OFTEN besmirched along with Civic Place as an under-used and run-down precinct, Church Street Mall in Parramatta becomes a vibrant, kaleidoscope of activity every Thursday.
For a few hours when office workers and shoppers on their lunch breaks descend on the mall, the atmosphere is lifted.
Characters of all sorts spruik their wares to pedestrians who happily oblige for a taste of market food or a deal from a stall.
Fadia Francis works in the Justice Precinct but said she only ventured into Church Street on Thursdays.
‘‘I enjoy buying my fruit from the markets, it’s fresh and tasty; I look forward to it every Thursday,’’ she said.
‘‘I wouldn’t normally come in (to the mall), this is like a treat. I can buy my lunch [a gozeleme today] and it’s different, it’s nice on Thursdays.’’
Fadia enjoying her lunch in Church Street Mall.
At a stall selling the artfully-named chip-on-a-stick, Bec was trying hard not to indulge.
‘‘I’ve been trying all day not to eat one,’’ she said.
‘‘They’re nice but some people buy them at like 9.30 in the morning, yuk!’’
The stall’s co-owner Matt Hawes was a little more enthusiastic about his product.
‘‘It’s a whole potato, twirled on to a stick, then we batter it in tempura batter and deep-fry it. They’re good,’’ he said.
Shayna Clausem and Mouhana, 1, eating a chip-on-a-stick.
Mr Hawes co-owns Chip-on-a-Stick and the Funkey Monkey jumping castle with Allen Priestley.
Mr Priestley is wheelchair-bound and has the use of only one leg but is one of the most active people buzzing around the mall.
‘‘I’ve been doing this for 34 years, and I’m still doing it even though I only have one leg,’’ he said proudly.
Matt Hawes and Allen Priestley enjoy the market day.
Over on the jumping castle, Levi Tozer, 4, and Alicia Allen, 4, were expending a bit off excess energy.
Alicia’s mum Gail said she brought her daughter to the markets every Thursday to play on the castle and in the playground.
‘‘We shop, we have lunch, she plays,’’ Mrs Allen said.
‘‘The markets aren’t here every day but if it was, well my daughter likes rides so we’d probably come every day.’’
Alicia Alle, 4 and Levi Tozer, 4 on a jumping castle.
Laura Maree and Ash James work in Parramatta and were just having a peruse around the stalls on their lunch break.
‘‘It’s busier here today,’’ Ms Maree said of the market place.
Laura Maree and Ash James checking out what’s on offer.
Mr James said the markets made the mall more vibrant and ‘‘scared away’’ some of the undesirable elements.
‘‘I’ve seen undercover cops tackle people here twice since I’ve worked here,’’ he said.
‘‘I didn’t even know they were undercover cops, I didn’t know what was going on.
‘‘They just tackled this guy and were wrestling around, [the officer] had tattoos all up his leg, then I saw his gun and badge.’’
K. N. Birringh is a former journalist from India who now, in a poignant sign of the pressures facing print media, sells imported clothes from his market stall.
He also has a degree in economics but couldn’t use his qualifications when he migrated to Australia in 1992.
‘‘We have to develop the market, customers like it,’’ he said.
‘‘People like the good the price, good quality.
‘‘[We] have customers, people from offices say ‘if you had markets every day, it would be better’.
‘‘People very happy, there’s multicultural foods.’’
Ragwant Kaur at the clothes stall.
But it isn’t all beer and skittles for the stall operators. Mr Birringh said there were regularly shoplifters and that he and his fellow proprietors had to battle the elements.
‘‘We work hard, sometimes it rains, sometimes wind, cold,’’ he said.
By 3.30pm, most of the stalls have packed-up and the foot traffic has declined. It’s back to the usual in the Church Street Mall.