Camden Town market to close for final time on Sunday
Stallholders wait to see how they fit into new container complex plans
11 October, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
ONE of Camden Town’s longest-running markets is to close this weekend ahead of a multimillion-pound revamp.
Stallholders at Buck Street Market say they feel like they have been left in limbo ahead of the changes, but the site’s owners insist it must be upgraded.
Ahead of its final day of trading on Sunday, the market is the first trading area that visitors to Camden reach if they arrive by tube.
When it first opened in 1980, stallholders included Red And Dead fashion designer Wayne Hemingway and his partner Geraldine, who sold second-hand and factory clothes.
In more recent times, the attractiveness of the market has been a source of debate and the New Journal revealed in June that owners Lab Tech are aiming to install a new-look complex made out of recycled shipping containers. A range of traders will be invited to take units, the company has said.
Current stallholders, however, say they have been worried by the lack of information as to whether they will be able to return, and added they had not yet been told rent levels once the work is completed.
Niraz Mathema, who has run a stall for eight years, said: “It has been a good place to work but the management have not decided yet where we fit in with what will come next. We are not sure if we will be able to return. We have to see what rent they want and what the size of the spaces are. They have said they will let us know.”
The market has long been earmarked for redevelopment, but plans have been delayed as Transport for London (TfL) finalise a scheme to improve access to the underground. Tube tunnels run beneath the site and the container park system would not require deep foundations while TfL create a new station entrance on the former site of Hawley School in Buck Street.
Jewellery stallholder Jimmy Alexander, who has been at the market for 23 years, said: “Trading has never been easy. Every time we were doing ok, they would put the rent up. It has always been a permanent battle.”
He said he respected the aims of Lab Tech, however, adding: “Perhaps it is good for Camden overall. When I first came here there were art and design students experimenting, learning how to run a business. That originality has been priced out. The redevelopment might help. We need some diversification. We would all welcome that.”
But Mr Alexander said: “The development could mean higher rents. I feel for those who want to come back. People do not know if they will be able to continue or look elsewhere to trade.”
Other traders said they doubted they would be offered terms that made it possible.
Jimmy Alexander with the stall he has run for more than 20 years and, below, trader Niraz Mathema
One, who did not want to be named, said: “Everybody feels like they are in limbo. This has taken the heart out of Camden market.”
They added: “The owners want it to go upmarket, but is that what people who come to visit want? There used to be fashion designers, DJs making music, but we have lost the risk takers who bring that creativity.”
A spokesman for Lab Tech, which also owns most of the other market areas in Camden, said the position of the market made it a landmark that urgently needed updating.
He said: “The current market appears cluttered and is limited in its offering, with many traders selling duplicate products. We want to re-energise it and restore the ‘makers’ element in terms of original produce, handmade craft and unique traders with unique products which embrace Camden’s creativity. Our proposals will improve security to provide a more pleasant and comfortable experience and increase the open space available for people to relax.”
How the market is due to look as a shipping container complex
The spokesman said discussions with traders were ongoing, adding: “The proposals would create a wider range of retail spaces, with a better offering and more convenient facilities, so it is likely that there will be some adjustments to rental levels. We don’t know what they will be at the moment, but by creating this market we will be able to have a more diverse offering whilst still accommodating many of our existing traders.”