Justine Gaudry founded Newie’s iconic Olive Tree Markets with two friends back in 2008, before local markets were a ‘thing’, and now runs the show single-handedly as a full-time (albeit basically non-profit!) career.

In a world of chain stores, fast fashion and cheap knock-off products, shopping local is the best way to support the local economy, the planet, and a growing creative community such as the one I’m proud to be part of in Newcastle. The Olive Tree Markets, established in 2008, is one of the original driving forces behind that growing community.

Coming from a background in film, and working all around the world shining light on remote communities, Justine has always been passionate about supporting local and sharing stories with a social focus.

“I grew up with my mother and uncles at Paddington Markets in the 1970s, my sister at Glebe Markets in the 1990s, and some of my most significant moments travelling have been at markets in London, Istanbul, Cairo and Marrakesh. All hypnotic places full of colour, art, people, smells, vibrancy. Places of intrigue, trade, hustle and bustle, opportunity. And people, always people.”

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The idea for the markets was born from a frustration at the lack of arts support in Newcastle at the time, and Justine was on a personal journey of total life-changing career moves. She was in a serious car accident while working in a remote Aboriginal community in central Australia, which turned her life and career upside down. After ten years working in Sydney, and adventuring around the world making documentary films with a social focus, like at protests in Jabiluka and East Timor, she moved back to Newcastle.

I still remember attending the very first Olive Tree Markets, way back in 2008. As a creative, I’d been craving something to inspire me and was saddened by the lack of community events and artist support in Newcastle. On the day, I walked around with my mouth agape, completely blown away by the fun, eclectic and community vibe of the market. It’s been my favourite weekend activity ever since.

Xmas is just around the corner (deep breaths) so come along to the Olive Tree Markets at Civic Park to find the perfect handmade, sustainable, and unique gifts by local artisans and creatives – 16 December 2017, 9am-3pm.


When did you first have the idea for The Olive Tree Markets?

I had a chance meeting with two strangers - Bec and Ally - in May 2008 and the market grew out of our need for something new, our passion for community, and love of creativity. We formed a strong connection straight away; we were all at cross roads in our lives, our kids had all just started school, Bec had just moved to Newcastle from Melbourne, Ally from the bush in Queensland, and I was just starting to emerge from a five-year period that had involved a lot of personal trauma.

We thought there was just so much unrealised potential for a city that had a high number of creatives. Newcastle needed a community-based market as a platform for artists and designers, where people could come together, experience creativity, discover a part of their city, collaborate and support each other.

A lot has changed in the last decade in Newcastle. In 2008 the city was really in a period of stasis. The inner city of Newcastle was suffering, the ‘Renaissance’ of burgeoning cafés, bars and small independent, creative spaces and retail boutiques that the city is becoming known for, hadn’t occurred, Renew Newcastle hadn’t started, and the city was ripe for change.

“I’d like to see the arts community being taken seriously and engaged and supported in a meaningful way. More than anything I think creativity, community and innovation is what is putting Newcastle on the map.”

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Who is the coolest person you know?

I can’t pick one person! Some of them are people I know and others are people who have been influential in my life and died hundreds of years ago.

The mainstay for ‘cool’ in my life has always been my dad. He’s a good man, he has integrity, he’s kind, he’s smart, he’s compassionate and he has always walked the talk of his convictions. He’s a man with heart; he’s a storyteller - the vividness of his recollections are beautiful - and he is deeply interested in people and I love that about him. He’s the rock that binds our extended family together.

I must admit I always have ‘cool’ crushes on the women in my life. There are just so many amazing women, who I admire greatly, and who are doing fantastic things in Newcastle. Today it’s my friend Jess England who is the force behind hte contemporary art space The Lock-up, artist Sally Bourke because she’s a kick-ass artist extraordinaire who holds no prisoners, and my friend Gwena who is one of the most creative, engaging, kind, and generous people I have ever met.

Check out www.theolivetreemarket.com.au and follow them on Instagram @olivetreemarket.

Tell me about the first market…

Our first market was four months after meeting. Those initial months were an exciting blur, where we really got to know each other, formed a strong bond as friends and as collaborators and discovered that we had a real commitment and excitement about what we were embarking upon. Basically, we contacted everyone we knew, the small number of local arts organisations at the time, students, and it grew via word of mouth.

We met with all the local artisans, viewed and talked about their work... so it was very personal and we felt connected to each of the people we invited to attend the market.

