Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Adventures at the Brixton Market

August 28, 2010 · 7 Comments

On our trek to the Brixton Market, we encountered our first snafu with the London Underground. Upon entering the Warren Street Station, we learned that the Victoria Line was closed for the weekend. As a result, we had to change our plans and take the Northern Line to the Stockwell Station. As this stop was a few blocks from our market, we got the chance to observe the surrounding community as we made our walk to the Brixton area.

The area between Stockwell and Brixton is filled with a vibrant and bustling community. On our walk, we saw a skate park, brightly colored murals, and artistic graffiti. The neighborhood appeared to be populated by those of lower income, with lower end apartments and townhomes lining the street. However, the streets were packed with smiling people. You could not help but be absorbed by the energy radiating from the crowd. Walking further, we began to hear predominately British accents give way to voices with an Afro-Caribbean inflection. As we got closer to the market, the activity of the surroundings only got more vibrant, making us excited for what was ahead of us.

Upon reaching the market on the right, we found dozens of vibrant shops packed into a cobblestone street. One could find anything they need there, ranging from low-priced fruit to jewelry starting at ten quid. While the energy was high, people were very relaxed and walking around at a slower pace than we have observed in a good deal of London. Much like the streets we had just walked down, the market had a clear Caribbean flavor. Reggae-inspired music played throughout the first half of the market, and we came across many Caribbean food stands among the shops. As we walked further down the street, the music transitioned to the sounds of street evangelists shouting into megaphones. There were about 10 people standing around the main speaker, and the message was quite loud, but no one seemed to pay the evangelists any mind. Everyone was too absorbed by the other sights and sounds of this energized market.

As we left the market, we decided to walk down the streets opposite the way we entered the market. It was quite a dramatic difference from the previous sights. Only about half a block down, the architecture changed dramatically. We began seeing buildings that signaled much greater wealth, and a far greater number of fences. On our left we saw a luxury car that would have looked totally out of place five blocks down the road. In addition, there was virtually no one on the street. All the energy of the next door neighborhood was absent from these streets. In addition, the racial composition of the population was different from that of the market, as the neighborhood, from what we could tell, appeared predominately white. Everything seems quite peaceful now, but in the past Brixton was a site of violent racial animosity. Some further information on this can be found at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/25/newsid_2546000/2546233.stm

 We did not stay in this area too long, as there was nothing interesting to speak of, particularly given all the exciting sites of the market one street over.

After walking through the market one more time, we decided to get something to eat at a food stand called Cece’s Takeaway. The place was recommended to us by a CD vendor right across the street, and her suggestion was certainly validated. Our jerk chicken with rice was excellent, and Cece was a really nice guy. He asked us to recommend his stand to everyone in the future, which we certainly do. If you want some information on Afro-Caribbean food, you can check out: http://www.tropicalsunfoods.com

Upon making a few purchases, we left the market and headed back to the Arran House Hotel.

The Brixton Market was certainly more influenced by the community on the side of the Stockwell Underground station than by the upper class neighborhood on the other side. From its Caribbean-inspired stalls to the sheer energy of the place, the market was a great example of a distinctive culture in the city of London.

To view a slideshow about our trip, see below:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BkFpLnrxOkI" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Video in youtube
For more information about the Brixton Market, you can check out the official website at:  http://brixtonmarket.net/

Categories: 2010 Andrew · 2010 Melissa · 2010 Tyler
Tagged: , , , ,

7 responses so far ↓

  •   Elizabeth Barr // Aug 28th 2010 at 12:09

    What did you guys purchase (besides the food, obviously- what is jerk chicken, anyway?)?

  •   kaitlin // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:36

    It sounds like you’re not the only people that had trouble with the Victoria Line being closed. Despite that it seems like you had a great opportunity to observe the neighborhood. I would have been excited to see the murals and graffiti too. Your market is the only market I’ve read about so far that has had evangelists. Did you listen at all to what they were saying?

  •   sarahb // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:56

    You mentioned smiling people – we have learned from our reading and from the staff here at the hotel that smiling at people you don’t know on the street or on the Tube is a big no-no. Do you think that all that smiling had to do with the Caribbean influence? I wonder what the average Brit thinks about this market.

  •   amyh // Aug 28th 2010 at 19:01

    Was there any religious preference expressed by the people at the market? Was there any sign of the Jehovah’s Witnesses like Hortense in White Teeth?

  •   melissag // Aug 28th 2010 at 19:33

    Elizabeth- I purchased a couple reggae cd’s at a pretty decent price (3 cds for 8 pounds). I was even able to listen to them before purchasing! Andrew also bought a box of clementines for only one pound. Jerk chicken is a very popular Jamaican dish. Jerk is the type of seasoning that is used when preparing the chicken- it is generally spicy. My family is from Jamaica, so I pretty much know a good jerk chicken when I taste one…it was delicious!!

    Kaitlin and Amy- The female evangelist was an older woman, and also from the Caribbean. She could have been a Jehovah’s Witness, but I am not completely sure. She was encouraging people to give their lives to God and stressing the importance of saving your soul because the world will soon be coming to an end.

    Sarah- I think the smiling actually did have a lot to do with the influence from the Caribbean. It might be hard to imagine based on what we’ve experienced in London so far as a group but the moment we got off of the tube, I felt as if I was in a different place with such a different vibe. The vendors even made their jobs look fun!

  •   emilym // Aug 29th 2010 at 19:11

    The slower pace in Brixton market seems really apparent in how you were able to have a conversation with Cece. In some parts of the markets in Camden, it would have been inconceivable to have a conversation with the vendors, because of the general chaotic tone. (Camden Lock is an exception- vendors were generally friendly there.)

  •   lawronski8 // Aug 31st 2010 at 16:44

    I also noticed a glaring contrast between the market and the surrounding residences, in both racial and economic terms. Did you get the impression that the market was frequented by immediate locals or by people from other places around London.

You must log in to post a comment.