Market faces new forces

By Oliver Bennett

The grand edifice that is Smithfield Market – at the south of the borough, just within the City of London – is headed for a tumultuous autumn. From 7 October for a proposed two weeks, the environmental protest group Animal Rebellion plans to blockade the meat market for what it sees as the perpetuation of a failing system.

In a statement, the coordinator and spokesperson for Animal Rebellion (an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion) Dan Kidby, said: “Animal Rebellion wants to urgently end the industries of animal farming and fishing, and transition to a plant based food system in order to avert climate breakdown, mass extinction and ensure justice for farmed animals.” Smithfield Market’s bummarees or porters are tight-knit and it is expected that there will be a response. Animal Rebellion has noted that it “expects resistance” and is committed to ‘nonviolent disobedience.’ With traffic unable to access the market, the protest is likely to cause disruption.

The protest is not the only thing vexing the market, trading in stock for 800 years and centred around the central market, built by Sir Horace Jones – who also designed Tower Bridge – in 1868. It has now been mooted that the market will be moved to Dagenham Dock, where it will join Billingsgate Fish Market and Spitalfields Fruit and Veg Market. The central parts and its listed buildings will meanwhile become a “mixed-use commercial, creative and cultural quarter” with Old Spitalfields Market a likely model. The City Corporation is currently recruiting two design teams with a proposed completion date of 2025. Food will be part of this, as James Tumbridge, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Markets Committee has said: “We continue to work toward a vision for a food centre suitable for London’s future, in terms of its scale and environmental impact. It’s an honour to help guide this key part of London’s infrastructure to feed our great city.” Not all are happy, including Alec Forshaw, a former conservation officer and historian who would prefer the meat market to remain at its current location and who believes it “will be a real tragedy for the character of central London if it moves”. At the market’s western end, Smithfield’s General Market, Fish Market, Red House and Poultry Market are to be transformed into a £332m new home for the Museum of London a year earlier, in 2024. T M Market faces new forces Party on Meat racked: Smithfield’s ancient meat market is facing big changes and an imminent protest.

What do you think? Should the market move or stay? Get in touch with the EC1 Echo at: EC1Echo@peelinstitute.org.uk

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