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’.

wb-wearehere.jpg

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] ‘Traditional 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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About waymarkingthesketchbook

Sarah Spanton is director of arts organisation Waymarking - www.waymarking.org.uk
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