Market People

Greenwich Market as a concept has an uncertain future. The village market that used to sell the kind of tat intriguing vintage items tourists, foreign and local, flocked to Greenwich to see has already gone (though I was relieved to be able to buy a set of old door handles the other week from one of the stall holders who have moved to the Clocktower site) and the covered market, although to be nominally kept in the redevelopment mooted to start next year will move to the grounds of the ORNC for an indeterminate time before returning to a sanitised reincarnation of its former self.

We may keep something that is called ‘a market’ – but the grubby, slightly anarchic, bohemian quality that has grown to represent Greenwich’s various markets, not without its dangers, but something I love and which still just about clings to areas like the Clocktower has never felt more in danger of being subsumed into sterile conformity.

Part of the joy of markets is the slightly hap-hazard, quirky individualism that has grown organically. You can’t ‘create’ one. The clean, sparkling – and terminally tedious – Apple Market in Covent Garden is testament to that. It has to develop, slowly.

There are two parts to the formula needed to propagate such a tender plant. Punters – which we still have, though I understand in fewer numbers than in previous Februarys – and the stall holders themselves.

Market stallholders are a curious breed. We have our stereotypical images of them, good and bad, but there’s one thing you can’t level at them – they are rarely dull. Many have extraordinary previous lives and they usually have a story to tell.

Old Phantom mucker Paul – author, journalist and passionate Greenwich market preservation fighter – has just started a new blog about the stallholders of London markets and I’ve been having a look.

As you might expect from a journalist, it’s closer to a print publication in style – less ‘chatty’ than most of the blogs I read, each post being a Q&A with a stallholder (some of which are in Greenwich, of course, which is my excuse for including it today). I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it transfer to the glossy mag of a Sunday newspaper at some point.

The questions follow a pattern, though are not a complete formula and it makes a fascinating read even if – or perhaps because of – once or twice a thing said by someone guarantees I will never shop with them, though other interviewees make me positively want to visit their stall. I particularly like the butterfly guy…

But that’s where the interest lies. This intriguing group of diverse individuals present themselves warts and all – and I have just added it to my reading list.

One Comment to “Market People”

  1. Dazza says:

    As I am asked several times a day where the ‘Old Market’ is I can say that Greenwich is SO missing the point. The whole reason that we’re so popular with Market goers is exactly the type of market we have lost in recent years.
    I love the selection/quirkiness in Greenwich, but I also hear stories from stall holders that they are being squeezed from both ends. Numbers are dropping and costs are soaring. Let’s celebrate all that makes Greenwich unique and help our Markets thrive.