locals and neighbours who had wondered what Armagh and IofC was all about,’ added Katrina. ‘Many have wanted to know more about IofC, or have inquired since.’

A community base for peace-building work

Armagh, a turn-of-the-20th-century mansion was once owned by the Mackays, a prominent business family in Melbourne. H.V. MacKay was a ‘bush smithy’ who parlayed his skills to grow an international company that became known for its Sunshine combine harvester – sharing its name with the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine, where the company’s factory was based. In 1956, his son Cecil MacKay and family gifted their Toorak home to Initiatives of Change (then known as Moral Rearmament), for use in its peace-building work. For many years, the home became a base for a community of people from around Australia and abroad, who sought to model honesty, unselfishness and integrity as principles in daily living, and as a foundation for outreach and action. Many of those involved also ran programs, training and community-based initiatives for peace and reconciliation.

Katrina noted that stallholders had enjoyed Armagh as a space. Some had also stated in their feedback that IofC’s principles and not-for-profit nature had been an encouragement for them to take part in the market. Some stallholders themselves were contributing to wider causes, for example, a jewelry stall offered products from a women’s empowerment project in Uganda, while the Devonshire tea sales contributed to enabling a Creators of Peace circle to take place in Bougainville.

“Absolutely loved this market, did well sales-wise, enjoyed the coffee, lovely stallholders and organizers,” wrote one participant. “Fantastic singing performances and magic show. Well done!” wrote another.

Indoor activities for young visitors at Armagh Market Day

Next market

So, when is the next market? The answer is 8 September. This time around, the focus will be on products and programs for sustainability, and visitors will be able to meet and greet participants from IofC Australia’s Sustainability Impact Mentoring (SIM) program, who will be showcasing their projects.

‘We hope to grow our attendance for the next market, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Armagh,’ said Katrina. - Delia Paul


Read more about the history of Armagh here: http://au.iofc.org/iofc-community-marks-60-years-‘armagh