Page 30 - MarketTimesJune2016
P. 30

  Investing in a much loved icon
BRIxTON Market is the world famous hub of a unique, multicultural community. It inspired the Eddie Grant song Electric Avenue. It is said to be among the first streets in Britain to have electric lighting — and is loved and cherished by locals from more than 30 ethnic backgrounds who shop at the “Larder of Lambeth”.
With its ancient costermongers and shabby stalls, the market is not a great work of art. But when Lambeth Council announced a £1 million- plus investment in Electric Avenue to update the market and stem the decline in footfall, the idea created controversy.
How do you enhance a cherished heirloom? Can you improve an icon without destroying its essential character?
These were the issues that the council planners had to tackle, against a backdrop of controversy over the perceived gentrification of an area of London that has been a multicultural melting pot since the 1950s.
Coun Jack Hopkins, Lambeth Council’s cabinet member for jobs and growth, admits that selling the investment wasn’t easy.
“Everyone who lives in Brixton loves its uniqueness but not everyone agrees on exactly what that uniqueness is,” he said.
Yet the council’s research suggested that footfall was decreasing and market traders were affected by this downturn.
Brixton’s two indoor markets, now branded as Brixton Village under the management of Geraud Markets, have been transformed by an influx of hip food and vintage businesses.
Another innovation is the creation of Pop Brixton, a centre for fledgling businesses and start-ups on a former car park site next to the market.
View West entrance of Electric Avenue
Several former market businesses have moved on to Pop Brixton. But the council was aware that the open market needed to continue to serve the existing multicultural community as well as appealing to newcomers and visitors to Brixton.
Tom Bridgman, who is leading on the redevelopment for the council, said the open market was key to the vision for a revitalised Brixton and the market traders were consulted as the plans were developed.
Stuart Horwood, the watch repair man on the market since 1984 and an NMTF stalwart who represents the traders, said the traders had got involved but some long-standing traders still felt the investment was all about gentrification.
Among them is Dave Kelly, who began helping out on the family fruit and veg stall at the age of eight and is still trading 60 years later.
He isn’t happy with the change and says he will be “packing it in” at Christmas.
But others are more optimistic as the work progresses.
Paid for by £869,000 from the Mayor of London’s Fund and £500,000 from the council, the improvements affect just the 32 stalls on
Electric Avenue. There is a wider, long-term plan for Pope’s Road and Brixton Station Road which could eventually see the station opening on to a market square.
The work in Electric Avenue includes new granite paving, a new layout and the replacement of the traditional stalls with new gazebos that will have anchor points.
Tom said: “The new gazebos will move to bigger pitches in the centre of Electric Avenue. We want to take the vehicles out after 9 am, which has proved controversial, as has the decision to opt for gazebos.
“But we believe this new set up will create more space for shoppers to browse and shop.”
Waste and rubbish has been an issue in the past, so the scheme includes moving the compactors to a more accessible location, which should make a big difference, Tom says.
There will also be investment in the street itself, including new lighting and improvements to the building fronts. In addition there will be a facelift for the frontages of the shops along the street, which have always been considered part and parcel of the market.
The work is scheduled for completion in July when the community will give their verdict on the new-look Electric Avenue.
The artist’s impressions have been provided by Gort Scott, the project’s architects, who have been working in collaboration with Quarterbridge consultants, commissioned to provide advice on the markets perspective such as stall layout and to develop a long-term market strategy.
View North Popes Road
Market Times • June 2016
  Tom Bridgman (right), who is leading for Lambeth Council on Brixton market’s refurbishment, is pictured with Coun Jack Hopkins, cabinet member for jobs and growth, which covers the market

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