Watson plans ‘giveaways’ at ‘launch’ for 700-year-old market

Mark Watson’s “new” Surrey Street, where space between the stalls has been narrowed. The council has not quite managed to drive away all the stalls just yet

There’s less than a week to go before Croydon Council’s Mark Watson spunks away more public money on a “launch party” for a street market that’s been around for 700 years.

Yet still the life and soul of Surrey Street – the stall-holders – are being kept in the dark about a promised meeting about the “future of the market”. They had been told to expect a meeting with the council tomorrow, but still await details of timing and location.

“What’s it they say about mushrooms?” one Surrey Street stall-holder who has been selling low-priced, good-value fruit and veg on the market for years said to Inside Croydon. “Kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

“Croydon Council must reckon we’re all mushrooms.”

Watson has spent £1.1million of public money on a road resurfacing scheme which has managed to reduce the number of market traders by half, while withdrawing their traditional stalls and replacing them with ill-suited gazebos, which have already resulted in one trader suffering serious injury. Long-term pitch-holders have been shifted from their traditional sites, some fearing a loss of trade as a consequence.

Meanwhile the council has failed to provide the signage to the market that was promised more than a year ago.  Undeterred, Watson is now promising “giveaways” to all and sundry at a street party on Surrey Street next Saturday, June 24.

‘Tatty’: Mark Watson, the councillor behind the £1.1m Surrey Street works

Council staff were out distributing letters at the end of last week.

Signed off by Watson, the letter refers to “improvement works”.

“What improvements? Nothing that’s made things any better for us,” said another disgruntled trader.

For residents living near Surrey Street, the letter was the first that many had heard that they are to have a street party outside their homes on a Saturday night.

“This just confirms what we always suspected,” one said. “It’s all about the night-time economy, and they couldn’t care less about the market or the residents.

“There was no email or letter asking us whether we had any objections to a party on the street where we live. Just ‘This is what we are doing. Like it or lump it.’ Again.

“You’ve got tens of thousands of pounds being spent on artworks that are going up just to showcase one rich bloke’s gallery and which have no real relevance to the market, its people, traditions or history. We’re paying for over-priced indulgences, rather than commissioning art from young artists that has any originality.”

Watson’s Surrey Street party letter this week. If its ‘bread and circuses’, there must be an election coming up

Despite having shutdown the market for nearly three months, costing shopkeepers on Surrey Street huge amounts in lost trade which they can never recover, apparently even that was not enough time for Watson’s pet project. The letter from Watson, apparently the council’s “small business champion”, claims that “Phase 2” of the works are now underway in respect of “art installations”.

Watson notoriously regarded London’s oldest traditional street market as “tatty”. In his letter about the party next Saturday, he writes, “Discover your new Surrey Street and celebrate with us, there will be entertainment, activities, live music, giveaways and much more.”

Many of the stall-holders, who appear to be required to pack up early next Saturday, usually their busiest trading day, to make way for Watson’s little self-congratulatory street fest, are now considering their futures.

This was Watson’s dissembling official propaganda about Surrey Street. Traders and residents say that there was little real consultation and their ideas were not listened to. The improved signage – a priority to them – has still not materialised, and a market with 86 pitches a year ago now has fewer than 30 regular stalls

“We’re still waiting to find out if there is going to be a meeting with the council, like they promised us,” one said.

“We don’t know who’s going to be there, who’s invited, where it is or when. They’re not making it easy for people to turn up at such short notice if it is this  Monday,” one said, apparently not considering whether that might be a deliberate ploy by Watson and the council as they continue to drive away traders.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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10 Responses to Watson plans ‘giveaways’ at ‘launch’ for 700-year-old market

  1. Considering that Mondays have always been the quietest day of the week, with many stall holders not trading that day, it sounds more and more deliberate on Watson’s part to hold a short notice meeting on that day. Why doesn’t he be truthful and just say that he thinks the market as it is is no longer wanted, and that he has an aspiration for something along the lines of Borough Market where you need deeper pockets and therefore attracts more gentrification. No “pound a bowl” there.

  2. It would be interesting to ask Councillor Watson one simple question in two parts:
    has he ever met and had a conversation with a stallholder and does he normally shop in Surrey Street? While I wouldn’t bet my life on the answer being no I am prepared to risk my most treasured possession, a 1963 ballpoint pen. When and if he does reply, and I am not holding my geriatric breath, it will probably show that he has taken lessons from that most august of prevaricators, the Attorney General of the USA, Sessions.

  3. veeanne2015 says:

    ‘Phase 2 works have commenced which relate to art installations which will be located at various points along the street.’
    Are these in lieu of market stalls or where EXACTLY will they be sited ?

    ‘..trades and local business wanted the initial £500K investment spent on improving the carriageway …’
    Who EXACTLY has decided what the further £600K should be spent on – and what have they decided ? If no decision has been made yet, who EXACTLY will be consulted ?

