A return to normal. That’s what we’re all seeking right? A return to the way things were? Or at least as close to the way the world was pre-pandemic? Perhaps. Although, when I think back to the time just before the pandemic, things weren’t so great. Australia was on fire with one of the worst bushfire seasons in history. The world was also dealing with global political turmoil. Things were way out of whack. So perhaps, if there was any sort of silver lining in the year of the pandemic, it was that it reset a few things in our heads and hearts. What if we see the pandemic and all the crap that came along with it as a form of hard-reset? A painful one. But, a time to consider fresh starts, new opportunities and focus on what’s most important – family.

With that in mind, I was delighted to hear that Melbourne’s amazing Queen Victoria Market was running a four-week night market. An event aimed at providing a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere for families, friends and colleagues to meet, stroll, try amazing food and be entertained. And, while I will go into more detail about the event, let me just say up-front that I thought the first Queen Victoria Night Market – post-pandemic – was a huge success.

To refresh your memories, the Queen Victoria Market has been running regular seasons of night markets for quite a few years now. I went to my first one back in 2014 and was instantly drawn to the vibe and atmosphere of the event. I have been a regular visitor to the night markets ever since and have attended as often as I can to both enjoy the event and take lots of photos. I have written about these events a number of times here on my site. You can check out two of the 2019 (pre-pandemic) night markets here and here.

Last night was the first night market of a shorter four-week season – I guess they were cautious about investing too deeply in a longer season given the world we now live in. Australia has dealt exceptionally well with the pandemic after a bit of a rocky start. Victoria has been especially strict in managing how we face this virus and the impacts on society. State-wide shutdowns, lockdown and even curfews have been enforced over the past year – some with as little notice as a day or two. Regardless of that, I am so pleased that the Queen Victoria Market has gone ahead with this night market. It really gives a sense of hope for the return to normal and future events of this nature.

I met up with around seven of my friends from the Fuji X Aus photography group just as the event officially opened at 5pm. With cameras in hand, we walked the large open sheds of the market that, during the day, is filled with vendors. However, for the night market, they clear the space and allow food trucks and stalls to set up. In past years, the night markets have been a huge event – especially the Summer Night Market. Those events see several market sheds open with dozens of food vendors and those selling other items.

This time however it was a little more paired-back with far less food vendors that were greatly spaced out – social distancing in mind. String Bean Alley, an alley with permanent stalls set up along each side, was open for business with traders selling everything from antique cameras to socks and books. Strung above head was a long looping thread of light bulbs that cast a soft glow on the dark alleyway.

While there were less food vendors than usual, they selection of dishes was amazing. While most of my friends and I chose lobster rolls, there was everything on offer from Greek spit meat to Indian curries and Paella. There was also an ice-cream cart selling amazingly fresh Gelato. There were a couple of pop-up bars placed around the sheds including a permanent one by Brick Lane Brewing in String Bean Alley. However, instead of a traditional bar, you had to order and pay for drinks with a QR code and then collect them when you received a message on your phone. The dining and drinking area was fenced off to ensure that numbers could be controlled and that QR code check-ins took place.

As for entertainment, the Queen Victoria Night Market didn’t disappoint. Within the dining area, there was a solo singe/guitar player on stage – he was really good too. There was a girl doing a hula-hoop performance, a guy doing light shows on stilts and of course the Silent Disco. The Silent Disco team have been a regular feature of the night markets and often you’ll see them doing private events around Melbourne. The Silent Disco guys were dressed in space-themed costumes and they play music directly to anyone wearing one of their wireless headphones. They dance around the market and put on a good show for anyone taking part.

Overall, the event wasn’t too packed – as other markets have been in the past – and there was a nice calm and relaxed atmosphere. Everyone was well behaved and there were lots of kids and families enjoying the night. If you’ve read my past blogs you will know that I love Melbourne’s markets and am a huge advocate for them. The Queen Victoria Night Market Spaced Out was a success – pure and simple. It was a sign that our world – at least here in Melbourne – is returning to a new normal in a post-pandemic world. What’s more, the Queen Victoria Market had obviously put a lot of thought into ensuring that everyone maintained social distancing.

The Queen Victoria Night Market Spaced Out runs for three more weeks. It’s on Wednesday nights from 5pm and is easily accessible from the CBD or via public transport. The market car park is huge and is only $10 for the night markets. I highly recommend you make the effort to drop by after work one night or bring the family in. And stay tuned for future Night Market events at QV. All images were shot on the Fujifilm X-E4 with the Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 WR. Happy shooting. Stay safe. G