We know there are a fair share of articles of 'why London isn't cool anymore', but we've delved into the source of what's really happening....
Trading markets have shaped and united the communities around them; and London - East London specifically - is home to many markets that have developed into local hangouts for decades and tradings. Yet, what were once friendly scenes to trade unwanted goods rent-free in front of landowner’s properties, have been transformed into a whole ‘new world.’
Still standing today as sites to exchange low priced household goods for local company and dosh, Kingsland Waste, Ridley Road, Deptford, and Chesire Street/Brick Lane markets are unique. These markets have preserved the rawness of Hackney and the unreplicable friendliness of the traders and locals within them. The markets have also provided homes for creatives in search of knick knacks to use as inspiration.
Homerton Grove 1987 Berris Conolly
The Waste, born in the mid nineteenth century, provides a living for traders and an outlet for locals as rent-free trading offered a less expensive alternative to shops. But this eclectic goldmine has dwindled down to just two stall holders after the council implemented their plan of ‘constructive eviction’ after refusing contract renewal to traders and encouraging them to trade at Ridley Road or Hoxton Street Market. The Waste was home to many locals who grew together on the market’s common ground; and one of the remaining vendors, Harry West, who’s been trading at The Waste for 40 years, has made his living and a set of lifelong friends there.
Kingsland Waste market during much busier days in 1969. Photograph: London Borough of Hackney Archives
After visiting the market just this Saturday, Harry and his cohort were the only sellers. The tables were bleak and lacking the buzz that the market once had. After putzing around and dissecting through the various baskets of trinkets and vintage items, we decided to approach Harry.
“No,” he said as he made a stop gesture with his hand. The question wasn’t even asked yet, and he knew exactly what was going to be said. After declining to answer to Vice and many other articles about the Waste, we figured we’d have to be lucky to get his opinion on things. Luckily though, his long time friend (who preferred to be left anonymous) was willing to answer a few questions and gave us her insight into the market.
After forty years attending the market with her parents and helping them with the dress factory they managed around the corner from the Waste, she witnessed the area grow and progress first hand. She told me how this was her first day working with Harry and how she loves his company very much. She told me that Harry was trying to privatise the market, like Broadway and Hoxton. When asked what she saw for the future of the Waste Market, she simply shrugged her shoulders and said “it’s just upsetting at this point.”
It was hard to see the Waste nearly diminished before our eyes. This large cultural element of East London has a (sadly) foreseeable end in it’s future, yet Harry still stands proudly.
“They have to get rid of me first.” - Harry West told Georgina Jarvis of the Guardian
Though according to a spokesman for the borough, “Kingsland Market is not closing, the council is currently refreshing its markets strategy that will outline its approach to how all Hackney markets will be successfully maintained and managed over the next five years.” Yet, just hearing it called ‘Kingsland Market’ says enough about the future.
When looking to the web for locals reactions, we found Musa Jabbar, a Hackney local. In response to The Hackney Citizen, Musa did not seem best pleased:
“Maybe’ it’ll be taken over by stalls owned by those ‘locals’ that have lived in the area for 5mins i..e the £5-for-a-loaf-of-‘posh’-bread brigade :(”
Another local Joseph Cooke put in his two cents in an interview with the Rosie Spinks of the Guardian:
“This is an idea that’s been going on for aeons of time; this middle class thing like, ‘We’re different to you and you’re a lower class person so you stay on that side of void and eat at that cafe down there, and we’ll sit on this side and eat at this restaurant.’ The only thing I see that’s important to [them] is that they have an image and their image is different to yours...That level of class distinction is too old-fashioned and it needs to be changed...They take themselves too seriously”
And in this transition period, the borough also put out an ad for those “who trade in confectionery, stationery, cooked hot food, arts and crafts, toiletries, china and footwear.” So, we hope Dalstoners are fond of trendy croquettes and spinoff lemonade…
In addition to the Waste, another market we looked into was Brick Lane/Cheshire Street market.
The original Brick Lane/Cheshire Street Market was bustling with excitement every Sunday as visitors would browse shoulder to shoulder. The stalls were in the middle of the street and the shop space behind was used for storage. Similar to The Waste, you could find anything under the sun, from clothing and tools to household goods. The market even used to sell animals in the seventies! (Fancy a pet giraffe anyone?) But as time passed, the market has vanished into few remaining authentic vintage shops, stalls of ethnic foods, and other various curated displays.
