Thursday, 24 September 2009

Borough Market - What's Its Future...?

As the person responsible for the "fragile start" way back in 1998, I want to have my say. In her article in G2 today, Ms van der Zee says the market "will survive" - I'm not altogether so sure. I hope I'm proved wrong but Borough, like any market, is a living, breathing organism that needs to support - and be supported by - its traders. A consequence of the lack of the former brings about the lack of the latter and over the past few years rumours have swirled around the market and its environs - difficulties, quarrels, heavy-handedness of the former towards the latter... Whilst I'm not privy to details, and whilst I also know from years of running the FoodLovers Fairs how tricky it can be to found and build upon those delicate relationships, to be honest, over the years I have had some concerns about how Borough Market has been run - too many foreign stalls, too much food-to-go, no emphasis on food shopping, little long-term planning and development. The worry is that the temptation by the organisers is to go for the easier, more lucrative option - to turn it into a tourist attraction. This should not be allowed for a variety of reasons and primarily because as consumers we will all lose out. PS: Any suggestions as yo who could come in to help here? Boris, our mayor, for example.....


  1. Firstly, thank you for initiating Borough as a retail market - I went that first weekend and was completely blown away by the food on offer and I have shopped there ever since. But I too am starting to worry that it will not survive as a food market but will introduce chains who will trade daily and simply push out the small traders who can't compete. It is criminal.

    Don't think Boris would be any help, though Ken might have been. Get Jamie Oliver back perhaps - he used to shop there a lot and he does have the passion.

  2. I agree that we need to get Jamie Oliver back to promote the market and make sure it stays on the right path. Hopefully the new management will realise how delicate things are for the market at present and DO something.

    The grumblings within the ranks of the traders have been raging for ages now and as I am merely a regular shopper I did not know anything about matters going downhill until the wonderful Shipps tearoom was being forced to close.

    In addition to signing the Shipps petition I also wrote to management at Borough asking why this was happening. With hindsight it is no surprise that the reply I received was heavy handed and dictatorial in it's tone.

    Does anyone know what happened to the good folk who ran Shipps?

  3. As a trader in the market since the early days, I can confirm that there are many serious issues of concern with the way the market has been, and more particularly, is currently being run.

    Our collective problem is that any adverse publicity which we could raise as the only means available to us to challenge issues, would most likely be seen as traders merely 'windging' or prove to be counterproductive for trade in the market. The last criticism publicly aired at the 10 year celebration breakfast resulted in a distinct hardening of management attitute, and thus proved to make the situation worse.

    The fact that the market has become so successful in respect to the number of visitors (as distinct from serious food shoppers), with a waiting list for entry, provides the management with the ability to dispense with any individual trader. 'Take it or leave it' would amply sum it up.

    The fact that this is posted as 'anonamous', is testimony to the fact that I would find my position jeopardised by airing criticism.

    I find it hard to believe that the trustees know precisely what is being done in the name of the market 'Charitable Trust'.

  4. Borough is unfortunately dead as a market for any but the bigger well positioned players. There are so many tourists and 'lunchies' that trade in the outer markets is dead for fresh or delicate products. Tourists can only buy what will travel so do not buy meat or veg. The number of new stalls in the Jubilee that did not stay long is very high this year and even well established players are living on past glories. I know that there are many stallholders waiting to see if it gets any better by Christmas if not they will be off. Many of the stallholders also attend other markets and are not prepared to work all day for next to nothing as that is what some of them take.
    The management are relying on the gate figures as a guide to market health not spend per head, they have a totally blinkered view and believe if they say something often enough it will come true.
    The only solution is an almost biblical throwing the tat and meal sellers from the temple and getting back to basic good food.