Let me tell you the story of the Observatory Holistic Lifestyle Fair as if we were sitting around a fire on a dark and stormy night. It began in 1997 along the banks of the Liesbeeck River at a time when the only markets to be found in Cape Town were the large craft markets of the V&A Waterfront and Kirstenbosch. The founder, Erica Kleine, dreamed of creating a South African version of an English village fair, the kind populated by jesters, gypsies and carnivalesque goodies.
What resulted was a market fair which proudly nourishes a sense of wholesome, frolicking, lighthearted entrepreneurship. And its success is reflected in the well-known names that gained their first foothold here. Before Kauai became an icon of healthy organic food, for example, it consisted of two brothers with a box of gourmet sandwiches and a single smoothie-maker touting their wares at the Obs Holistic Fair.
Kleine believes much of the market’s strength lies in the balance between its healthy, lasting relationships with its regular stall-holders and its readiness to provide a platform for budding young vendors. And by young I mean young. If your sweet tooth is craving your Ouma’s homemade treats then stop at Matt’s Homemade Sweets; Matt is just 14 years old but has a thriving line in everything from honeycomb to fudge and rock candy. A whole decade older than Matt, but still pretty youthful for a style-icon-in-the-making, Zaid Philander offers a range of chic satchels made from restored fabrics and recycled seatbelts under the label I-Scream & Red.
And it’s not all about the stalls. If you are the kind that needs some intellectual stimulation, the market also offers free screenings of socially-conscious films and a variety of different talks. These happen between mealtimes so you never have to miss a pot of hot boeber or a sizzling lamb schwarma (which are highly recommended and remarkably well priced). There’s activities and a fenced play area for the kids and a live band belting out all manner of groovy, soulful tunes. The restrooms are spic and span – no squabbles with dirty floors or angry toilet seats here. And there’s no worry of pickpockets either thanks to Erica’s security team of streetwise ex-cons and reformed gang members.
The only issue is parking space. The best advice for visitors is to try and squeeze into one car to make life easier.
But if you really care to know what makes this fair special, look no further than the visitors. They represent the epitome of what Obs is all about; free spirits, friendly faces and genuine kind-heartedness. The market is in many ways the final stronghold of all the values that have made Observatory the trendy place it is today.
When you feel the need to escape the heaviness of everyday living and let a touch of wholesomeness seep in, make your way down to the Obs Holistic Lifestyle Fair on the first Sunday of every month.
The Obs Holistic Fair is held on the first Sunday of every month 10am – 4pm whatever the weather. It can be found at the Obs Recreation Centre (off Drake, Collingwood, Station & Lower Main Rds) in Observatory Village.