Living for the City: A tale of two markets

Saturday dawns. I put on my wet weather gear, get my camera and leave the house. I know where I’m going first, but after that, who knows? I’m living for the city, rejoicing in my place. And, as ever, I’m about to walk through its history and think about its future. Let’s go.

First stop, the far end of Lark Lane.

First stop, the far end of Lark Lane.

For the Lark Lane Farmers Market.

Where the road is closed for the Lark Lane Farmers Market.

I haven’t been to this in a few years but it seems to have got bigger.

So as well as being on Lark Lane.

So as well as being on Lark Lane.

It's stretching round onto Aigburth Road too.

It’s stretching round onto Aigburth Road too.

The City Council is proud that markets like this one, and there are several take place around Liverpool each month, are truly local.

With traders and produce coming from within a 30 mile radius of Liverpool.

With traders and produce coming from within a 30 mile radius of Liverpool.

So including people from Cheshire and Lancashire.

So including people from Cheshire and Lancashire.

And I’m happy to see them with their crumbly cheese and many and various pies and produce. But today I’ve set myself the task of seeing if I can buy my lunch here from independent Liverpool traders only.

And it's looking possible. Jenny's Bakehouse from Picton Road here.

And it’s looking possible. Sandra Dee’s Bakery from Picton Road here.

Lucy Antal spied just along there.

Lucy Antal spied just along there.

Lucy runs 'Grab Your Spoon' handmade

Lucy runs ‘Grab Your Spoon’ handmade jams and chutneys.

So I grab one of Lucy's spoons and try a bit of 'Red, red, red' on a cracker. 'It's got a bit of bite, that one' she tells me. True.

So I grab one of Lucy’s spoons and try a bit of her ‘Red, Red, Red’ on a cracker. ‘It’s got a bit of bite, that one’ she tells me. True.

Baltic Bakehouse are here too.

Baltic Bakehouse are here too.

And are happy to confirm my suspicions that they’re about to open a shop on Allerton Road. ‘Yes, in about a week. Not a café as well like down in the Baltic, but a shop.’ Good.

And some cheese?

And some cheese?

Yes, it's the Liverpool Cheese Company.

Yes, it’s the Liverpool Cheese Company.

So that's looking like lunch then.

So that’s looking like lunch then.

And do you know what? They’re all Liverpool Independents and not once did I use my Independent Liverpool Card! Oh well.

I walk back along Lark Lane. Past Greendays café.

I walk back along Lark Lane. Past Greendays café.

And Raggas.

And Raggas.

Past Lucerne Street.

Where I can hear the hoofing away.

Where I can hear the Extreme Dance Company hoofing away upstairs.

Upstairs from

Upstairs from Gasp.

Antiques, curios and Elvis Presley annuals.

Antiques, curios and Elvis Presley annuals.

Past bars.

Past bars and takeaways.

And gallery shops.

And gallery shops.

Across the Park to home.

Across the Park to home.

For an Independent Liverpool lunch. All bought fresh from Lark Lane Farmers Market.

For an independent traders of Liverpool lunch. All bought fresh from Lark Lane Farmers Market.

Lunch over, I’m full and satisfied, but restless. I decide to go up to just north of the city centre, to Great Homer Street.

Great Homer Street.

Great Homer Street.

Now, there’s been a market along here and continuing into Cazneau Street (when there was more than just a stump of it left) forever.

On the street and covered. My late uncle Arthur Gerrard ran a stall in there for years.

On the street and covered. My late uncle, Arthur Gerrard, ran a stall in there for years.

Cazneau Street fruit and veg market.

Cazneau Street fruit and veg market.

But these are strange days for 'Greatie' - as the market's known.

But these are strange days for ‘Greatie’ – as the market’s known.

It might still look like a market to you. But it’s now the site of what’s to become a new ‘District Centre.’

To be occupied by the kind of shareholder driven corporates that tend to occupy such 'District Centres' the length and breadth of the land.

To be occupied by the kind of shareholder driven corporates that tend to occupy such ‘District Centres’ the length and breadth of the land. Sainsbury’s will be the leader on this one.

‘Greatie’ won’t die, but the current plan, recently approved by the City Council, is to move it away from the Centre. And a good number of the traders here think that will in fact kill it.

Let's have a look around. There is food here.

Let’s have a look around. There is food here.

A fair bit.

A fair bit.

But Greatie’s not dominated by food. In fact it’s more of a classic street market, like the one me and Sarah visited the other week that’s been running in nearby Ormskirk since 1286. (Yes, markets can be so permanent they shape the places they’re in.)

Selling all sorts. And making good 'meanwhile' use of the emptied out shops here.

Selling all sorts. And making good ‘meanwhile’ use of the emptied out shops here.

Last time I was round here, on a Sunday, I thought these had all been abandoned, but no.

Many, many more stalls than Lark Lane.

Many, many more stalls than Lark Lane.

And I'm not the only one taking photos and writing about what's going on.

I’m not the only one taking photos and writing about what’s going on.

‘Liverpool Confidential’ here, I think.

‘SevenStreets’ in particular have long been deeply involved and concerned about what the City Council’s up to here.

And it really wasn't hard to find disgruntled stall holders, disgusted at what's happening.

