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The market starts at the wee hour of 6:30 am, with dedicated early bird treasure hunters known as ‘The Torch Brigade’ arriving even earlier. Equipped with headlights and torches, the most dedicated will scour stalls before stallholders have finished unpacking.
Pay a visit to the Camberwell Market and you may just rub shoulders with television and film costume designers who have been known to scour the racks in search of period costumes. Boasting an impressive and ever-changing collection of vintage clothes, the market is often the first stop for designers seeking an authentic look.
Occasionally, one person’s trash really can become another person’s treasure, and at the Camberwell Market, you might just get more than what you bargained and haggled for. In the early 1990s, a painting was bought for $25 and resold for $12,000. Years later, a canoe ornament from the Solomon Islands was purchased for several hundred dollars, only to be sold in New York for several thousand. In 2002, one lucky buyer bought five dolls, only to find out later that they were rare fertility dolls from Papua New Guinea, and within a few days, they were sold to a French art dealer, and soon after to another European dealer.
The Rotary Club supports buskers so much that after the death of local saxophone player Neil Whitford in 2006, they immortalised him and his little grey poodle, Benjamin, with a bronze plaque. Rain, hail or shine, the pair entertained crowds at the Camberwell Market for more than 20 years.
Kylie Minogue’s ‘gay husband,’ long-time friend and stylist William Baker, is said to have picked up the infamous gold hot pants from the Camberwell Market for 50 pence. The hot pants became one of Kylie’s most iconic looks after she wore them in the music video for ‘Spinning Around’ in 2000. Kylie Minogue is originally from Camberwell, so this rumour could very well be true.
In 2001, two regular stallholders, Josephine Healy and Chris Poole, met, fell in love and were married at the market. One sold homemade bowties, the other novelty garden gnomes. The Rotary Club booked the couple a marquee, which they arrived at in a vintage car as a choir sang over the usual Sunday market noise. In August this year, the couple celebrated their 15th anniversary.
Founded in 1976, the Camberwell Market was created by Balwyn Rotary to fund a wide range of community and humanitarian charity groups, and in 40 years, they have raised over $15 million. Among the charitable causes are Boroondara Community Strengthening Grants; local projects including Eastern Emergency Relief and Violence Free Families; Youth Development Grants such as Rotary Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Tertiary Scholarships, Secondary School Public Speaking Competition and National Youth Science Forums; international projects like Timor-Leste programs, New Zealand Earthquake Rebuilding, Nepal Earthquake Relief and Polio Eradication; and medical organisations including Australian Rotary Health, Box Hill Hospital, Cystic Fibrosis and Walter & Eliza Hall Institute.
No matter where you seem to go, parking in Melbourne is seemingly non-existent with time limits and permits around every corner, but at the Camberwell Market, you’ll find free all-day parking only five minutes away on Inglesby Road, opposite the local council offices – as if anyone needed another reason to love the market.