I had a special interest as Queen's Market had been shortlisted for the award for best local market.
The shortlist in this category was:
Queen's Market at Upton Park in East London – a century old Victorian market, one of the few surviving East End markets. If as Mayor Boris says of London a world to be found in a city, then this is equally true of Queen's Market, a world to be found in a market.
Stroud farmers market in Gloucestershire. This market has revitalised the local farming industry.
Bury Market in Lancashire – 300 stalls, a quarter of a million visitors every day.
The shortlist was drawn from hundreds of nominations for local markets.
The winner was Bury Market. The person accepting the award put the success down to two factors, quality stalls selling quality products and that the market worked with the local council to a common ethos, a common agenda.
Compare Bury Market with Queen's Market, where the market is a success despite that fact that it is grubby and has no investment from the council, a success despite the fact that Sir Robin Wales (who regularly stars in the Private Eye Rotten Boroughs Column) is trying his best to destroy the market.
Sir Robin Wales in collusion with St Modwen (aka the Developer from Hell) wishes to destroy the market, to see it replaced with a superstore. For the few stalls that would be left, St Modwen are wishing to see 100% rent increase plus service charges. To see what a good job St Modwen does in trashing town centres one only has to look at Farnborough, or to see what is proposed for Walthamstow and Bognor Regis.
Think what Queen's Market would be like if it had the full support of and investment from the local council. It could be be the jewel in the crown, a showpiece for the London 2012 Olympics.
Bury Market has become a major tourist attraction, with coach loads of visitors arriving every day. Look no further than Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane.
Saxmundham, the market town that said no to Tesco, has a thriving independent food sector. And attracts visitors from neighbouring towns and further afield.
It is surprising how far people will travel for a good food shop. At the weekend I was in The Deli in the North Camp area of Farnborough on the Surrey-Hants border. To my surprise a lady had popped down from London to do her shopping, and she said she does this once a month. But then should I be surprised? If I'm in Brighton, I always make a point of visiting Infinity Foods. I am not going there for that reason, but it is one of the reasons that makes a visit to Brighton worthwhile.
I always try and visit Guildford when it holds its monthly farmers market (first Tuesday of every month). And the Alton Food Festival is always worth visiting.
But we should not have to travel out of our way to visit good food outlets. They should be the norm, not the exception.
What struck me on a visit to Queen's Market a couple of years ago was the diversity of fresh produce on sale, that it was fresh and affordable.
On the Food and Farming Awards the point was made that markets are alive and vibrant.
If I visit a town, the first place I head for is the local market or farmers market. Who wants clone town?
In Swansea, when I visit the annual BeyondTV International Film Festival (sadly not this year), I always look in the local market, claimed to be the largest undercover market in Wales. There I find a variety of butchers stalls, fresh seafood, little cafés, fresh fruit and vegetables and a marvelous cheese stall.
One of the sad things about the historic city of Lincoln, a very ancient market town, is that its market has been all but destroyed by the local council. A generation ago this was a very busy and successful market, surrounded by food shops. Now all but gone, a shadow of its former self. It does though have a a successful farmers market, held at various locations around the city.
Reference and background
Keith Parkins, Sowing Seeds of Dissent, Indymedia UK, 6 September 2004
Keith Parkins, Seeds of Dissent, September 2004
Keith Parkins, Why do we feed our kids junk food?, Indymedia UK, 12 February 2007
Keith Parkins, Do we need industrial agriculture?, Indymedia UK, 19 February 2007
Keith Parkins, Seedy Sunday Brighton 2008, Indymedia UK, 4 February 2008
Keith Parkins, You are what you eat, Indymedia UK, 11 February 2008
Keith Parkins, St Modwen the UK's Leading Degeneration Specialist!, Indymedia UK, 28 November 2008
Keith Parkins, Bad Food Britain, to be published