It was hard to convince some people about what we were trying to do initially. There was somewhat of a resistance to seeing markets as a viable platform that would feature design and art in a context that wouldn’t negatively impact on artists’ professional reputation. This has really changed now, which is fantastic. 

How quickly did the market grow?

We had around 60 stallholders, but it grew quickly and organically, so now we have around 145 high-quality stalls each event. Newcastle really has supported us, which has been amazing.

In 2014, I had to find a new location for the market, which was a big challenge in a short amount of time, but presented lots of exciting opportunity and has really lifted the market to a new level. We are now in the city’s cultural precinct, and the space of Civic Park allowed the market to grow, for us to positively change the event styling, we increased the numbers of makers and street food stalls, and really developed the live music component of the market.

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I’ve also really worked to produce free artist workshops for the community - next year we will have a number with local indigenous artists, which I’m excited about. Stay tuned! And we have had orchestras, performers and contemporary dance, which has all happened in the last three years. Developing a partnership with Maitland Regional Art Gallery in 2014 was also a big growth for the market.

It’s a full-time job, and more, managing the full magnitude of business. I’ve learned a huge amount running the market, so some aspects have become much easier, but it’s a much bigger endeavour these days. The market landscape has also changed in the last few years, so it’s always a case of learning and adapting to keep the market flourishing and relevant and interesting.

What’s the main message behind what you do?

It all starts with community. It’s about the importance of playing a part in supporting and creating what you believe in. And it’s about creativity. Engaging with creative people, providing opportunity for this community, give artisans and musicians and performers the platform to experiment, grow and develop both as creative professionals and as innovative small businesses.

The Olive Tree Markets offers alternatives to imported goods, often made with unsustainable and unethical practices, that flood the global economy. We are an increasingly conscious and educated community who support people in the arts and who are striving to make and create in a way that is mindful of our planet and people.

What does The Olive Tree Markets offer the community?

For artisans, the market provides a forum for artistic expression, the ability to sell their work and make a living, a space to share this journey with other creative people, which leads to collaborations, business partnerships and friendships. A few amazing local businesses actually started out their careers at The Olive Tree Markets, such as High Swan Dive, Dougheads, Honest Paper Co, Monsoon Living, Bao Brothers, Savant Apothecary, Hide & Seeker, Shannon Hartigan Photography.

For emerging musicians, Olive Tree offers a forum to play to potential new audiences, in a cool outdoor venue. We think it’s important to pay what we can so emerging musicians have the ability to earn income as well as gaining exposure for other events.

We try to make Olive Tree an event that is inclusive. We want visitors to really feel a part of our community, to form relationships, be inspired, and to see it’s possible to take the step and try their own enterprise or innovative small business. And of course we just want to create an event for people to enjoy, sit back in park, take time to meet with their friends or family in a beautiful outdoor space, to feel the sun on their face, listen to great music, eat food, try their hand at art or just people-watch. Olive Tree brings people to Newcastle from Sydney, the Hunter Valley and even further!

What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?

It’s a privilege to watch and play a part in the artists’ journeys, both creatively and personally, and help sustain people’s creative careers. I love watching the market happen every month… coming to the park in the dark, early morning and then seeing it appear like a mirage, knowing that it brings people happiness and is a strong part of the cultural fabric of Newcastle.

Tell me about your dream for an ideal society/country/planet…

I strongly believe that we have to start caring more about each other and the planet we live on. Having a social conscience, standing up for equality, slowing down and feeling the earth under our feet. There are amazing people doing admirable things, but I think we collectively need to take more responsibly and enact change on a daily basis in our lives. It’s inspiring to see young people doing great things and that gives me a lot of hope. Newcastle has a lot cool young people.

When you’re not working on The Olive Tree Markets, what does life look like?

At this time of year, it’s hectic, so it’s really just hanging on for the ride and getting through the next month and a crazy number of markets! My partner and I have a beautiful daughter who is 15, so just enjoying life with her is important. Despite loving culture, events, art and people I’ve always needed a lot of quiet time. I’m a massive reader, our house is groaning under books which drives my partner and daughter crazy! I’m a film obsessive so my favourite place is a dark cinema - preferably Tower Cinemas’ cavernous 1970s faded glory - watching art house films! I meditate to keep sane and the ocean baths and the end of the break wall are calming places for my soul.

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When she’s not interviewing cool people about cool shit, Amy is doing other writing stuff. Words are her jam.

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