At the risk of sounding London-centric, the changing face of London markets is providing an astonishing example of how good markets successfully adapt to their constraints and circumstances.
Recently, I have been hearing success stories emanating from the East End Chatsworth Road Market in Hackney, London E5 (It used to be Clapton in my day). A traditional street market, the linear High Street includes rows of lock up shops fronted by market stalls, catering for the newly mixed demographic of different ages and ethnicities.
I speak somewhat informatively as from the age of eight, I had to work on my father’s Chatsworth Road stalls every Saturday and during school holidays in what was at the time a largely poor neighbourhood where the most exotic products to be found were Fry’sTurkish Delight bars, more accurately described as FTD – misshapes.
Chatsworth Road was of fundamental importance to the local community, selling everything from live eels to white goods
The market and fronting shops were always exceptionally busy as locals performed their daily shop and I can’t remember there being any form of supermarket back in the late 60’s and early 70’s within walking or bus journey distance. Chatsworth Road was of fundamental importance to the local community, selling everything from live eels to white goods.
If I am honest, I feel more nostalgic now with fond memories of how life used to be and have forgotten the freezing cold winter days: flashing out at six in the morning and sweeping up at six at night, but life was straight-forward and honest and my parents earned a decent living from the market.
It appeared as though the retail core had been sucked clean out of Hackney
During the 80’s I worked as a civil engineer in London and would occasionally take a nostalgic drive to Chatsworth Road and was shocked by the desertification of the area. It appeared as though the retail core had been sucked clean out of Hackney by the supermarkets: shops were boarded up and to all intents and purposes, the market had disappeared. However, the sun now shines once more over Chatsworth Road as it has learned to provide the good folk of E5 with what they want and cannot find in the big five – multi-ethnic variety, professional service, tremendous food, cafe culture and above all, unadulterated honesty, a theme which transcends the generations.
Chatsworth Road is just one example of successful and organically developed market regeneration
Chatsworth Road is just one example of successful and organically developed market regeneration in London, of which there are many more. The notion of delivering what people want will filter through other British towns and cities, further underpinning the great British Market renaissance.
With thanks to I Love Markets for kind permission to use their images in this article.