Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

East Street Market

August 28, 2010 · 7 Comments

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/0_N3ivscSJg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]Photo slideshow with narration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_N3ivscSJg

We travelled to the Market (located in the borough of Southwark) via the Tube’s northern line, which we exited at Kennington. From there, we proceeded to walk for about 10 minutes through residential neighborhoods  until we arrived at the Market, the main entrance of which was announced by a large lettered gate.

The Market, while not as large as many of the others London has to offer, was unique and vibrant. The majority of the goods were, somewhat unusually, clothing, shoes, accessories and textiles, as well as electronics, cosmetics, Cds & Dvds and other assorted items.

Many of the items were American-themed or American-style clothing or otherwise imported. The small amount of stalls with food were predominantly fruit and veg stands.

The vendors (and many of the customers- presumambly, the residents of the neighborhood) were typically either Jamaican/Afro-Caribbean, Middle Eastern or Eastern European, as well as a small number of Cockneys.

The vendors and customers engaged in an almost perpetual friendly sort of argument with each other: we overheard one conversation between an elderly Cockney vendor and his elderly female Cockney customer. After giving her his prices, he added “Tha’s cheap- betta than th’supermarket” and she replied snarkily “Tha’ ‘taint cheap- tha’s ‘spensive.” We didn’t experience much of the hassling that is typically found at marketplaces: we were pretty much left alone and didn’t hear

any creative vendor’s attempts to bring customers to their wares. However, on our way back were heard slightly more vocal advertisement and, on one memorable instance, a use of Cockney slang-insults to get attention: “1.50, hey, Lady wiff the mustache, over ‘ere!”

After we had covered the whole market (which stretched about 3 blocks) we explored the surrounding area which was mainly residential and consisted largely of low-income estate complexes (immediately recognizable through the tell-tale

sign of laundry lines across the balconies). Again, we mostly encountered people similar to the vendors of the market: largely immigrants or foreigners as well as lower class white Brits. While the neighborhood was relatively well maintained in terms of infrastructure, there were some physical signs of its standing as a lower class area: we found a telephone box with its windows smashed in and its inside completely covered in broken glass and cigarette stubs. In addition to this, many of the buildings were surrounded by barbed wire and a number of walls and fences were in a state of decrepitude. However, the area also contained some nice (but small) parks and at least two handsome churches. We were struck by several banners and posters put up by members of the community, protesting the borough council’s various planned developments to the area, some of which would encroach upon their parks.

Speaking of religion . . . in the market, we found about 3 Christian bookstands, alongside many self-help books by American preachers. We also noticed a large Muslim population with many women wearing headscarves and other traditional garb. We detected a strong sense of community among the ethnic/religious groups: there were many hairdressers and stores catering exclusively to the Afro-Caribbean women as well as Jamaican DVD/Music stands for the men. There were multiple Halal butchers and restaurants as well as fishmongers.

All in all, the East Street Market and surrounding Southwark clearly exemplify a vibrant, diverse and community-oriented place.

Categories: 2010 Elizabeth · 2010 Patrick · 2010 Sean · Markets
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7 responses so far ↓

  •   guya // Aug 28th 2010 at 17:31

    I noticed some self-help books by American preachers at the stands in Brixton Market as well. I wonder what influence U.S. evanglical Christianity has on its British counterpart.

  •   hollymb // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:30

    That’s really interesting, given the supposedly more secular attitude of most British people. We’ve been reading a lot about the communal nature of religion for immigrants; maybe Christianity offers the same for lowe- class white Brits?

  •   jamie // Aug 28th 2010 at 18:39

    You mentioned that the market, surprisingly, had a lot more American products than you expected; do you think this is a result of the immigrant/ non-British customers the market caters to? Did seeing the products somewhat make you feel more at home?

  •   bowmanc // Aug 29th 2010 at 18:21

    Did you notice any indicators as to how the people of different religions interacted with one another?

  •   patrickmr // Aug 29th 2010 at 19:21


    It actually seemed that the Jamaican/ Caribbean population were most interested in the Evangelical self-help books and Christian CDs. The vendors of these items were almost entirely Caribbean immigrants. The numerous Christian churches in the neighborhood combined with the many Muslim residents we saw made me begin to think that the most significant rift in the community might not be ethnicity, but religion.

  •   mikey // Aug 30th 2010 at 15:06

    It would be nice to see a price comparison, to see if the market is worth going to. You would think that with the main goods being electronics and such that the only advantage someone could get from shopping here is price.

  •   lawronski8 // Aug 31st 2010 at 16:39

    At Elephant and Castle, we noticed a Baptist Church among the very strong South Asian population community. I wonder if there is a correlation between immigrants and Christianity, or perhaps, low income residencies and Christianity.

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