"The tried and tested ingredients of food and music are the great cementers of community and relationships," says Sobaz Benjamin. The executive director of the community group In My Own Voice has been thinking a lot about those key ingredients lately, in planning—along with iMOVe team Kyle Hamilton, MJ Loppie, Delton Colley and Enze Yang; Common Roots Urban Farm and The Carrot—a new north-end experience, a recurring and evolving market that'll bring music, healthy eating, international flavours and neighbours together.
"There was a real need to welcome the community, the whole community and all of its diversity, to The Carrot," says Benjamin, who was originally approached by The Carrot's Norman Greenberg. "A lot of the young people we work with have jobs at The Carrot. There are people from the community who work there, and I think this market idea is really about sort of making a connection to community, and saying that you have a place here."
Though it'll centre on healthy food (and encouraging people to make it), art and live music, this won't be your standard market. Taking inspiration from narrow, winding streets of New Orleans, the event aims to pique curiosities with a little bit of mystery. Most days the space next to Gottingen's co-op grocer is just an alleyway, barely earning a glance from the foot traffic that mills around it. But this Sunday, draped in colour and decorations, it'll be an entry point to an experience.
"That's the idea we're thinking of, lead people into this great environment and surprise them," says Hamilton. "We want to draw people in, make them curious about where it might lead to and what they might experience."
Making the experience a bit of a secret is just one element of this event's coolness. Benjamin says that Common Roots' Culture Kitchen will also be on hand, along with samples of various international eats. Local artists will showcase crafts, caricatures and offer face-painting. Chef Paul Routhier (AKA Knife For Hire) will also be on hand to help people put what they're tasting into practice, offering up recipes, ingredient lists and expertise. For the iMOVe crew, this isn't just an excuse to help make their community stronger, but a way to build upon their social enterprise—which was just certified by Buy Social Canada.
"It's a great confidence-builder and a great sense of sort of agency when, as a young person, you're able to create something that other people are willing to pay for. I think social enterprise is a great tool to bring to the public's view something they might not be aware of," says Benjamin. "We're not just selling you stuff, we're trying to build community and do it again and again and again."
Hamilton says it all comes down to growth. Gatherings like this one are important for unifying the many moving parts of a neighbourhood. "Over the years every community in Halifax is kind of changing and growing. But some of the people in the neighbourhoods, and certain diversity groups, can't keep up, they're not getting a chance to grow with the development," he says. "We think things like this are good because it brings the community, and all of the different people in the community, together so we can grow together.
"It'd be nice if everyone could learn and grow—skills or other aspects of people—by interacting with them and engaging in conversations, eating together, trying each others' food and things like that. Make them appreciate what each person brings to the table so that we can all kind of build off that."
The hope is that the community market will grow to become a regular event. If you miss Sunday, find iMOVe at the Creighton Street Placemaking event on September 20, from 12-6pm, at Creighton and Charles streets.