Musings on markets #2: traditional markets, traders stories & opportunities to explore

In Sara Gonzalez and Gloria Dawson’s report ‘Traditional Markets under threat – why it’s happening and what traders and customers can do[1], which researches and reports on current issues for traditional markets. They define a traditional market as:

‘A traditional retail market can be characterised as one which has a long history in a particular place, low-cost or medium-cost goods, and usually a mixture of food, clothes, and household items.’

I recently met with artist Jean McEwan and Chemaine Cooke of Wur Bradford, discussing their recent work in traditional markets, which began in Kirkgate Market Bradford. They they’ve recently undertaken a 6-month residency in Oastler Market (part of St John’s Centre), culminating in final events in April 2018 – entitled ‘We Are Here’.


The artists saw this as a collaboration with the market’s traders, with the key goals of documenting traders stories and providing opportunities for people to explore the market. The Oastler Market traders were keen to collaborate, perhaps due to the uncertainty induced by the pending closure of their current site and relocation.

The resulting programme of guided walks, performance, a djing programme, a zine of traders stories and an exhibition (at Kala Sangam’s gallery). This was well received by traders and customers alike and increased the positive spirit in the market and traders pride in their trade and the market itself. The residency revealed the valuable role artists can have in facilitating dialogue, building and strengthening  relationships and communicating stories, issues and ideas.

Wb #5 Wb credit

I was particularly interested in the need to invite potential new customers into the market. To introduce traditional markets to those who didn’t feel it was their natural territory (young people, visitors to Bradford etc), who needed support to experience the opportunities there – such as diverse and affordable produce.

wb-3-jenny-ramsden.jpgBearing all this in mind, I’m wondering can the valuable qualities of traditional markets where they ‘… appeal to and attract a huge range of customers… are most important to middle and lower-class shoppers, older people and those from minority backgrounds because of their affordability, accessibility and variety of produce’ [2], be retained whilst developing new approaches to markets?


Image Credits:

1. & 3. Wur Bradford

2. @JennyRamsden1

[1] & [2] ‘Tradition Markets Under Threat: why it’s happening and what traders and customers can do’ by Dr Sara Gonzalez & Gloria Dawson 2015.

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Musings on markets #1

This blog aims to be an online sketch book, where I am able to ponder out loud on ideas and issues that have been coming up within my practice. For me, the process of blog post-writing is more about throwing up a series of thoughts in order to think through ideas and issues, than coming up with fixed answers.

This next series of posts will be a wander through my thinking about markets, both traditional and artisan or specialist.

I like markets. I like all sorts of markets. I feel comfortable in the traditional sort, as my Mum regularly used to take us to Roots Hall Market in Southend in the 1970s. I remember the throngs of people, the noise of market traders calling out, groups of people gathered around particular stalls, whilst the wares were paraded and knock-down prices announced, the entertainment of it all.


Roots Hall by Saxon Essex

Then I regularly used the flea market in Sheffield as a student (in the late 80s), and for 20 years I often used Kirkgate Market in Leeds, for fabric, haberdashery items, amongst other things – it was my go-to place for anything unusual that you couldn’t buy in the rest of the increasingly homogenised offer from the national and international retail brands in Leeds’ shopping centres and high street.

I find Kirkgate Market architecturally very interesting, with the front of the market having a high ironwork and glass ceiling, with intricate wooden details. It has recently been refurbished and rebranded (more of this in following posts).




Image Credits: 1. From @SUFC_History (possibly a newspaper cutting) – 1970s.

2. From – this site has a wealth of great Southend and nearby images, many from the 70s and 80s. This image is more recent, a date wasn’t given.

3, 4, 5. Sarah Spanton

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Exploring and photographing green space / green infrastructure Levenshulme #2

Here are few more photographs of my walk through Highfield Country Park at the New Year.

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Image credits: Sarah Spanton

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Exploring and photographing green space / green infrastructure in Levenshulme #1

At the New Year, I spent sometime further exploring my neighbourhood Levenshulme, Manchester – with a walk through Highfield Country Park, a local nature reserve.  This is a great example of a green space which volunteer group Friends of Highfield Park manage with Manchester City Council, which provides leisure space for local people, biodiversity in an urban area and habitats for endangered species such as bats.

As the light was great on the day, I took a few photographs during the walk.

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Image credits: Sarah Spanton

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The social, economic and environmental benefits of Green Infrastructure (GI)

My interest in Green Infrastructure (GI) (see my three previous posts) in an urban context is in the potential to revalue places differently. That this should be a concern from (combined) social, economic and environmental perspectives. The need to revalue places differently by incorporating the multiple benefits GI brings, is an issue at all levels, for place-making and regeneration professionals, and also crucially at community level.

Many people don’t realise that green space where they live is vital to biodiversity (and pollination and therefore food production), flood alleviation (affecting their risk of flooding) or soil quality in the UK is crucial for food production etc. Even their garden or a grass verge can have positive GI benefits on where they live.

Here’s a slightly reworked set of benefits presented by Tom Armour (Landscape Architect Arup) at the recent TCPA GI conference:

GI BenefitsI very much liked Tom’s description of GI as high performance infrastructure.

