With its foundation built on the love for Winnipeg’s long-standing music scene and DIY subculture, the Winnipeg Punk Rock Flea Market (WPRFM) is a DIY craft fair where the weird, the alternative or the simply curious can purchase goods made by local vendors from across Manitoba. From Oct. 14 to 15, WPRFM will be taking over the second-floor multi-purpose room in UMSU University Centre for its fall market, which will feature live DJs and over 90 vendors.
Em Curry, organizer of WPRFM, grew up in Winnipeg’s punk scene. They started going to concerts at a young age, and had an incredible experience being in an environment where they were accepted for who they were by like-minded individuals.
They said digging deeper into the punk and art scene reveals how full of talent the city and province is.
“I’ve always been so blown away by the arts community in Winnipeg and that we’re kind of on our own here,” Curry said. “We’re in the middle of the Prairies, we’re far away from a lot of stuff and so we’ve created our own culture and our own communities, and I think that’s really incredible and super important to continue to foster.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Curry returned to Winnipeg after living in the United States for several years. As lockdown measures ended and business began to reopen, Curry felt there was a lack of an alternative atmosphere within businesses and markets.
“I went to some markets and things like that and I just wasn’t really finding what I was looking for,” they said. “Where was the weird alternative stuff? Where was the stuff that excited me personally?”
Drawing on their experiences with punk rock flea markets in the United States, Curry decided to take a stab at hosting their own market, and WPRFM was born.
The first WPRFM debuted back in April at the Orioles site of Valour Community Centre, and the turnout was beyond what Curry had anticipated.
“We initially assumed maybe 500 people would show up and that would be a great day — everyone would have celebrated that,” they said. “But it turned out more than double that amount of people showed up.”
Curry said the space was simply not designed to accommodate such a large turnout. To help meet the demand for space at the fall market, UMFM, the U of M’s campus radio station, came to Curry with a proposition.
UMFM station manager Jared McKetiak approached Curry about hosting the fall market at the U of M and sat down with them and their team to help make it happen.
McKetiak said he contacted Curry out of personal interest. He had attempted to attend the market back in April with his daughter, but they were unable to get in because of the length of the line.
This experience led him to consider the possibility of hosting a similar event on campus, something he said had crossed his mind in the past.
McKetiak is no stranger to the strange and unusual, having worked at, managed and frequented record stores for a number of years. One of his jobs was at the Music Baron, a record store downtown with a basement floor called The Cellar.
He described the music the Cellar sold as being “outside the lines,” and said a lot of folks from the punk scene spent time at the store.
“Winnipeg has always had a really, really great DIY scene, very good punk scene, very good art scene, but I think that obviously, with the pandemic, folks were kind of forced into their homes and weren’t allowed to connect,” he said.
McKetiak liked the idea of bringing together those who might not usually be seen going to markets.
“My people are the weirdos and the freaks and the outsiders, and I don’t say that with any sort of disdain,” he said. “That’s the kind of people I love.”
He added that UMFM has “always been kind of a haven for people who also like different things.”
UMFM will be tabling at the market as a way to go back to basics for station promotion. The station’s Instagram and Facebook pages have been blocked by Meta in response to Bill C-18, which requires tech companies to pay Canadian news organizations when using their links. Meta has responded to the bill by blocking all Canadian news content on its platforms.
While it does not exclusively air news content, UMFM is required to produce a certain amount of local news as a community radio station, and so its accounts have also been affected by Meta’s ban.
Originally, WPRFM was going to kick off UMFM’s annual Pledge-O-Rama, a fundraiser it typically puts on every October. However, the station has decided to postpone the drive until April because of its limited ability to promote the effort on social media.
McKetiak said UMFM is planning a newsletter, and will be collecting names and emails for a subscriber list at the market. Those who sign up will have an opportunity to win a variety of different prizes ranging from stickers to tote bags and mugs.
For Curry, the long-term goal of the market is to make it into a “legacy event” that brings community together and supports local vendors two or three times a year.
Curry hopes that being in a bigger venue with the potential for an even bigger crowd is an exciting prospect for the makers and vendors involved in the event.
“Everything I do is to try and help them sell their goods and help them live out their dreams of being an independent artist, or making enough money to be a legitimate side hustle or whatever it is,” they said. “I want to help them do that.”
Winnipeg Punk Rock Flea Market will be held Oct. 14 and 15 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the University Centre second-floor multi-purpose room.