Borough Market, London: 2015 and 2017

If you had never heard of Borough Market, the oldest food market in London, before 2 June 2017, you will certainly have heard of it on 3 June 2017.  Borough Market was the scene of a terrorist attack where 7 people were killed and 48 seriously injured.  The shocking thing about the Borough Market attack was that it wasn’t centred on a political or religious target, it wasn’t focussed on an area that would completely disrupt the life of London.   Although Borough Market is a vibrant, lively, cosmopolitan area, it is an area frequented by people who want to earn a living during the day and who want to enjoy themselves by night.  The Market itself attracts tourists because of the range of foods and artefacts on sale.  This is the place to wander around and hear as many languages as there are nations in the world.

While Borough Market is 1000 years old, historically the source of great controversy because Londoners were forbade to cross the river to use Borough Market because it was in Southwark, not considered to be London.  It wasn’t until 1550 that a Charter sold Southwark to the City of London and made Borough Market part of London.  The changes that have taken place at Borough Market over the centuries are huge.  In 19th Century, it was a wholesale fruit and vegetable market.  1930s saw the introduction of the beautiful Art Deco entrance.  The development of New Covent Garden in Vauxhall, in 1970s, could have seen the demise of Borough Market but by 1990s the demand for artisan foods lead to Borough Market having a retail market once a month, then once a week and  rapidly changing to six day a week.  Borough Market is now run by a charitable trust and prides itself on its approach to recycling: all cardboard, paper, plastic, wood and glass is recycled; Borough Market works with Plan Zheroes who distribute any surplus foods to local charities; rain water is collected to water any plants and flowers on site; 8640 litres of waste, that cannot be redistributed, is taken to an anaerobic digestion plant for conversion into energy.

Having said that, although born in London, I had never heard of Borough Market until 2005, I am ashamed to say.  I only came across it because I was looking for Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum which was around that area.  I was seriously lost, once out of sight of London Bridge Station.  I found myself amidst the wonderful smell of fresh vegetables, breads, cheeses, meats and hams, quality coffee being ground, people sitting at small tables drinking coffee and eating amazing pies.  There was an air of bustle and trade.  Voices from all over the world but I was on a mission to find the Museum so didn’t have long to allow myself to be distracted.  I promised myself that I would return in the near future for a good look round.

My next visit was a couple of years later to find a quirky tea room in what was once the Ship Inn; I remember they had tea cups hanging from the ceiling, on string.  The food was great, especially the cakes.  Sadly, it is no longer there.  We spent so much times there, on a Tuesday which was not a full opening day for the Market, so yet again we missed our opportunity.

Then in 2015, at the Bovey Tracey Craft Fair, I met Penny Seume, a textile designer who uses digital photography to create some unique tea towels.  I fell in love with them; her work truly does justice to the ‘Blank Canvas’ that a tea towel can offer.  She had this tea towel on sale, a quiet corner of Borough Market.  I bought it, yet again resolving to properly visit Borough Market.  It wasn’t until a few months ago, about three weeks before the terrorist attack, that I got to Borough Market.  It certainly lived up to all my expectations, a vibrant place where you needn’t have a full meal because you could ‘stock up’ on ‘tastes’, cheeses from everywhere that makes a cheese, sausages from everywhere that makes a sausage…..

I wandered around for a couple of hours.  The fact is I can sense a tea towel being sold, from a mile off.  On this occasion I found the Richard Bramble stall.  Richard Bramble is a ceramic artist who creates all manner of china decorated with seafood, animals, vegetables and much more.  Alongside he produces table mats, aprons and tea towels to match.  There was a wide choice for me to browse through.  There was no competition, it had to be the picture of Borough Market, something to remember my eventual return to Borough Market.  What I didn’t realise was that this would also act as a reminder of those tragic, awful events of 3 June 2017 where people lost their lives.  I had originally intended to write this Blog several weeks ago but it seemed inappropriate.  Today feels better, knowing that Borough Market is open once again to custom, attracting people from all round the world, people who will not be deterred by the ignorance and arrogance of terrorists, people who want to see Borough Market playing the role it has done for more than 1000 years.

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