    For those that haven’t read the update on http://www.croydon.gov.uk/surrey street, I quote :
    ‘Renovation … will continue with new architectural lighting and the installation of public art due to be carried out in the next few months …’
    What is ‘architectural’ lighting ? Lighting attached to buildings – or the expensive, fancy designer, useless sort ?
    Who has decided/will decide what the ‘artwork’ will be ?
    Will this work disturb what has already been done ?
    How much will both lighting and artwork INDIVIDUALLY COST ?
    And !
    ‘Surrey Street … is bursting with independent traders, street food, homemade and artisan products, arts and crafts, making it a perfect choice for shopping, rest and play.’
    If you have any queries you can email Paul.Forrester@croydon.gov.uk.
    You may be able to think up more questions about this fantasy vision !

  4. veeanne2015 says:

    Looking at the photograph, it gives the impression that, if raining, the rain will run down the gazebo roofs directly on to the heads of the customers !
    Or am I wrong ?

  5. veeanne2015 says:

    And where EXACTLY is the money for the ‘launch party’ coming from – and what is being ‘launched’ ?

  6. davidjl2014 says:

    As I’ve previously replied, on this, and other matters, this Council and it’s Councillors know nothing about nothing. Greenhorns, all of them. Paid ridiculous amounts of money. Consistently getting it wrong, resulting in the best interests of Croydon’s community suffering socially and financially. They wont listen, but always hold public consultations, yet why do objections simply fall on deaf ears? The reason: decisions have already been made before such consultations take place by an “Inner Cabinet” – reeking with conflicting interests and desperate to force through political mandates. I feel sorry for those who have made Croydon’s Market their life and to those who wish to patronise it. You have all been horribly let down by amateur politicians who think they know better than you. But obviously they don’t!

  7. mikebweb says:

    It strikes me we are heading for Christmas Panto time of Oh yes they are! (etc)
    The knees up was initially announced as last Saturday now its next, somewhere – mere mortals would have thought Surrey Street – in the middle section where there are few if any stalls, given this, the lower end traders would perhaps do much better than usual and trade into the evening.

    Ups, sorry, its not for them or us – so who is it for?


  8. croydonres says:

    I think that the colourful gazebos look cheerful and attractive, although it seems from what people are saying, they should be more robust. Shame if they are feebly built, as it is not exactly rocket science to buy and test one before buying dozens, but they can be replaced in due course with stronger ones.

    Bright colour and life were once given to Surrey Street by the fact that it was chokka-block with stalls and customers, and the colour of fruit and flowers, as almost every stall was a fruit stall, or so it seemed to me in the 60’s and 70’s. Plus that the whole length of the market was lined with stalls. It was brilliant ! An experience not to be missed. Along with Kennard’s Arcade with the medieval stage set features, donkey rides, and perfume stall with joss-sticks, selling fragrances for Monday, Tuesday and all days of the week. Ahhh!

    But times move on, and things change, as should be, but sadly, for Surrey Street, over the last 20 or so years, the number of stalls and punters has dropped gradually, to almost as low as it could go. The impression had become dead and grey. Grey, down at heel and empty. Sad . Depressing. A shame to see an old friend go down .

    But “Good on” and “well done” to all those traders who remained, in spite of all, and continued to give customers excellent service and products at very affordable prices.

    So I am glad that the council has invested in it, and hope that it all turns out for the best, for Croydon residents, and particularly the stall holders and the other Surrey Street and Matthews Yard traders. It will take a few months for the word to get round, but let’s hope it all works out.

    Re the poor consultation with traders…… I can’t understand why the stallholders are being sidelined. But it does look like they have been, and are continuing to be treated without due adult respect. It seems rather as if an “elite” are imposing their ready-made vision ( and possibly a narrow vision) on to a host community.

    A Labour Council that sidelines the key group in the community, in something of key importance to the future of that community, should be ashamed of itself, and do far better.

    I haven’t been able to get time to visit the renewed market as yet, and won’t be for another few weeks, but hope that I will find a renewed environment with a positive buzz. And that won’t be jazz bands, and fire-eaters, but lots of punters buying fruit and veg, plus indeed, jerk chicken, olives, fish, household items, decent clothes and everything else offered by a modern market. A Fusion Market– selling the best of the old, and best of the new, serving Croydonians old and new, old and young. That’s what we all need. A nice cafe seat to sit down on, and enjoy a cuppa would also be good.

    Will Cllr Mark Watson deliver this, or is his vision impaired with designer sunglasses?
    Croydon is not North London, and hopefully never will be.

  9. arnorab says:

    Its all beginning to resemble an episode from Monty Python: The Dead Market Sketch. Prettying up the market and whacking odd, unrelated bits of undistinguished artwork here and there will not revive it. I am not even going to requote the thing President Obama did about pigs and lipstick, apposite as it may be. What makes markets is not the presentation but the content, good produce and cheerful stall holders, many of them, bustle and a real feeling of street commerce. You cannot just make this any more than you could genuinely guarantee success by just chucking money at it. The Council has used our money just to prettify a moribund institution rather than really getting down to working out what it is in a market that will really attract people. While it may have worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams: Build it and They will Come, it will not work for Croydon. People will not be gulled into using the market because simply it looks good. Silly idea, really, Silly Councillors! Just look at Borough Market or Petticoat Lane or any of the great London Street Markets and St Albans too: smart they are not, busy, bustling, good value great markets they are…..and nary a bit of junky contemporary art to be seen anywhere.

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