An exchange of letters about Broadway Market

Published in Hackney Gazette 2 August 2007

[The Gazette] article “Alarm Bells Ring on Broadway”, suggested that the Saturday market has been a “catalyst for regeneration”. If it was genuine regeneration, there would be tangible benefits for the wider community.

This latest invasion of Hackney doesn’t even have the apologetic stance of gentrification, which would at least give a nod to the underlying conflict and tension for those excluded from the “benefits” of the process. This one-day-a-week public exhibition of over-priced over-consumption is an affront to ordinary, working people.

It is more like outright colonisation by over-paid white, middle-class yuppies who have nothing better to do than fritter their sizable wage packets (sorry, “salaries”) on items of food that cost the equivalent of most people’s weekly food bill.

They obstruct the pavements with their selfish appropriation of what should be shared public space for walking so that they can pretend that they are part of some upmarket pavement café culture and they relentlessly wheel or ride their bikes on the pavement to the detriment of anyone who foolishly thinks they are meant for ordinary Hackney pedestrians.

Then, of course, there are the yummy mummies brushing aside anyone in their way with their over-size baby buggies or causing a bottleneck while they stop to yatter about their stressful day of shopping and eating, without any thought for anyone else.

Even more overtly indicating a double standard are the pub groups sitting on the pavements as if the market is their private beach, while, of course, if the local youth (particularly if they were black) behaved in this way, there would be mutterings about intimidating groups of young people, police cars would be called and no doubt Asbos issued.

Six days of the week this is a street that has very little to offer the ordinary shopper, apart from the local supermarkets now having to compete with the chains that can undercut them and the (ordinary) vegetable stall which comes one day a week – but how long before the snobs stop this. The market has no facilities for the local community, no youth club or community centre or meeting place for pensioners, and it is unfortunate that the “improvement” to London Fields only echoes this cultural and class divide.

This isn’t regeneration, this is a perfect example of the divided Britain that Blair has left us, a corner of Hackney where society is stratified into race and class divisions – and celebrated as a success.

J Walker

[from Hackney Gazette 9 August 2007]

Mr Walker is ideally qualified to join the team of Hackney Council officials who have been given the job of managing the Saturday market on Broadway. He has clearly not been to the market and, therefore, does not understand how it functions.

If Mr Walker does come to Broadway Market, he will find that he can buy a loaf of bread for under £1 from the local baker, wonderful sausages from the local butcher, good cheap fruit and veg seven days a week – and, oh dear, drink coffee at pavement cafes run buy people who actually live here.

He would also know that the market’s regular fruit and veg stall operates for five days a week, not one.

The Saturday market, founded and operated by volunteers in the Broadway Market Traders’ and Residents’ Association, brings well over 3,000 people to a street that was all but once deserted on Saturdays. Many come back to shop in the week.

It generates more than £30,000 a year in licence fees for Hackney Council and costs taxpayers nothing.

It enables the traders’ association to support a youth group on the Regent’s estate. It gives young business people a start in life.

It has been described as the most successful community-run street market in the country. And, yes, it has helped to regenerate the area.

One reason for its success is that the shops are part of the market. The Saturday traders compliment the shops, they do not compete with them. Customers don’t buy fresh coconuts from a stall – they buy them from Spirit’s grocer’s shop. They don’t buy hardware from a stall – they can get almost anything they need from Bradbury’s. The result is a glorious mix of cultures and colours.

Cllr Alan Laing, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods, told a public meeting on Broadway Market recently that the council had a statutory duty to manage Hackney’s street markets. He was misinformed.

The London Local Authorities Act states that the councils have a duty to regulate street markets. They can appoint agents to manage them as Islington has done, or they can work in partnership with community groups.

Indeed, Mr Laing’s own officials have been instructed to reply to the association’s proposed partnership agreement. They have yet to do so.

Perhaps, Cllr Laing would care to come to the Saturday some day and see for himself how it is run. I’m sure that the market department’s managers, and even Mr Walker, could be persuaded to join him.

Andrew Veitch
Resident Executive Member
Broadway Market Traders’ and Residents’ Association