In Haunt

A bustling basement space, a range of stalls and an immersive afternoon celebrating alternative culture - these were three key features of a recent NQ Alternative event at The Shack, Manchester. A relatively new organisation in Manchester, NQ Alternative is a personally-powered initiative bringing together those who work within or have an interest in alternative culture – putting on bi-monthly events, often in the form of fairs and markets. The most recent example was the Goth & Punk Rock Dark Flea Market Christmas Special on Sunday 1 December.

Not only did this passionately organised event celebrate a variety of independent traders with their stalls, but also provided a platform for members of the public to bring-and-buy their unwanted punk and goth clothing. Second-hand shopping perhaps matters more than ever: a positive ethical choice in the fight against waste and throwaway culture.

NQ AlternativeIn turn, this distinct and friendly DIY vibe certainly makes NQ Alternative stand out, upholding affordability in a refreshing way – certainly a change from the oft-overpriced fashion and retail outlets in the run-up to Christmas.

The afternoon also showcased a wide variety of creativity: everything from quirky clothing sellers to graphic artists and jewellery-makers. Since NQ Alternative  began earlier this year, their event format has welcomed a range of sellers as well as members of the public to share their stock: with examples from the ever-changing roster of traders including PunX Jewellery, Zebraspider DIY Anti-Fashion, Bad Hair Dayz, Allyn And Ivy, Potty Pigeon and Freshly Faked.

The location seemed especially atmospheric – The Shack’s subterranean basement space below Manchester’s High Street giving added appeal to the occasion. Dramatic brick walls, quirky coloured lighting and tall ceilings served as a backdrop to a number of stalls, set out market-style. Not only was this event an opportunity for members of the public to browse and pick from many unique potential Christmas presents, but raising funds for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation too – a charity (featured in  previous Haunt interview article here) that NQ Alternative has continued to support.

According to NQ Alternative founder Kat:

"The mission was to create a Camden-style alternative flea/bring-and-buy market experience in Manchester that is unlike any other, inspired by the early days when punks used to sell DIY/band t-shirts in the basements of venues as a reaction against consumerism and mainstream fashion, with that little bit extra. DIY ethics are really important and at the heart of this project. I always believe in supporting artists of all kinds and that buying second-hand/hand-made clothing is very important for a variety of ethical reasons.

"We're incredibly fortunate to live in a bustling lovable city with a thriving music scene and that is full of talented creative folk who embrace the same passion for the alternative subculture, with a life-long love of alternative music, arts, and tattoos. Manchester is one of the best cities to grow up in, so I wanted to the market to hail back to the way the Northern Quarter used to be as a centre of alternative and bohemian culture and before the gentrification.

"My aim with NQ Alternative is to bring the alternative community closer together and create that perfect Sunday day out to soothe that hangover with some great food (or 'hair of the dog'!), meet new people and chill out with a bunch of friendly alternative folk, listen to a fantastic playlist/DJ sets from our sister alternative club nights Delete Yourself and Parallels, pick up some rare items and great bargains from our second hand rail sellers and check out local alternative artists/craft makers. No event will be exactly the same as the last, with different traders each time and we're forever expanding, what better time to bring something like this back up North."

Here are just some examples of the unique traders who featured at the December edition. Links to their pages are available in each title... 

Cabinet of Curious Creations

Cabinet of Curious Creations

A stall featuring the art and creativity of local artist Hayley Shaw. The range of eye-catching creations include hand-crafted jewellery, charms and trinkets; as well as Hayley’s signature sketches and prints that have seen her work feature at many high-profile events; including previous NQ Alternative fairs and Grimmfest. Hayley’s illustrative work often involves dark depictions of figures from popular culture, such as The Joker and Frankenstein's Monster. With an extensive portfolio of creative work, including superbly sinister handmade dolls, Cabinet of Curious Creations is a must-visit – and also online here.

Carlie Martece - Artist & Writer

Carlie Martece

Eclectic artwork surrounded the stall of Carlie Martece – a fascinating artist and writer, with delightfully dark designs incorporating animals, characters and plenty of surrealism. It was this skilled artistry that was displayed across a range of prints, cards and badges. They even continued to work on a brilliant design (incorporating pumpkins and Pi!) during the event itself. Carlie also is the author of Deragon Hex: The Vipdile Key and Toxic Nursery.

Bettie Belle Design

Bettie Belle Design

A characterful and vibrant array of art prints, pocket mirrors, zines and badges – thanks to the creativity of Abigail Beach, a Graphic Illustrator and Creative Artworker. Also online, Abigail’s work celebrates hand-on artistry and technical skill, such as through bold linocut prints and her use of zine formats. Ideal for unique and expressive gifting.

Itty Bitty Concrete Committee

Itty Bitty Concrete Committee

Say it with cement! That’s the message of the innovative Itty Bitty Concrete Committee – seeking to celebrate the rather under-loved material that is concrete! The home of cute concrete lettering and artistry. Whether you want to spell your name (or the name of a special someone) in these little blocks of character, or personalise a room – there is plenty of potential! Requests and ideas are also welcomed.

Badrock Design

Badrock Design

Distinct and original jewellery from Manchester and London based designer Cathy Jordan. This is jewellery with character – with many bold and eye-catching pieces – often inspired by Cathy’s own interests in music, pop art, fairground culture and ‘80s design. Considering that Cathy has previously designed accessories for the likes of Vivienne Westwood, Jasper Conran and Mary Quant (to name just a few), to take home one of her pieces is a real treat. From colourful chilli necklaces to artist palette earrings – there is an exciting and innovative selection. Whilst working in the North, Cathy has had a retrospective exhibition of her work at Gallery Oldham in 2013, has been trading her designs in various locations and also has had designs on sale at Stockport museum: part of the iconic Strawberry Studios exhibition.  

Hoop Doggy Dog

Hoop Doggy Dog

Hand embroidered hoop art and resin jewellery, created by Laura Grave and Chris Hogben. These hand-stitched designs make a great gift, whether you are looking for an image of a favourite cartoon character (there are many!), a hoop with a meaningful message or even a brilliant bespoke option! Custom-made hoop art can be arranged to suit your occasion... and it is sure to be packed with character. The designs available – including their innovative jewellery selection incorporating everything from Lego to resin brooches – allow for plenty of choice.

Wilfs Workshop

Wilfs Workshop

Upcycled home décor, often incorporating characterful wood designs, is the speciality of Wilfs Workshop. As well as creating distinctive new units from former pieces of furniture– adding paint, patterns and plenty more – they also create unique drawer handles; hand painting them, ideal for transforming any cupboard or interior. A gift idea with something for everyone.

Cthulhu Cat Cult

Cthulu Cat Cult

Handmade creations that are creepy and cute in equal measure! Cthulhu Cat Cult put out work popping with personality; from Lost Boys prints and character-led designs to great gift cards and even themed vintage storage boxes. Their distinct aesthetic approach also incorporates a rage of retro items including patched-up jackets, canvases and bags. Be sure to browse for an exciting taste of something different.

Absolutely anyone can get involved in NQ Alternative events, to trade or find out more, message the Facebook page or alternatively email at

By Emily Oldfield 




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