Chatsworth Road in Clapton is where Lord Sugar honed his business skills, flogging army surplus on a market stall. Now the long dead market is making a come-back.
In its ‘50s and ‘60s heyday, locals flocked to the market from all over north Hackney, stopping for a chat whilst stocking up on fruit and veg. But the market slowly shrank before finally snuffing it a decade ago.
A group of local traders and residents are working to revive it and they had their first big test the week before last, when 20 stalls sold everything from chocolate cake to vintage petticoats, second-hand bric-a-brac to vegan fare.
The Clapton scheme is just the latest in a recent spate of community-led markets; encouraged, no doubt, by the success of Broadway Market. There the Saturday market has facilitated the transformation of the entire street. Warring gangs have been replaced with mincing hipsters; areas that were “no-go” are now the place to be seen. But detractors are worried that the new markets, populated with yummy mummies on the prowl for “organic” olive oil, exclude the traditional working class communities. “Where are the jellied eels?” they wonder.
Remy Zentar, 44, the treasurer of the organisation behind the Chatsworth project, wants to assuage the fears of those who scream “gentrification” at the sight of a baguette.
“The old Hackney residents – the Turkish and the black community, the Irish, everyone – they are very excited about the market coming back,” he said.
Frenchman Zentar was keen to stress that the association is not aiming for a Broadway Market-style makeover, calling Hackney’s most successful Saturday market a “white ghetto.” And although his vision of a community brought together by cupcakes and charcuterie sounds naïve, residents and businesspeople on Chatsworth Road are overwhelmingly positive about the market.
Camille Roman, 26, works in Hop, a toyshop that sells organic baby care products and gifts that are popular with the “local Swedish community.”
“Sales were up 100% on Sunday,” she said.
Across the road in FutureTech – a family-run shop that sells mobile phone accessories, luggage and toys that probably aren’t popular with the local Swedes – Rizwan Bhatti is similarly enthusiastic.
“The community is mixed around here and the whole community enjoyed the market. It brings people together. And it brings new faces and that’s always good for business.”
Chatsworth Road is a diverse street – bijou little coffee shops boasting Financial Times reviews sit side-by-side with Nigerian Nollywood video shops – and the market looks set to follow that mixed bag template.
Mary Gillard, a 50-year-old massage therapist who lives in the area, went along to market.
“Chatsworth Road has changed a lot” she said, “but I don’t see why you can’t have the two – new and old.”
She’s confident that the Chatsworth Road street market won’t go down the route of Broadway Market.
“I don’t think it will get like Broadway Market because people round here don’t have pots of money.”
On Broadway Market, they seem oblivious that they’re being held up as an example of how to – or how not to – overhaul an East End market. Local businesspeople and residents are supportive of the 2004 regeneration, happy that the gangs who used to stalk the area have been removed, seemingly pleased that property prices have soared.
Aziz Ozdemir works at Broadway Fish Bar, a fish and chip shop that has been operating on the same premises for the past 56 years. “The market has done this area good. I used to not walk on this street because of gangs and now I do,” he said. “I think there should be a market on Saturday and Sunday.”
Simon Stone is a partner in Davey Stone, one of four estate agents located on the street.
“10 years ago you couldn’t have paid people to move here but now you have celebrities looking in the window – it has the same vibe as Shoreditch had a few years ago,” said the 37-year-old.
And his tip for the next Hackney hotspot? “Clapton.”
The Chatsworth Road had better watch out.