Producing the Goods 2
Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Market
For at least a century, Tenbury Wells, on the Worcestershire / Shropshire border, has held a mistletoe market. The semi-parasitic plant is, of course, an essential attribute at Christmas. Mistletoe seems to prefer to grow on apple trees (though also loves limes and poplars) and the survival of so many orchards in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire in particular, make Tenbury Wells a well-placed centre for its seasonal trade. It has even been called the town in the orchard.
In 2004 the livestock market, where the mistletoe and holly had always been brought for sale (by auction by the pound), was closed and sold for redevelopment. Consequently a group of local people set up TEME - the Tenbury English Mistletoe Enterprise to help renew and revive Tenbury’s traditional status as a mistletoe-trading town.
TEME's motivations are rooted in:
keeping mistletoe trading viable in Tenbury town centre.
encouraging land holders, especially people with orchards, to harvest mistletoe for sale and thereby revive orchard management.
to keep mistletoe as an element of farm income (a pound of mistletoe may fetch £1.50).
to celebrate our cultural relationship with the plant, in its habitat stronghold.
to establish a nationally recognised Mistletoe Festival for the town, centred on a new National Mistletoe Day, on the 1st December, each year.
After modest beginnings in 2004 the new Mistletoe Festival and Mistletoe Day initiative were developed considerably in 2005. The 2005 Mistletoe Festival was a week-long series of mistletoe events, including a Mistletoe Ball, Mistletoe Art Exhibitions, Sports events and talks. On Mistletoe Day itself the Mistletoe Queen was crowned, and visited by television celebrities. The Druidic Mistletoe Foundation also visited, and blessed the mistletoe on sale. Public support and media interest was huge, with much coverage in the national press and television.
Alongside the Festival the wholesale Mistletoe Auction continued in 2005, under new management, but with an uncertain future as the livestock market is still due to be redeveloped. The TEME initiative focussed political and media attention on the issue, attracting sponsorship from many local businesses as well as the District Council. And with the market’s future still unclear TEME experimented successfully with online marketing of Tenbury mistletoe – for wholesale and retail.
For 2006 there is a determination to keep the auction and wider trade going – though a town centre location is still sought. But now, instead of the despair over the mistletoe market there is a clear expectation within the town that it’s status as Britain’s 'Mistletoe Capital' is assured.
Jonathan Briggs, Tenbury English Mistletoe Enterprise
e-mail: jonathanbriggs [at] mistletoe.org.uk