He presented on a Green and Blue (water) Infrastructure focussed Climate Change Adaption plan for Madrid, outlining the potential for positive GI impacts across the city.

Arup GI #2

Arup GI #3

For more information on this Madrid Plan go to:

I’ve been thinking about where we live and work as a balanced patchwork of interconnected elements; grey buildings, road surfaces etc, green (as in GI, including blue which is water-focussed) that all contribute to one system; our places and neighbourhoods. We need to be more explicit about what GI can do for individuals, communities, businesses, institutions and systems.

More GI is needed in every area, especially those which are very grey. Also, green space itself isn’t necessarily multi-functional GI, such as a grass verge. However, with some commitment and energy positive GI impacts can be retrofitted, so that for example biodiversity can be encouraged with different planting, or a managed mowing plan.

Overall, we need more GI in our urban areas, for example green rooves, vertical green walls, green planting under tramlines/railway verges (esp. where electrified) or replacing a few roadside parking bays with a pocket park(let) – this changes would benefit us triple-fold; environmentally, socially and economically.


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Enhancing public green space: biodiversity and community participation in Cornwall

Another of the GI projects outlined at the recent TCPA conference was delivered by Robert Lacey, Principal Development Officer Strategic Planning Cornwall Council. He described a large-scale research/pilot project (mainly EU funded), and with TCPA as lead principal partner to:

  • Increase biodiversity across 35 hectares of public green space
  • Increase the use of and local perception of these spaces
  • Reduce the council’s on-going maintenance costs
  • Increase knowledge of ecosystem services
  • Engage with communities and parish councils
  • Increase opportunities for life-long learning
  • Devolve and manage the resulting assets with a maintenance plan

Following a contextualisation of issues of high levels of deprivation in some neighbourhoods, some years of environmental decline and crucially pointing out that conventional approaches to economic development have ignored the value of what the environment contributes – Robert outlined how Cornwall Council aims to be the most environmentally friendly planning authority in England.

This project which began in January 2017, plans to take green spaces, for example a simple playing field type space in Treskerby (on the outskirts of Redruth) and enhance and upgrade it, making it useable across the generations by adding pathways, seating, picnic areas, bins, a football pitch, cycle stands signage, enhanced shrub and tree planting for insects, birds (biodiversity), managing parts of grassy areas as meadows, making swales (a low area of land, which is moist or marshy, that will allow water to run off a site), and adding grassy mounds for visual interest.

Cornwall Council #3

Cornwall Council IMage

At the conference, I noted that both Nigel Dunnett and Robert Lacey referred to their programmes as either action research, or pilots. I believe that this iterative, always learning, through doing and then reflecting, the doing again approach, is key to making real change happen.

Bearing this in mind, whilst Cornwall is a less urban area than I mainly work in, I can still see a lot of relevance to this research project in some of the places I’m currently working in. In the UK there are many playing field type spaces that are mainly just mown lawn, that could benefit from some simple inputs to upgrade and enhance them into better quality functional, socially and environmentally beneficial spaces. And when these spaces are considered in terms of their broader linkages to other social and economic infrastructure in a locality, their value is strengthened even further.

Image credits: 1 Google Maps, 2 Cornwall Council

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Beauty, form and function: Sheffield and London

Following on from my previous post on the recent TCPA GI conference which had a large number of presentations (around 12), I’m going to focus on the issues and ideas arising from just a few of  these.

Nigel Dunnett is Professor of Planting Design and Urban Horticulture at University of Sheffield. Describing himself as an ecologist and plant scientist, his presentation was entitled ‘Urban Planting for Beauty and Function’.

Having undertaken my undergraduate degree in Sheffield, and having lived there for several years afterwards, I retain a keen interest in all things Sheffield. Nigel’s focus was on how to make GI work in cities, and in particular approaches to planting (what types of plants are used where) which are both functional and beautiful.

He outlined a SUDS Scheme (sustainable urban drainage system) he worked on outside Sheffield’s law courts (West Bar) in the city centre. A SUDS scheme is a natural approach to managing water drainage (for example storm water drainage).

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This scheme included storm-water basins (which store storm water and remove pollutants) and bio swales (which slow down and filter storm water), as well as a strong planting design. This scheme is not only very beautiful enhancing the city for its inhabitants and workers as they walk by this busy area, but it is designed to alleviate flooding. It is low maintenance water-wise due to the planting scheme and retention of water in the basins and swales.

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Nigel explained how the scheme is being maintained by Green Estate, a specialist landscape management company (a social enterprise), who are trained to know how to maintain the planting scheme. He highlighted how this is a particular issue for these type of schemes where conventional urban public landscaping companies don’t have the expertise to manage these sites well. To my mind it seems there is a considerable need for new jobs and skills in this area.

I’m particularly interested in how less affluent communities can also have access to the positive health, environmental and economic benefits that GI can bring communities. And have found a particularly interesting project in inner London, led by Groundwork and Hammersmith and Fulham Council, where working with local residents on three social housing estates, they have designed and implemented climate change adaptation measures. Including green walls, rain gardens (SUDS) and green rooves, to help reduce the risk of flooding and help cool the city during summer heatwaves (the image here is of Richard Knight House).

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Image credits:  1, 2, 3 Nigel Dunnett, University of Sheffield, 4 House Groundwork, London





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