A decision is due soon which could prove very significant for the future of Bermondsey Antiques and Vintage Market.
Southwark Council are currently considering applications for a
two-year licence to run it, and their markets and streets trading
manager, John McHenry, said: "Southwark want an expert market
operator in the operation of antique markets to develop and grow
the existing market for the benefit of traders, shoppers, and the
local community. It is expected that the winning bidder will be
announced this month to take up post at the beginning of
Back in 2009, the council identified this famous market in
Bermondsey Square as being in decline, declaring that it needed
rebranding and relaunching. The words 'action' and 'plan' were much
bandied about. Since then, lack of funds has seen this largely put
The market has a rich history, as Kevin Dolan's 2010 documentary
Market tellingly evokes, showing pre-dawn buyers peering at
Georgian silver glistening in torchlight, and is, or was, famed as
a dealers' market focusing on silver and jewellery since its
origins in Islington to its relocation to the square in 1948.
Graham Jarvis, a silver dealer here for 30 years, feels that
dealers with fresh stock each week can still do very well, but
traders who bring the same stock each week may struggle.
The event has much to commend it for a market manager who enjoys
a challenge. It is right by the achingly-cool Bermondsey Street and
surroundings, heaving with media and arts folk, not to mention the
revamp of the London Bridge area and the mighty Shard building.
Jewellery dealer Joan Bygrave, chairman of the Bermondsey
Antique Traders Association, is now nearly 80 and drives up from
her Kent home in the very early hours of Friday morning when she
starts to get the market ready for arrivals around 4am for the open
market's traditional 5am start.
For her, as for many of the other long-term traders, alarm bells
rang when the developers moved in on the square around 2000,
relocating the stallholders to temporary accommodation until the
reopening in 2007, which saw them surrounded by offices blocks and
a hotel - but all surely with good potential for custom.
She said: "From the giddy days of the 1990s with 250 stalls,
standholders started to leave when the developers moved in, never
to return. There was too much uncertainty for this hardcore of
serious London dealers and this has remained, so we now have just
around 40 dealers."
Ever since I have known Joan she has been an eternal optimist:
"I'm always hopeful" is her trademark phrase. On the role of a
manager for the market, she said: "This person will need a lot of
guts, experience and vision." She added: "This market has been my
life for 50 years and I can't imagine a Friday without it."
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