Looking for cassette tapes, woven undies, screen-prints, haircuts, mink stoles and key-chains all in one place? Vendors at The Khyber Night Flea Market sell disparate community-crafted and pre-loved goods spread upon quilts and card tables at what-a-steal prices. Every few months, this nighttime flea market fills three floors of The Khyber Centre for the Arts, an historic public venue in the middle of downtown Halifax. It’s a unique representation of the city’s creative soul.
After discovering a shared interest in low-budget selling, crafter Chloe Anderson and artist Natalie Slater organized the first Khyber Night Flea Market in November 2010, a more cozily shambolic, affordable and thrifty version of the growing Asian-style market trend that also includes Toronto’s slick MIDNIGHT MRKT and Richmond, B.C.’s massive and long-running Night Market.
Mainly inspired by Korea’s Hongdae Free Market (which features the goods of art students from Hongik (Hongdae) University) and the Platoon Night Market in Seoul, Anderson saw a golden opportunity. “Before [visiting] Korea, I had no idea that flea markets could be more than card tables covered in knick-knacks,” says Anderson. “Each flea market is distinct in Korea but what I loved most is that the markets didn’t appear to have a strict method of sale.” Finding the perfect venue came next, and the Khyber — a hub for Halifax’s arts and music communities — was an ideal fit for the bill.
“The Khyber set the stage for the event we wanted: a spot where people can sell a plethora of items and unique experiences,” says Anderson. Slater finds that the multiple floors of the Khyber allow for movement and socializing, and the staffed bar is an added bonus. They charge attendees a two dollar cover, which goes directly to pay for the venue, and vendors are charged roughly $10 for their space, depending on how big it is. With 20 to 30 vendors filling over 100 square feet of floor space, the Khyber Night Flea Market is a warm, inviting party-picnic of treasures.
Compared to events like Toronto’s MIDNIGHT MRKT, where the night market concept is amped up with DJs, high fashion and pricey artisanal goods, the Khyber Night Flea Market is a true Halifax alternative: more affordable than galleries or craft fairs and more intimate and communal than most urban markets. I snagged a cow-hide jewelry box, a hand-made screen-printed Sonic Youth poster, a vegan sundae, and enjoyed a newsprint-manicure, all for $10. It’s a relaxed, exciting, friendly experience.
“I think our focus on it being a ‘flea market’ is what keeps it cheap and fun,” says Slater. With the next market scheduled for April 27, Anderson and Slater have taken the energy, variety, and allure of international market culture and allowed it to flourish within their own community.
“I wanted Korea in Halifax. I wanted to walk past blankets on the floor with goodies that make my eyes want to jump out,” says Anderson. “I wanted it to live and breathe on its own. And it does.”