Sometimes people come to Rotondes to eat chips or to buy a Pokémon figurine. Then they look around a little, find out we also organise cultural events… and come back for those. The person who so cleverly attracts newcomers by organising markets is our event manager, Tom Karier.
Markets Tom Karier
Tom, it’s all well and good to use food as bait for attracting visitors, like with the eat it! festival. But what do you tell people who ask why a cultural centre organises markets?
Here at Rotondes, we like to mix things up and go beyond genres and preconceived ideas. In our eyes, culture doesn’t stop at performing arts, visual arts, or music. Video games, records, and good food are, in the broad sense, also part of it since a creative element is involved. They belong to pop culture and have their rightful place at Rotondes. Markets act like a magnet and draw a lot of different people from our neighbourhood, from the city of Luxembourg, and from further away too. Each market is an opportunity for us to promote all our other activities and it would be silly not to take advantage of that.
How would you describe our markets to all those who are only familiar with the rest of our events and activities?
It’s difficult to describe in a few words. Our markets are more of a vibe thing. Each one has a different theme and attracts different people, so the atmosphere changes from one market to another. I think the only word that applies to all our markets is “accessible”, because each one is free, friendly, and relaxed. They are like we are in the office: they don’t take themselves seriously.
I think it’s also important to point out that we would never try to compete with something like the Vakanz fair. We remain a cultural centre, with that unique Rotondes spirit. Our aim is to introduce people to new things and to put forward producers, designers, and creators who don’t have a large distribution network. Obviously, we want to help them sell and make a name for themselves, but we have so much more than commercial considerations when we feature them.
In recent years, we have worked more frequently with partners. Is this a trend that happened naturally or was it a conscious move on your part?
A bit of both, I’d say. The markets are an extension of our Sociocultural department, which often gets requests from prospective partners. If their idea appeals to us, we try and make it happen in the best possible way. A good example is the Jingle Mingle X‑mas Market. The Augenschmaus collective contacted us about it, bringing to the table their network and reputation, and I tried to ‘make it happen’ (smiles). It’s not necessarily a quick process – sometimes it can take several seasons for a project to see the light of day. But we are always open to suggestions.
For the Super Maart I select the exhibitioners in the Galerie and, in addition, I invite a different partner each year to host the Plateforme, with carte blanche to create a concept, design the scenography, and invite other creatives.
Now that you’ve overseen markets for so long you must have a lot of anecdotes to share…
There are stories I’d rather forget and others I’d rather not tell… so no! (laughs). Like everyone else, I was affected by the whole period with Covid. Looking back now on all the measures we had to take to install some kind of normality, they seem absurd – even though they were of course necessary at the time. Spacing the tables exactly two metres apart, indicating which way to circulate, setting up time slots for people to be able to come and eat at eat it…
The very concept of a market is to be able to touch things, to rummage around, to talk with the sellers. So, organising a market in those Covid conditions could seem counterintuitive in hindsight, but we were glad we went to extra lengths, in terms of staff, time, and logistics, because everyone was so keen on the events to go ahead. At the first edition of Geek Foire in May 2021, we could only accommodate 200 visitors at the time and people were queuing up outside all the way to the pavement.
During the 23/24 season, we will continue with markets that have proven their worth…
We will indeed. Geek Foire will for example be back. The Bourse aux plantes, organised by CELL, has been held 3 – 4 times already but is now officially part of our programme. The event has always been very well received, and we wanted to promote it better.
We’ve renewed our markets quite a lot since 2017. Only We Ride, eat it! and the Foire aux disques existed at the time of CarréRotondes. We have also tried other things since then but not all concepts are meant to be repeated. At any time, we can also decide to stop putting on a long-running market and replace it by something else, without regret. I can easily imagine smaller or more niche formats. We will always find new themes and set-ups to explore – that’s what we are here for!