After reading Portobello Voices, I feel more strongly than ever that the unique Portobello market mustn’t be allowed to close. It gets over a million visitors a year and is one of London’s most frequented sites.
Blanche Girouard interviewed a cross-section of people involved with the market and has written up their recorded interviews verbatim, using their own voices. This has the effect of making the market feel very immediate and alive. And what a rich cross-section is here. There are antique dealers and the costermongers who have passed down their stalls from generation to generation; there are the obsessive collectors, who think that there are more bargains to be found now than ever before; new young entrepreneurs trying to start up businesses (after all, Peter Simon of Monsoon began here) and recent arrivals, like the refuse-collector from Lithuania.
Even though you feel there is a real sense of camaraderie among the traders, one of them says that the fact that they are all so independent, and such individuals, makes it hard to organise any coherent, vocal, union-type group. Although the market should certainly not be seen as a charity, with big developers buying up arcades and putting in chain stores, something needs to be done or else it is seriously at risk.
And there is something we can do — and that is to shop there. Not only does that help the traders, but it is also good for the morale to be recognised, and pleasant to have a chat; and, as a bonus, there’s a lot of wisdom out there.
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Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £13.49. Tel: 08430 600033. Sarah Anderson founded the Travel Bookshop off Portobello Road in 1979 and is co-author of the guide book Inside Notting Hill.
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