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Brixton Market

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published August 5th 2010
Rock down to Electric Avenue to the Brixton Markets, the largest Afro-Caribbean market outside of Africa or the Caribbean OK, just in Europe then. The market is a bombardment of Caribbean sights, smells and flavours. And if you want to buy a whole goat, pick up a flying fish for your tea and pop in for a spiced bun from the bakery to have while they tattoo artists is working on you, then this is one of the very few places in London you can get these errands done at once.

Other markets are described as bustling with commerce, but Brixton Market still fuels many locals it's a necessity, not just a place to flog mobile phone covers to tourists so the atmosphere is genuinely busy, not just squashy.

Over 300 stalls and arcades spread out from Brixton Tube Station onto Atlantic Road, where the market first sprouted from in 1870, and continue up Electric Avenue - so-called because it was the first street market in London to be lit by electric lights. Back in 'the day' it was a farmers market, but during the 1950s it became a focal point for the new Caribbean immigrant community which is when it started to gyrate to the reggae rhythms that it's known for today. Speaking of which, music is one of the other things to shop for at Brixton Market: reggae and other Caribbean inspired beats obviously, but this is also the place to find rare second hand CDs from the fringes of musical genres.

The list of products hasn't totally changed, but where once the butchers sold mostly pork and chicken, they'll now also sell you goat, salt fish, shark, crab bag, and large chunks of miscellaneous meat done with jerk seasoning. The market is also a treasure trove for spices, herbs, chutneys and voodoo and Rastafarian oddities.

The Atlantic Road end is where you'll find clothes, random leather, plastic and mechanical goods, and other market staples.

The covered section of the market includes Reliance Arcade, which was built out of an old Georgian house with and Egyptian style front, and has tiny, tiny stores, and Market Row, which was built from the backyards of several houses in a row. At one stage the government was trying to redevelop the whole market but local community stopped them proving how strong feelings still run for this institution often called 'the soul of black Britain'.

Shops open between 8am and 7pm, the market arcades and street traders are out from 8am 'till 6pm Thursday to Saturday, 'cause on Sundays the farmers market takes over between 10am and 2pm. That doesn't mean it's just fresh produce straight from the farm though, they're also excellent for a brunch-time snack especially if you like something with a bit of kick ja man.
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Why? The closest you can get to the Caribbean without leaving London
When: Wednesday - Saturday and Sunday for the produce market
Where: Electric Avenue Brixton, London SW9 8JX. Nearest tube station: Brixton
Cost: Depends how tempted you are...
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