Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published July 5th 2013
Soul Crafts Shoe Stall
There are about twenty different market places in London, but despite being a Londoner all my life, I am ashamed to say that I have been only to a very small handful (Covent Garden, Brixton Market). Considering how much I like browsing stalls, I'm quite surprised at myself, and think it is about time I start visiting more.
Just recently I was able to tick one more off my list: Spitafields. Built on the site of an old Roman cemetery, Spitafields got its name from St. Mary of Spittle, a twelfth century hospital.
A market was first set up there in 1875 by Robert Horner, a porter who bought the land at a public auction. It became a great venue for artists from the School of Handicraft to sell their work, and a number of migrants from Malta, Ireland, India, Somalia, and Bangladesh set up stalls. To this day there are many talented artists and a great cultural diversity of things to find.
If you see a goat, you're going in the right direction.
Just five minutes away from Liverpool Street Station, Spitafields Market should have been easy to find, but a wonky signpost sent me off in the wrong direction. I did eventually find it, but by this time was feeling a bit choked up from all the car fumes (it is a very air polluted area). Perhaps a bit of greenery would cheer me up?
Up until 1991, Spitafields always had a produce market, and I had heard that from the 14th June, it was returning. According to their website, the produce market is open 10am-7pm every Friday,where they will have seasonal, local free-range vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, cheese, eggs, juice, bread, cakes, and preserves.
When I arrived at the front doors, however, there was not a carrot in sight. As the market travelled down quite a far way, I assumed it was at the other end, so decided to look at everything else first, and then look at the produce market when I got to it.
The great thing about Spitafields Market is that it is indoors, making it suitable for all weather. If it were out in the open, I don't think the local artists would be able display there. Although it was not a rainy day, I was glad to be undercover, because the sun was strong, and very hot. The roof provides a much shelter from the heat as it does the rain.
Wood 'n' Things
The stalls are surrounded by a great wealth of restaurants and shops, such as Wood n' Things, a traditional toy and fancy dress shop with quirky Smurf masks, masquerade items, and other fun bits and bobs. There is also a good old fashioned dry cleaners; a dying breed that has somehow managed to survive.
On the left hand side of the market, is the artists' hub, where you will find anything from bright and colourful pictures for a child's bedroom to bold and beautiful canvas centrepieces. There is a painting to please every member of the family.
As well as being produce market day, every first and third Friday of the week there is mean to be a records fair, but this seemed to be as equally as illusive. Instead, the centre of the market was filled with fashion and craft stalls, all of which were run by innovative and creative designers, who were selling unique items that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
Vintage dresses for that school girl look.
There were a variety of styles from retro and vintage to modern and chic. It is a wonderful place for young people with a passion for fashion.
If you are going to a twenties do, or just like to dress up in that period style, there are some beautiful hats on sale.
There are also plenty of men's hats at around £18, as well as modern beanies and baseball caps. I tried on a number that said 'one size fits most' (I being in the 'few' category).
I did say this was a market for young people, and they don't come any younger than babies and tots. One stall, run by a couple of Native Americans, has the most beautiful hand knitted cardigans for toddlers. They also sell dream catchers and leather bracelets.
For those of you who are both fashion and eco conscious, there are a number of up-cycling stalls. Reclaim makes handbags and purses out of the old rubber tubing from car tires, with prices ranging from £20-£60.
Another fun stall was run by a man who made clocks out of LPs and Vinyls. He had a box full of albums which you could choose from, and he would transform them into a clock on the spot. It is a great gift idea if you know someone who loves music, because it is something quite personal. It is also enjoyable to see the artist at work.
To accompany this gift, you will obviously need a card, and there were no better cards than the range of 3D pop up cards at a stall around the corner. Pop-up cards are nothing new, but these ones were something truly special. There were simple 'Happy Birthday' messages, tall landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, and intricate floral designs.
I had now reached the end of the market, but there were still no produce stalls in sight. I asked one of the other stallholders where it was, and he said it used to be next door, but was no longer there. No longer there? It had only started up less than a month ago.
Before I left, I picked up a leaflet about Old Spitafields Market, and when I got home took a look at the events page. It showed that there was indeed a records fair and produce market on Fridays, but only from August onwards. For some reason it started mid-June, but decided to take a hiatus for all of July. If you do manage to go on a day when it is actually there, you should also look out for a range of other regular events, such as gardening exhibitions, cooking demonstrations, and local craft traders.
Unlike a lot of markets, Spitafields is open every day of the week, and have something different on offer all the time. Sunday-Wednesday is a general market, Thursday antiques, Friday fashion (and hopefully produce and music), and Saturday is always themed.
Hi Bryony, I am really sorry for the confusion of the Produce Market. Just to clarify the Produce Market is here every Friday, and from August will join us on the second Saturdays too. Record Fair still remains on the 1st and 3rd Friday of every month, and second Saturday. (confusing!). Please do pop back next time, and happy to introduce you to some of the Produce Traders and take you for a walk around too! Nana Agyeman - Marketing Manager, Old Spitalfields Market