Markets in London and campaigns to save them. What can we learn from them?
A couple of Friends of Leeds Kirkgate Market visited three Markets in London in July and spoke to members of two campaigns that have been key in fighting against the demolition on their Markets. What did we learn?
Brixton Market: already gentrified?
Brixton Market is an ensemble of shops, outdoor market and shopping arcades. The arcades have been recently talked about almost as a model for the redevelopment of other Markets but there has been criticism that traders and customers have been priced out and that it has been gentrified. Gentrification is affecting the whole area of Brixton not just the Markets. We certainly found evidence of very upmarket shops and restaurants in the Arcades but also more modest shops catering for the long standing Caribbean community. The main theme for the upmarket shops is food and most of them seemed to be restaurants and cafes. The older shops were more conventional fishmongers, and groceries but seemed to be much few. We could not find out much about what was going on here as the Market was closing but it would be worth understanding how are the more “traditional” shops coping with the rest of the gentrified area. News articles have already pointed out that many stallholders have been displaced by higher rents since the area has become fashionable.
A campaign existed in Brixton Market but it has now fizzled out. The campaign was successful in saving these shopping Arcades from demolition by getting them listed. What was interesting is that they were not listed on their architectural merit but on their cultural heritage as important part of the London Afro-Caribbean community that settled in Brixton after WW2. The listing itself has been part of making the Market more attractive to developers and has attracted more upmarket tenants. The campaign reflected on this issue on this website.
The arcades are now run as a community interested company.
So there are few similarities in the way Brixton Market has transformed and what Leeds City Council would like to see happening in Kirkgate Market: more emphasis on food, arts and heritage. All this can potentially attract wealthier customers and tenants but as we have seen the price is to displace and price out the customers and traders and the community that made this place unique.
Seven Sisters Market: still hanging on
Seven Sisters Market is a small market in Tottenham with around 40 stalls run mainly by Latin-American stall holders with a strong Colombian presence. It is a really homely space selling food, cooked meals, with hairdressers, travel agencies, clothes and accessories shops. It has been under threat of demolition since 2008 when Haringey City Council granted planning permission to the private developer Grainger PLC to demolish it along with other buildings in the so called Wards Corner near Seven Sisters underground station.
A campaign has been going on since 2007 with traders and residents to save the Market and the block in which the Market is. It is owned by Transport for London but managed privately. The private developer, Grainger, after various versions presented a plan which incorporated a Market but current traders and campaigners argue that they would be priced out by much higher rents and that the character of the market would be lost. The Market campaign called Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCCC) has been successful in delaying the demolition of the Market after they highlighted in a judicial review in 2009-2010 that Haringey Council had not addressed issues of Race Equality and Equality of Opportunities in granting planning application for the Grainger development. The demolition of the Seven Sisters Market would negatively affect ethnic minority groups. However plans came back again and the campaign now is now raising funds for a second legal challenge. The Wards Corner Community Coalition has been very focused on challenging the ongoing planning process but has also invested time in coming up with alternative plans for the Wards Corner area. Recently they have teamed up with other community and campaign groups in the area to fight against regeneration plans for Tottenham. This new initiative is called “Our Tottenham”.
Queens Market: The human coral.
Queens Market (below) is a crucial resource in one of the most deprived boroughs of London (Newham). It is historic Market but the currently the buildings are modern, very similar to the 1976 and 1981 Market Halls in Leeds. Stallholders and customers are mainly from ethnic minorities. In 2006 A report by the think tank New Economics Foundation titled “the world in a plate: Queens Market” highlighted the beneficial economic impact of this Market in the local community. The Market has been under threat since 2003 when long terms traders and customers learnt from a newspaper advert that their Market was up for sale. The council later revealed plans with a private developer who planned to demolish and rebuild a Market adding high residential towers and an ASDA supermarket. This development was stopped and no doubt the 12,000 signatures collected by the campaign group Friends of Queens Market was crucial in this. This campaign directly opposed the ASDA development and used a judicial review to highlight problems in the planning process. A very important part of their campaign has always been to highlight the essential role that this Market has in the lives in residents in Newham . The Market has a wealth and diversity of affordable produce and that would be lost in a corporate development. A bit like the 1976 and 1981 Halls in Kirkgate Market, Queens Market is not set in the most attractive buildings but that is not a deterrent for very important and beautiful relationships that form in and around the market? to be developed. Residents shop there because of the affordability, diversity and human relations. The Market was again earmarked for redevelopment in 2011 by Newham council but the intervention by Friends of Queens Market at the discussion of the Council’s Core Strategy made sure that the Market would remain there. Recently an art exhibition by one of the Friends of Queens Market called “The Human Coral” reflected the importance of this Market as well as the role of activists in struggling to save it. The artist Saif Osmani (who spoke at our launch in 2010) said: “Markets are the last social spaces in the capital and resist the generic pattern of centralised shopping areas. I’m always questioning the neo-liberalisation of public space and I see the immense scale of change in East London, meaning fewer places for people to freely congregate in” http://www.richmix.org.uk/whats-on/event/saif-osmani-human-coral/