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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A very, very, very, very, very sad day for Greenwich


Greenwich's Village Market, after having the axe hang over it for so long, is reportedly closing for the last time after this weekend.

To be clear, the Village Market is the big, sprawling one between Stockwell Street and King William Walk. Not the bijou covered craft market, or the little flea market by the Picturehouse. We're talking, for a lot of people, about the main event - the draw that brings many to Greenwich town centre in the first place. The treasure trove where you can spend hours rummaging the second-hand furniture and clothes, bric a brac, records, artwork and assorted miscellany, shoot the breeze with stallholders and get a cup of fantastic coffee from the ever-smiling coffee man.

Greenwich Council last year gave planning permission to its owner for a glossy, glassy new development of flats and shops to take its place, mostly retail (no doubt flashy fashion chains and the like), with a rather tokenistic provision for a few stalls that would in no way make up for the loss of the market as a whole.

Intriguingly, rumours have been flying that ownership has since changed, though the University has apparently denied rumours that it has bought the site. Perhaps the original owner's plans went the way of the economy: real estate and retail is not, at this point, a safe investment bet. But instead of the market traders being given a stay of execution, this is reportedly to be its last weekend. Which means we may find the site goes unused for the foreseeable future, even though it could have trundled on its merry way until a future for the site is decided, providing pleasure, adventure and employment to many.

Last year I heard I heard one councillor describe the market as 'shabby' or some similar put-down, which I thought showed a disappointing failure to see this amazing market's charm, and showed a rather narrow idea of what 'development' should mean.

See you there this weekend, perhaps with a black armband. But I can't promise I'll be back in Greenwich town centre nearly as often after this.

Why bring this up on this blog? Well, the Village Market is not only nearly on Westcombe Park's doorstep, it also embodies some very sound transition principles:

- Second-hand instead of new furniture and clothes, cutting our insatiable consumption for new products and our waste of natural resources

- A unique community asset instead of chain-store clone town developments - and a real town square feel where people could meet and hang out

- Genuinely local employment

Unfortunately unless they can be large-scale money-spinners, sites like these simply aren't seen as assets by those with the power to preserve them. But the death of this market is going against the economic tide, which is increasingly against corporate blandness. Fingers crossed that somehow, somewhere the Village Market can be raised from the dead.

1 comment:

Avant Gardening said...

Totally agree with your comments. This market was definitely the most interesting of the Greenwich markets and most in keeping with the character of the town. I spoke to some of the stallholders and they were understandably angry to lose their livelihoods here. Apparently it will become part of Greenwich University but I can imagine that there will be a few poorly designed shops stuck up like that hideous 'arcade' outside DLR.