RIP Greenwich Farmers Market
So, there I was, eco bags in spectral paw, standing puzzled outside some very locked gates this morning. No signs, no notice, no discreet email – if not to me to someone, would have been useful.
I guess it was inevitable, really. A market needs two things and they need each other. One, enough stalls and produce to tempt hordes of people to visit, and two, enough people to tempt hordes of stalls to decamp there in the first place.
Greenwich farmers market at its very outset didn’t really have enough stalls to make it work, and many of them were ‘specialist’ – I mean a Phantom only has use for so many logs impregnated with fungal spores, and probably won’t need more than one cupcake stall per trip.
People did turn up that first morning, but the size of that day’s market probably meant punters decided then and there they’d only prefer this one to Blackheath if they actually lived in East Greenwich or West Charlton – it just wasn’t exciting enough to bring visitors from further afield. From then on, it seemed to go on a downward spiral and though much of the produce was good (I’ll mourn the Kentish cheddar, personally) there just wasn’t enough choice to make people travel any kind of distance to visit specially, and unlike Blackheath, which is surrounded by the village and shops, you had to make a special trip to Halstow School, with only the cafe in the park as a companion-destination.
And of course the stallholders travel miles too (which has always bothered me – surely the idea of local produce is that your tomatoes come from down the road, not the Isle of Wight…) One of the meat guys travelled god-knows-how-many food miles from Up North to be there – and to not sell enough sausages/joints/pies to cover his petrol can’t have endeared him to the project, much as his bacon sandwiches will be missed.
I’ve heard that stall hire on farmers markets in general is too much for other, smaller traders to take an initial punt and perhaps this also contributed to this one’s demise. Perhaps Saturdays are already popular with other, more established markets and stallholders already had pitches elsewhere. Perhaps once a week was too often. Perhaps it was too far East and should have been somewhere just off Traf Road – Meridian School, for example. Or there is that other ‘perhaps’ – perhaps East Greenwich just plain isn’t posh enough to support non-supermarket shopping.
I once asked the cheese lady how it was going and inadvertently launched a tirade of fury which seemed to be aimed at me personally for not forcibly dragging my neighbours along every week. And she might have a point.
They built it. We didn’t come.