University staff are helping to breathe new life into the former Debenhams store in Southsea

26 August 2020

5 min read

University staff are helping to breathe new life into the former Debenhams store in Southsea, by turning it into an indoor market showcasing local talent and creative work by graduates.

The former department store building in Palmerston Road - now called Handleys Corner - has stood empty since Debenhams closed its doors in January this year.

Starting on the weekend of 12/13 September, the building will be home to the ‘We Create Market’ which will take place on the second weekend of every month between 10.00am - 4.00pm from September until December.

The pop-up market was born after organisers behind the monthly Crafts in the Tower market found they didn’t have enough space in the Square Tower to comply with Covid-19 guidance.

Handleys Corner will now provide a large, safe, indoor, affordable space for local makers, artists, crafts, creators, designers and entrepreneurs to sell their work, with local street food & drink and seating area for customers who want a pitstop. 

The whole thing has been specifically designed to meet government guidance with spacious walkways, roomy stall layouts, one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations on route, masks to be worn and a friendly professional team on board to manage and monitor. 

Working together with city partners

Staff in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) have played a key role in the Portsmouth Creates community interest company (CIC) which has worked with Portsmouth City Council and other partners to establish the We Create Market. Those involved in the initiative include the Faculty’s Business Development and Project Manager Pippa Bostock, Faculty Manager Peta Tattersall and Promotions Manager Denise Callender, with support from colleagues across the Faculty and in Marketing, Advancement and Communications. CCI graduates will also be contributing by showcasing their work at the market.

The list of city collaborators has grown to include:

Creatives wanted

Portsmouth Creates is openly inviting anyone who wants to be involved in any way – taking a stall, having a window display, painting live on site, or demonstrating a craft live in a window display. If they can make it work safely together and within the guidance, they will do it.

Stall prices have been subsidised to start from only £40 + VAT for each weekend. Creatives will be promoted on the market’s new website, which will act as a directory for local creative talent to thrive in these challenging times: 

Inside the empty Debenhams building. Photo credit: Ming Wu