How the East End’s markets can be alternative to ailing high streets

Markets in Tower Hamlets are being given a new lease of life in an attempt to provide shoppers with an alternative to the borough’s ailing high streets.

Results published this week by the British Retail Consortium show that one in every 13 shops in London’s high streets is vacant as business-owners count the cost of the recession.

However, the East End’s markets are thriving, with Mary Portas’ relaunch of Roman Road helping inspire traders and shoppers to make the most of the fact that Tower Hamlets has more street markets than any other London borough.

Her Channel 4 series, set to air in the New Year, will outline her vision for the future of Roman Road and how she has helped set the ball rolling.

She said: “It’s time ‘the Roman’ reclaims its previous image as the ‘Carnaby street of the East’, a destination for discount fashion and an exciting place in which to socialize.

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“There is a wealth of talent in East London that needs to be celebrated and enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.”

This vision for the future of Roman Road and the borough’s other markets is shared by those in the corridors of power.

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Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, was among those who turned out for the celebrations in Roman Road earlier this month.

“The relaunch highlights the strong links between the local community and Tower Hamlets’ vibrant markets and high streets”, she said.

“Funding for the upkeep and maintenance of Tower Hamlets’ high streets and markets must be protected for the interest and enjoyment of both traders and consumers.”

Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman is also enthusiastic about the future of the borough’s markets.

He said: “Nowhere else offers such diverse stalls and shops, which are loved by visitors and residents alike.

“We’re working hard to support the regeneration of our markets, to enable them to continue to contribute to the community.”

Old Spitalfields Market is one of those enjoying unprecedented success, according to its events manager Ellie Barnatt, who summarised the appeal of markets.

“From the shopping point of view, it’s the huge range of things you can get”, she said. “What you are finding is completely different and you won’t find it anywhere else.”

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