|Something serious is brewing down the Portobello Rd Market.|
Unknown to most of us who live in the area, large parts of the Portobello Road Market have been bought up by one individual (disguised behind various Limited Companies) whose grand plan has included the eviction of longstanding traders and replacing them with a huge flagship chain store . At the end of December 2009 the first large-scale public salvo was fired; now the cat is out of the bag for all to see: All Saints on the corner of Portobello Road with Westbourne Grove, a warehouse style mega store the length of six shop-fronts along Westbourne Grove and four down Portobello Road, covering a total area in excess of 15,000 sq ft. In one single blow more than 150 traders and market stallholders vanished from the Portobello Road Market to be replaced by a giant fashion retailer.
(if you just want to sign the petition and join the Save the Portobello Road Market page on facebook, go to the bottom of this page, otherwise read on)
Until now the process has been happening silently under our noses but no longer so. The issue is that this is the first step of many others to follow (yes!! that's right!) which will destroy the much loved character of this area for good – unless we do something about it. Further damage can be avoided but it will proceed if we do nothing and ignore it. We believe that we can do something and we truly hope that you believe so as well. There are times when people are moved into action. This is one of them. There are times when our sense of identity and of life is ripped by unwelcome challenges from the outside. This is the case now, albeit not as individuals but as a community. This is not just about you and me and a landlord and hundreds of market traders. This is deeper: it's about what we value in life, what we prefer our surroundings to be like, how we engage with the past and the present, it’s about the future we create by acting now.
What makes Portobello Road unique is diversity, not uniformity in the shape of large shops. Mega stores taking over several individual shop units represent one way of thinking whereas a variety of small shops and market stalls represents several alternative ways of thinking. This variety is intrinsic to the diverse community that makes up this area. Indeed what this area is in many senses is what we are as well; that's why we choose to live here or near it or visit frequently. And the crucial question is: do we really want Portobello Road to become a few large chain stores affair? Do we really want to throw away the market heritage and replace it with a sterile large shopping mall?
The Market as we know it is under threat
The practical consequences are already there for everyone to see, not just in one single large shop taking over several but also, you'll notice, no stallholders are allowed on the pavement in front of the AllSaints shop. The market has shrunk overnight and it's simply been kicked out and our experience and enjoyment diminished. This impoverishes the whole area and is pure character assassination. If we do nothing about it, this trend will carry on down the street, turning it into some Westfield under disguise in Portobello.
The single benefit of the Westfield in Shepherd’s Bush is that it concentrates all the big chains in there. The advantages to us are clear: firstly - we can avoid it; secondly - it clears our streets of the people who we would probably like to avoid anyway; thirdly – it leaves the real places real. This is an important point to consider for replacing places of character and history with fabricated environments which have neither, turns them into... well... non-places. Much like a car park, an airport or indeed a shopping mall. They are transient and built with one function in mind: they are not designed for living but as in the case of the shopping mall, solely for buying. They are supreme in representing uniformity with all the ideological paraphernalia and accessories that go with it. These environments are characterised by the fact that they can happily exist in Shepherd’s Bush much in the same way as they exist in the middle of some roundabout in Beijing China. They bear no relation to local histories, people or places, but rather to a global economic moment. They are irrespective of anything that stands for genuine, for character, for diversity, for the local folk and for communities. They are soulless and rootless in every way. They are as charming as a petrol station in the middle of the motorway.
One person owning such a large tranche of the Portobello Road market is something questionable but not something we will address here extensively - it’s how the system is built and it's the nature of the beast (one day, surely, one person or institution will own the whole world but that's another argument).
It is however our concern that the character of this area is under threat and this is not a bogus claim. It's happening now and it's urgent that we all get involved and manifest our concerns about it. This is a cause for the local civil society and indeed for everyone elsewhere who loves our market for what it is.
It is our view that the Kensington and Chelsea Council is not doing enough to protect the area, its heritage and character. What still is a unique cultural, economic and historic asset for London is being neglected and allowed to be destroyed. This is why we have to move and move quickly.
Let's get together and sign the Save the Portobello Road Market petition and join the Facebook Page to keep informed of any developments. Tell your mates and everyone who cares. Time is of the essence as much has already been lost. You really can make a difference: sign it now and join the page.
To sign the petition:
To join the Facebook Page Save the Portobello Market:
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