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Shoppers vote with the money as farmers give new life to East End market

PUBLISHED: 21:05 08 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:36 05 October 2010

Farmers Market,at Roman Road, East London, Uk August 6, 2008

Farmers Market,at Roman Road, East London, Uk August 6, 2008

Carmen Valino

SHOPPERS have given a big thumbs up’ to a new farmers market in East London’s Roman Road. Farmers are pitching once a month while arts and crafts are lined up every Saturday. One stall specialising in quality bread at £3 a loaf sold out within hours. But serious doubts remain over the arts and crafts stalls

ABOVE: Shoppers enjoy the new farmers market down The Roman’—so do the kids

BELOW: But it’s not so hot for arts and craft as the first morning gets off like a damp squib

Ted Jeory

SHOPPERS have given a big thumbs up’ to a new farmers market in East London’s Roman Road.

Farmers are pitching once a month while arts and crafts are lined up every Saturday.

One stall specialising in quality bread at £3 a loaf sold out within hours of Essex farmers setting up in Bow on Saturday, so overwhelming was the demand.

But traditional traders predicted: “It won’t last—people will realise they’re being ripped off.”

Serious doubts remain, however, over the viability of the arts and crafts stalls.

Saturday’s glitzy launch of the new markets was the brainchild of Town Hall bosses at Tower Hamlets council, who say they want to re-energise The Roman.’

A new sense of curious excitement could be felt within hours of the launch.

Trickles of shoppers tempted by sizzling cooked sausages turned into droves by mid-morning.

But the council—worried about upsetting regular traders—placed the farmers round teh corner in Cardigan road and quarantined’ the arts and crafts stalls in a small side turning in Ewart Place.

“I had no idea there was anyone there,” one shopper said.

The artists were not happy, either. For most, this was their first experience of running a stall—and it showed. By 1pm, barely any of them had sold a thing.

Poor location and the wet and windy weather were largely to blame.

But many questioned the demand for arty gifts with more established markets in Spitalfields and Greenwich just a few miles away.

Teacher Annie Bicknell, from Bow Arts Trust, was selling a selection of children’s gifts she and friends had made.

“It’s early days and it is a bit of a worry, but I think we’re a bit tucked away here,” she observed.

“The council needed to give the market a bit more of a web presence to draw people from a wider area. That would help things get going.”

Part-time East End artist Sabina Rama, from Bethnal Green, smiled nervously when asked how business had been going.

“Not well,” she admitted. “But I’m going to stick at it. Improvements can be made.”

Maria Mungola and Jessie Katayi, from Barking, had only sold two pieces of Tanzanian jewellery by 1pm.

“We need to put up signs explaining what it is we’re selling and that it’s made by a woman in a Tanzanian village,” Maria explained.

Priya Choman hadn’t sold any of her ornate mirrors by 1pm.

“I’ve had a couple of commissions though,” she revealed. “Perhaps my mirrors at £45 a go are probably a bit pricey for round here.”

Artist Rob Dewan-Syed, from Bow, was also disappointed.

“I haven’t sold anything,” he said. “I was considering not coming back next Saturday, but I will give it a try. I’ve never done this before and I’ll learn.”

But 200 yards away, business was booming for the farmers in Cardigan road.

One happy shopper, Sandy Robinson, a regular at Roman Road who travels up from Dagenham with her two children, said: “I’d be here every Saturday—their stuff is brilliant.

“People have been going to the cafes to get snacks and I’ve been telling them to forget that—the stuff here is much tastier.”

Among the food on offer were fresh olives, sun-dried tomatoes, homemade sausage rolls, fresh meat and fish, bread and a small selection of organic fruit and veg.

Another shopper, Nicolas Chaudeurge, said: “We’ve been waiting for years for something like this to happen.

“But I would say that—I’m French, I like good food. What they sell in the traditional market is a bit bland.”

A little further up the road, a traditional fruit and veg stallholder who has been at The Roman’ for years said: “Business is down a bit, yes.

“People round here are polite and will buy that stuff from the farmers. But when they’re told the price, they’ll just smile—and decide there and then never to do that again!”

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