Since the 1970’s when successive nationalities came to London and set up their own shops and restaurants, firstly catering to others in their communities, secondly giving Londoners a taste of something different on a plate, the quality of good food has really moved up. It really is the case that you can eat around the world without leaving London. Lebanese, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Indian, West Indian, French, Spanish, Portugese, South American to name just a few. The only difficulty is that if you fancy a take out, which one would you choose?
Markets are the lifeblood of a community anywhere in the world. When I travel abroad I try to find a local market as it gives a good impression of the people and how they live.
In London we’re blessed with markets in nearly every area, each one with a slightly different emphasis. I’m blessed as I live near Brixton Market, I grew up near the area, I have memories of my mother taking me to shop in Brixton Market with my brother and it is colourful and vibrant. However, what saddens me is that a good few of these are being gentrified and in so doing, lose what makes them vibrant, colourful and gives me the incentive to visit regularly.
Borough Market is a good example of this. It started out as a wholesale market for food producers in nearby markets gardens, back in the 19th Century every district in London had a market garden growing produce for local people. Borough Market later became a wholesale market for fruit and vegetables. In the last year or so the redevelopment of the market has seen a huge transformation of the sellers there. There are still artisan stallholders in the main part of the market, but the part of the market usually let out to small growers/sellers has become flooded with food vendors charging exortionate prices for their fare. The queues of people at each of these vendors makes it difficult to navigate around to the main market.
Brixton Market is undergoing the same gentrification, Granville Market, one of the undercover markets is being taken up with bistros, restaurants, pizzerias and becoming very chi-chi, lots of yummy mummies with their little darlings and bright young things, there is even a branch of Brindisa which is hugely expensive, especially when there are well established, much cheaper delicatessens only meters away!! In becoming so civilised it’s losing the very thing that gives the market a reason to go there – namely to hunt for a bargain, get something you wouldn’t get anywhere else for a good price.
Dare I say it, this is not so much ethnic cleansing, but cleansing the market of its poor, done by the same borough that closed Clapham market some 20-odd years ago because it was small, tatty and “not in keeping with councillors aspirations” for the area, only to reinstate an overpriced farmers market because the area had become dead.
Personally I’d like to have a mix of places that are cheap enough for ordinary people to go and get a good bargain in a local shop/stall and have enough interesting places for those with a bit of cash to flash to enjoy being in a vibrant area. Sanitisation is not the answer, living together is.