And it really wasn’t hard to find disgruntled stall holders, disgusted at what’s happening.

There's still an inside hall, though it's over the road from where my Uncle Arthur used to operate.

There’s still an inside hall, though it’s over the road from where my Uncle Arthur used to operate.

Full of glitz.

Full of glitz.

And bargains for the races.

And bargains for the races.

It's the Grand National next week.

It’s the Grand National next week.

But will the Council's and Developer's plans really mean 'Business as usual?'

But will the Council’s and Developer’s plans really mean ‘Business as usual?’

Or will the stalls soon be taken down forever?

Or will the stalls soon be taken down forever?

Is 'world famous' really to be sacrificed?

Is ‘World famous’ really to be sacrificed?

For 'Just like everywhere else?'

For ‘Just like everywhere else?’

Greatie - 'You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?'

Greatie – ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?’

Time for a sit down and a think before I start writing.

Time for a sit down and a think before I start writing.

So I come here to the newly opened Everyman. For a pot of tea and a reflect on what I’ve seen today and on how to bring this piece to a conclusion.

There are options.

Lazy journalism? To pitch the markets against each other. Saying either Lark Lane’s food based approach clearly represents where street markets need to go, and that Greatie is now fading gently into the past. Or, on the other hand, that Great Homer Street is a real market and Lark Lane’s merely a passing fad for dilettantes.

This second option butting neatly into the ‘populist campaign’ get-out. Where I conclude with a howl of righteous working-class anger about what’s being done to Greatie, and condemn all other markets to rot in the leafy-laned middle-class suburban ghettoes where they belong.

But being who I am and where I am I decide, of course, to conclude with none of these things. Because, being here on Hope Street, in the Everyman, after my day at the markets on Great Homer Street, Lark Lane and Aigburth Road, I realise I am sat tangled deeply in the DNA of what makes Liverpool be so very much itself. And I think we need all of these things for us to stay being so very Liverpool.

Street markets43

I think if we can get our Everyman back, and we have, then we, the Everypeople of Liverpool, can have what we want. Writing about it a couple of weeks ago David Lloyd of SevenStreets said:

“When a city gathers together to hug a theatre back into life you know you’re in a place with soul to spare, and with better days ahead.”

I think that too. So let’s pause for breath, ask our City Councillors to calm down, and let’s all of us grab our better days. Let’s collectively decide to have Lark Lane and Greatie and all the other street markets, as well as our lovely new Ev. Let’s opt for real life and not bland everything out and sell everything off to the corporates. It’s called celebrating difference. It’s called urban grain. It’s called being a great city. It’s called Liverpool.

As our John once wrote

“You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one…”

So maybe there will be a Sainsbury’s built there on Great Homer Street after all. But maybe, for once, the corporate, as a condition of moving in, will have to agree to behave with a sense of place, a common decency respect for where it’s arriving. So that after it’s built – ‘in perpetuity’ as the legals will say – it agrees that on Saturdays, forever and ever, there will be a great street market snaking along both sides of the at least partially closed off road every Saturday. Because that’s the way it is here in Liverpool.

Great Homer Street has a market on it. Not Dryden Street.

Great Homer Street has a market on it. Not Dryden Street.

Let’s see if we can’t work it out somehow. It’s your basic sense of place, after all. Living for the city can’t always be about short-term pragmatism. Sometimes it’s about walking around, all day in the rain, getting a feel for the long term good of the place and it’s people.

These are my thoughts and my photographs. I hope they help.

3 thoughts on “Living for the City: A tale of two markets

  1. theglaiketstirk

    This resonates so deeply. Glasgow (maybe every Northern post-industrial city?) is so similar – and you’ve articulated what I’ve so often felt about my own city.
    The Barras is threatened from time to time – but has shaped that bit of Glasgow and is part of its DNA. The folk are gallus, tough, generous, hard, funny, brass-necked, self-deprecating… the food and goods are needed. But Paddy’s Market was closed to make way for progress in 2009. 200 years of Glaswegian tradition gone. My old Gran stood at its edge hawking her coney fur for rent money back in the 50s – nobody bought it and my mother remembers going hungry. It was a place for poor folk who did what they could to survive. I don’t romanticise the unrelenting poverty – but Paddy’s was an institution. Travel to the West End and you’re in Farmer’s Market territory – Partick and Hillhead host a thriving market but the food although good is too expensive for poorer folk.
    There’s a balance to be struck. It’s not mythologising the past. But it’s honouring what’s real and still necessary. Our political reps lose touch and get so much wrong…

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      I went once to Paddy’s Market, your Paddy’s Market in the Barras, in about 2002 – and it did feel just like our Greatie. And I can understand what you say about Partick and Hillhead now. Like our Lark Lane, a street market, any street market not controlled by the corporates is a good idea. But if your Granny can’t hawk her coney fur at the edge of it then it’s lost touch with what many of us need – a place to sell what we need to get by without licences and permission.

      One good reason why I’ve been so determinedly involved with the Granby 4 Streets Market here over the last few years. Off the radar, off the map, beyond permissions. As one of its organisers, Joe Farrag says of it ‘Of the people, by the people, for the people.’

      Reply

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