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.
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.”
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.
“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.
- Check out Lee Townsend’s photographic record of how Surrey Street used to be on a typical market day, before the £1.1million “improvements”
- Talking Inside Croydon presents David Matthews talking about his first novel, That They Might Lovely Be on June 28. Apply for tickets for this free event by clicking here
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