Brick Lane market, 1968 John Bennett
We spoke to Danielle at Porcelain and Red, a vintage shop on Cheshire Street. She told us about their recent adoption: The Shop, their neighbouring vintage retailer, who’d been on the street since the 1920s. She discussed how rent prices were driving most of the original marketers/retailers out of the area. The Shop had been the first vintage retailer in the area and the only place to supply vintage linens and fabrics in the UK.
Vintage textiles at Porcelain and Red
The old Brick lane market
In addition to this, Danielle also mentioned the new apartment complex that is to be built next to the football fields at Shoreditch High Street station. “They’ll just completely overshadow Brick Lane and all of its surroundings. It’s just sad and we were only given five days to petition against the build” - a completely unfeasible amount of time to campaign against this. “It’s turning into Notting Hill over here,” she said looking us dead in the eyes.
Danielle and her family have taken it upon themselves to carry on the vintage tradition of trading hand-picked vintage clothes, linens, and fabrics at affordable prices.
“We still care about true quality in our clothes. We still hand pick everything in Italy and France and the rest of the world. That’s something we’ve definitely lost on Brick Lane.”
Brick Lane Market Colin O’Brien
We then spoke to the owner of Levisons, another shop who’s been on Cheshire St for decades. At first he seemed apprehensive to speak of the topic as he gnawed on his Pret sandwich.
The area never used to allow chain stores until recently, so I asked him if he minded the new Pret A Manger on the corner, “I wouldn’t shop there if I did, right?” he noted. But when asked how he felt about the changes he’d seen in the market, he immediately loosened up and whipped out a picture of the scene in the seventies. “These were the real days of the market - the Old World,” he said, pointing out where Levisons was in the picture. He told us of the ‘old world’ and it’s realness:
“It’s not authentic anymore. I know times change, and the gentrification isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but today it’s just not like it used to be.”
Maury Road 1987 Berris Conolly
After speaking with Michele, Danielle, the owner of Levisons - and even by not speaking to Harry West - the downfall of Hackney’s markets and non gentrified communities becomes clear. Throughout all of East London, we see the diminishing markets due to rising rents, rising contract prices, and the disencouragement of traders of household goods. This essential practice of trading was a cultural and relevant aspect of these areas and “the old world”; yet, the new world is quickly gobbling up every last crumb of its predecessor.
Brick Lane 1995 Phil Maxwell
It’s such a shame to see what is essentially a cultural movement, built by years of exchange, friendship, and joy perish before our eyes. The dynamic of these revamped markets just doesn’t hold the same authenticity and wholesomeness that ‘the old world’ markets did.
As the times change, so do areas and businesses and it’s understandable that objects found at these markets can be found on amazon, ebay, gumtree, or nearly any online platform. But there’s a big difference in a computer targeting you for a product based on a series of algorithms, versus your long-time friend asking if you need something based on an emotional connection….
As we mentioned briefly in the first section, gentrification is taking away the homes for creatives and slowly consuming artistic communities. The disappearance of artists, as they flock to cities like Denmark and Berlin, is another key cultural aspect that London is being ridded of. Even so little as fifteen years ago, artists swarmed to the gritty and fresh areas of London, like Dalston; but with all of the changes happening today, the previously ‘cool’ areas of east London have fallen subservient to a gentrified audience, who prefer to alter them into a tailored version.
Lampard Grove 1987 Berris Conolly
There is an ad that has been popping up on Dalston buildings lately, of a doe-eyed woman in a green dress and peep toe heels, who is contemplatively eating a bagel.
Her look and character does not match Dalston and Shoreditch, and the ad demonstrates what the audience of ‘the new world’ looks like…
It is such a shame to see the creativity drain from the bones of London. Creativity stems from the bottom up and lives in gritty areas. Yet, these ripe areas of London are now too expensive for the creatives to live in. There is an advert for new housing in Haggerston that only emphasises how “close” the flats are to Hoxton - even though they’re a fraction of the distance to Haggerston station.
The use of Hoxton Tube is aimed at the untrendy middle class who will see the appeal of the new world. It’s such a shame how even the use of a tube map is changing impacting the people of London.
The results are even statistical..
And while we’re all left wondering when Hackney Borough reps will finish the last of The Waste, Brick Lane/Chesire Street, and the remaining markets in East London, we know that these diverse social spheres and the special bonds and supplies they held can’t ever be replaced. What will become of an artificial new London without artists or old style markets? We hope this sterile trend is stopped in its tracks… god save Dalston.