Just before the successful completion of the Crowdfunder to replace all that was lost in the fire a month earlier, some personal reflections on the importance of Granby Street Market.
Without the Street Market nothing else that’s been achieved in Granby over these last few years would have happened. It’s been that important.
I first stumbled across it one Saturday in the summer of 2010, when it was just a few tables pulled out onto Cairns Street by some of the few people left living round there by then. Not really sure whether it was someone’s party or a market for visitors, even that first time, I began my ever-since-then turnings up at what still feels a bit like a party every time it happens. Granby, the Street Market that changed everything.
The idea of having one followed on from the other things that same small group of remaining residents had already done. Having cleaned and cleared up the fly-tipped-by-others neighbourhood, adopted and painted-up-brightly the drab-facades of the empty homes, and then begun guerrilla-gardening all their empty spaces, with the occasional help of a pick-axe, they wanted to celebrate. And also to invite back for a visit all of the people who’d been driven out of mostly-demolished Granby by the racist diaspora of the 1980s and afterwards. That was why. As well as to encourage themselves to keep going.
Because it had already been a long struggle to keep hold of their homes and keep their last four of all the original streets of Granby standing. And would still be another five years after the Street Market started before they would pull off what many had said was impossible. The getting on-site 0f the mostly empty homes so they could be lived in again. But in all that time there was the Street Market.
Just April to September back then with another one at Christmas and still in Cairns Street, the markets kept us going. By then I’d been asked in, along with others, to help. And in months and whole years when not much else would progress there would always be the next market to plan for. For what we could say when visitors would ask us what was happening? We needed some answers, were open to all suggestions and progress got made. Around the stalls, the pub tables we’d salvaged and along the street in all weathers, ideas were exchanged, contacts were made and Granby grew strong.
“Of the people, For the people, By the people”
As Joe would always say when he described the market, but we all knew the words stood for everything we were doing. There was something going on here. And even when you could barely see much at all happening, the market kept us all going.
And it was and is hard work. By which I don’t mean the politics and the planning or the pulling together of money and help over those years. I mean the putting on of a Street Market that now appears every month and is gone by later the same day. Each one takes weeks of planning and days of setting up to appear so perfect and casually done, enjoyed and dismantled. By volunteers, but mainly Theresa and Joe. Who took over its running ‘for now’ in 2012, and are still running it. When it can happen again.
And you’ll know perfectly well what the market’s like if you’ve been. But if you haven’t it’s out on Granby Street now, the main street through the area. Stalls and gazebos all along the Princes Avenue end of the street. Every gazebo representing one of the shops there used to be along here and all of them set up and run by local people from here and around. For a good many of them this being where they’ve first tried out their ‘do you think this could work?’ new enterprise ideas over the years. Because all of this round here was never just about the empty homes. But also the economy, the culture, the life and the energy and the art. The art of life, like an exhibition running all along the street, on the first Saturday of every month. In a good year.
Which this hasn’t been. Even before the fire that destroyed most of the market’s equipment this was hardly the best of years for any of us. But I remember the last time the market ran, for now, not long before the lockdown later in March. Getting there early as I like to do, the market being my main social occasion of every month. Then talking to friends before their stalls got busy. Some coffee and a sit down on one of Laurie’s stripey benches. The street filling up, the sounds of the market getting into gear. Then going along to Cairns Street, where the Winter Garden is now, to a Community Land Trust course about making films on our phones. My one-minute practice film pieced together later that day being of the Street Market. Never imagining there would be such a gap before there could be another one.
But there will now. Five hundred people have already helped us, and if you can too we’ll make it to our target and get the Street Market going again once the virus allows.
Because without the Street Market nothing else that’s been achieved in Granby over these last few years would have happened. It’s been that important. It still is.
And here’s that film I made, of the Street Market in March this year. Hoping it will soon be back.