Last Sunday I went to Columbia Road, like I have done most Sundays since I’ve been here. And I bought flowers, like I have almost every Sunday since I’ve been here (the only time I didn’t was when I went at 12pm and couldn’t get close enough to a stall to even look). This time I got talking to the man I bought my flowers from, and asked him if there was any time of day I could come that wouldn’t be this ridiculously busy.
He told me that the market never used to be like this, and that 90% of the people crowding and pushing around me were tourists, who never had any intention of buying anything – just taking photos to post on Instagram. This was awful for their trade he said, because it deterred their old regular customers who I’m sure have much better things to do than squeeze themselves through the birth canal that is Columbia Road on a Sunday. Everyone knows about the market, everyone goes, but not nearly enough people buy, he said.
Did you see this post I made, featuring some lovely blue zebra pansies? Well, I like to (at least attempt to) be above reproach, so these are the flowers actually I bought that day, (the pansies I originally posted were actually in a display at the end of the road, so there).
Anyway, the conversation I had with that stall holder really made me think. I was amazed when my mum had never heard of the flower market – she lived in London for about 15 years. But back then the East End was for Eastenders. I don’t want to get into a huge thing about gentrification because it would be hypocritical – I love living here, and while I’m certainly not involved in raising the value of property (I have zero dollar and my flat reflects that), I definitely fall into the ‘trend following incomer’ faction.
What I do want to say, is that if you want to go to somewhere like the flower market, you can’t just go to take photos for yourself. If you were a chef, you’d get annoyed by people taking photos of you food and not buying anything, if you were a fashion designer you’d get annoyed by people taking photos of your clothes and not buying any. And if you were an artist…? Well I think it goes without saying that there’s obviously something wrong with people photographing that stuff without buying it. Why should it be any different for the East End gents that sell flowers for a living? They aren’t a tourist attraction. Also, flowers aren’t expensive, they’re really pretty, and you can take as many photos as you like once you get them home! What’s not to love? In conclusion: go to Columbia Road Flower Market. And buy some fucking flowers.